Don't be tempted to add garlic, mustard or Worcester sauce.
The trick to Italian cooking is simple.
There are two 'secrets' to Italian cooking - simplicity and sublime ingredients.
Each ingredient stands on its own.
Ever eaten traditional pizza in Italy? The most you'll get is four toppings - basta.
At Da Michele, the most iconic pizzeria in Naples, since1870 the maximum topping has been three, and guess how many pizze feature on their menu? Two.
Margherita - tomato, mozzarella di bufala and basil leaves.
Marinara - tomato and garlic.
Anywhere outside of Italy, Da Michele's pizze would be a joke, yet here they are sublime, and the reason? The ingredients are sublime.
When an ingredient is delicious in its own right it deserves some respect. Throwing something together with others becomes a creative responsibility. That's not to say one cannot, it just has to be right. If you could ever take a step back and look at Italy as a whole, you could say there's a general movement away from traditional flavour stereotypes, however, these flavours would be branded 'contemporary'. The Condurro family from Pizzeria Da Michele says, "It's true that if something is perfect and Napolitan pizza is, there's absolutely no reason why it should be changed and we fight with all our strength to keep this idea alive, categorically important for our family to preserve at any cost."
It's not in Italy's nature to shake a tradition nor question the perfection of a classic blend that has lasted millennia, like for example
strawberries with balsamic vinegar,
pecorino with figs,
mozzarella and tomatoes,
gorgonzola with pear,
prosciutto crudo with melon or
bresaola, rocket and Grana Padano.
A celebration of ingredients.
Certain times of the year bring certain seasonal produce; you won't find an orange in summer nor a peach in winter in this country and an Italian will hardly notice, they'll simply celebrate every seasonal arrival with the joy of reacquainting a long lost friend, lost approximately a year ago.
Our Italian children delight in the arrival of mandarini (clementines) in late October, eating at least ten in quick succession, same as Strawberries in May.
Aside from the undeniable sustainable aspect of buying cherries at Christmas, we can all take a leaf from Italy's recipe book - why rush things?
Every dog has its day, every seasonal product does too.
Part of the excitement of going to the beach was delighting in the knowledge of what lunch would bring. While we filled our buckets with sea sand and stretched our legs in the Adriatic sun, we'd be thinking, "Cozze or Spaghetti alle Vongole?"
(Mussels or Spaghetti with Clams?)
You can find fresh seafood in most Italian supermarkets, there's usually a banco del pesce (a fish counter) which is quite stunning to behold. In our blog post One Hectogram and a Half, we talk you through buying from this overwhelming culinary abundance
but wouldn't you rather eat seafood fresh from the sea with the catch of the day on your plate?
Down the coast from Naples, lies a tucked-away bay that has now become quite popular and its pebbly beach typically buzzes with tourists. But once it wasn't well-known and local fishermen would haul their boats straight up onto the beautiful beach in plain daylight. In the beach-side restaurants, someone setting tables would notice and quickly shout to the chef so he could stroll out into the morning sun for first pick of the catch but no recipes would go through his mind until he'd seen the offerings, fresh from the glittering sea. With a contemplative espresso and a scribble on the blackboard - Il Pescato del Giorno - a dish would be created. This is true regional food and a celebration of what Italian cooking is all about.
We love to explore cities and towns, wandering around to seek out local delicacies or places of notable cuisine, and if it's market day, we luck out. The culture of food embedded in this country is what takes Italians to the market early in the morning with empty shopping bags to see what looks good. Walking the cobbled streets back home before mezzogiorno (midday) is when recipes begin to form and it's here that a history of culinary knowledge is passed down through generations - there's only so many things you can do with fresh squid, and they are simple things. One finds shiny, purple aubergines and feels inspired to cook egg-plant parmigiana, not the other way round.
The secret to Italian cooking is no secret, keep it simple. If your Fiorentina is from a caring farmer, fresh, genuine and grilled simply over hot coals, it's guaranteed to be amazing steak. Don't be tempted to add any old sauce, just a drizzle of good olive oil and a glass of Montepulciano can make the perfect accompaniment.
If your icy granita is made from fragrant Sicilian lemons, merely sugar and water will take you to summer heaven.
If your Italian pizza has a mere scattering of olive taggiasche, take a bite to taste the rounded flavours of Marzano tomatoes and the buttery-ness of buffalo mozzarella. Savour the crunch and aroma of a crust flavoured with wood from the pizza oven,
close your eyes and use your tastebuds - that's all you really need.
Naples is foodie paradise, it's the home of pizza after all! There's so much to this remarkable city, read about what not to miss in our blog post Naples for a Day - what to eat, where to stay, what to see.