The one thing that surprised me most about Italy is how simple italian food really is; nothing is added that isn’t necessary and ingredients are given the room to speak for themselves.
In Florence we chanced upon a delightful local eatery called La Burrasca, just on the dodgy side of the Central Market. My partner, who has a famed aversion to all things “flavoursome” (with a particular loathing of garlic) fretted over whether the penne al ragu on the menu was cooked with the offending clove; after all this was Italy, they put it in everything. We asked our waiter if the ragu was made with garlic and his response was quite unexpected; “Of course not, this is ragu! It would not be ragu if there was garlic!”. Delighted, my partner ordered it and loved it. So much so, he ordered it three nights in a row!
So the humble ragu taught me an important lesson in italian cooking: keep it simple. It seems the obligatory addition of garlic to all Italian dishes is a culinary assumption most of us are all guilty of making. Unsurprisingly, the Italians harbour an aversion to extraneous elements being added to their most treasured dishes. Why mess with Tuscan perfection? After all a ragu is a ragu and you don’t need to add garlic to make it taste italian.
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