Thursday, September 15, 2011

Memories from the Amalfi Coast

Ciao tutti!  This is Jora from Domestic Reflections and I am so happy to be here at The Littlest.  It's one of my very favorite spots on the Internet.

I don’t know about you all, but I have been quite happy living vicariously through Elizabeth’s Italian vacation photos over the past week or two.  I follow her on Instagram and get extra excited when her photos pop up: café lunches, beautiful architecture, views of the Mediterranean.  I, for one, never tire of these things.  Her photos also have me wistfully thinking of trips I’ve taken and experiences I’ve had, especially those in Italy.  Especially those before kids.  Especially those when I was young and fun.  Ahhh, those were the days.

I thought I might share one little tidbit of a story from a trip long ago to one of the areas Elizabeth visited just a few days ago: the Amalfi Coast. (I was going to post a gorgeous photo from the area, but I have a feeling we will be seeing lots of those from Elizabeth in the next week....fingers crossed anyway!)  The time I was there was just after finishing up a study abroad program in Florence.  I had the great fortune of meeting one of my (now) best friends in the entire world during that experience.  We were done, we had finished finals, we were ready to lay on the beach and drink wine and eat ridiculous amounts of pasta.  We picked up another friend of mine at the airport in Rome (another BFF…hi Nichole!), hopped the train, transferred to another train (or 2?), waited for a bus, took the bus around those crazy hairpin turns on cliffs high above the sea, got dropped off in front of a post office and then began searching for our pensione, our Let’s Go Italy guidebook gripped firmly in hand (remember those? before you could research everything for a trip online? am I dating myself here?)  After many failed attempts, we finally came upon our most lovely apartment and terrace and garden perched on a terraced hillside above the Mediterranean.  It really was a backpacker’s dream come true.  The stuff Rick Steves wishes would happen to him. Ha.

Anyway, we congratulated ourselves on having had the luck (and discernment!) to make a reservation at this place based on a 10 word description in the guidebook and decided to celebrate by going next door to the equally amazing restaurant….friends, the views were postcard material.  The owner Enzo came out to greet us.  Think gorgeous 30ish Italian man.  Salt and pepper hair.  Soulful dark brown eyes.  We sat on the terrace, looked out at the sea.  He poured us icy cold white wine and then plopped a couple of peach slices in our glasses.  I was in heaven.   We drank, we talked, we ate, we heard the story of Enzo’s life (we told him our stories too), we drank, we closed the restaurant down, we were invited to join the staff meal at a long table in the middle of the empty restaurant, we obliged (naturally), we listened to Enzo’s Michael Jackson CDs late into the night as I recall.  And then, Enzo asked if I wanted to come back to the kitchen so he could show me how to cook a favorite dish of his.  Um, yes?  (I think that's what I really said.)  I am crazy about cooking, food, eating, all of it really.  And this is what he taught me to make.
Enzo’s Penne with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Arugula

(you can omit the shrimp and the dish is equally delicious and satisfying, fyi)

2 T. (or so) olive oil

2 T. (or so) butter

1 lb. large shrimp

3 c. cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Splash of white wine

2 c. heavy cream

A couple handfuls of arugula

1 lb. penne pasta

Begin by cooking the pasta al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook until not quite cooked through (this should just take about 2 minutes or so).  Using tongs, remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.  Add more butter and oil to the pan if needed.  Add the tomatoes and cook over high-ish heat, smashing with the side of a wooden spoon to release the juices and to concentrate the flavor.  After most of the liquid is evaporated (timing will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are), add the garlic and cook just until it starts to get fragrant.  Add a splash of white wine and reduce.  Add the cream and simmer until it reduced to a creamy, slightly thick sauce (it should coat the back of the wooden spoon)….maybe 7 minutes?  Season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Add the arugula and the shrimp back to the pan and cook for a minute more (until the shrimp are barely cooked through….they will continue to cook off the heat!)  The arugula will be barely wilted.  Check for seasoning again.  Toss the penne with the sauce.  (No cheese!  The Italians freak out if you put cheese on anything with seafood!)  And then serve with a nice Italian white wine, preferably with peaches floating in it.

Buon Appetito!


  1. What an amazing story... I must make this dish. Thanks so much for sharing. xo.

  2. i'm making this sometime this weekend. i love the story. food and people. my favorite.

  3. I'm with Desi. Making this weekend. I just happen to have everything I need :)... and why let that heavy cream go to waste??

  4. i love it jora, this sounds sooo good. i am slowly trying to wean myself off heavy cream, cheese and pasta (after i make this!) and the peaches, i must get the last peaches of summer to go with it!!

  5. I stole one of these shrimp out of the fridge and it was delicious!! xo