In Favignana they call tuna: the ‘pig of the sea’.
The tuna is stupendous fish that once came in sizes today unimaginable because of too much fishing. It has fed the islanders since the dawn of time and they have made a true culture of conservation and processing of tuna.
Tuna nets dot the coast of southern Italy and are an element of recognition. Today they are often transformed into all-round centres of culture: culinary, artistic and musical. In this way culture has no boundaries and the arts in all their forms are those that make us feel good.
Until the 19th century also Ponza had its tonnara (tuna nets) and the Ponzani, the real ones, are masters in the processing of this beautiful fish. The real excellence is the oil and one of the traditional dishes is pasta. A tradition that can be experienced on the island, but it is better off in the season to fully enjoy the experience.
Although tuna is versatile and can be cooked or stored in many ways, I like to use the fresh underbelly for a paccheri plate with the simplest tuna underbelly.
For those few who do not know it (and perhaps the readers of this article in English), paccheri are a short pasta, shaped like giant macaroni, widely used in the south and one that is part of the Neapolitan tradition.
The ingredients for these paccheri are very simple, I would dare to say Mediterranean, but the taste depends on where, from the ground, the sun and the scent of sea that the tomato takes its flavour when it grows on the shore of the salt water.
Garlic, oil, San Marzano tomato slices and fresh tuna belly, the fattest and most noble part of the fish.
The underbelly is that which surrounds the abdominal cavity where the fat around the muscular bundles makes the meat softer and tastier. A delight for connoisseurs!
Procedure: cut the belly into small slices and set aside. Brown the garlic with a few pieces of cartilage that can be left over and then remove them when cooked. Add the tomato.
The blending must make the pasta ‘marry’ with the sauce: during this phase add the slices of raw tuna belly and the slices of San Marzano.
If you like you can also add a tip of fresh chili, there are those who cannot eat without chili.
What to match this dish? Few people know this but in Ponza an excellent white wine is produced which is produced from vines that originate from Ischia.
Ponza was in fact in the private possession of the Bourbon kings and was founded directly by the royals with an innovative social experiment bringing people from Ischia and offering them land and a home.
The area of Le Forna, however, come from Lazio and that is why the rivalry between the two parts of the island has never been dormant. Those who ruined the social experiment were the French soldiers following Napoleon … but that’s another story.
The settlers from Ischia brought their vines, biancolella, which had adapted to the Mediterranean climate of the islands and ‘learned’ how to give off their unique scent.
An ancient Bourbon winery has been present on the island since 1734. Pietro Migliaccio takes the vines from nearby Ischia and began this magnificent adventure.
Let’s drink one of his Biancolella!