The pasta boy: pasta inspired by holidays with my son

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The pasta boy: pasta inspired by holidays with my son

Inspired by Italian holidays with her young son, Sam Woulidge dishes up a Saffa-Italian crossover for your weekly dinner roster.

Seb lost one of his baby teeth while biting into a soft, warm, Nutella-filled cornetto in a bar on a rainy morning in La Spezia in Italy. He carefully wrapped the tiny tooth in a napkin, finished his cornetto and then asked for another one, smiling encouragingly at the waiter over the bar counter as he pushed down on the lever that smooshed the Nutella into the flaky pastry. Italy: the country that gave us chocolate hazelnut spread for breakfast. The following morning, our son woke up to a letter and 2 Euros from Topolino, the Italian tooth mouse, who wrote that, “Yes, he loved fast cars” and “Yes, he drove a red Ferrari”. He added that, like Seb, his favourite foods were pizza and pasta and that he had several homes; one in the Colosseum because he loved history, one in the Vatican because he was a religious sort, and one in Venice because he loved floating the canals in his gondola.

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And so, Seb fell in love with Italy. As we all do. Some of my favourite food pilgrimages in Italy were the repeated visits to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples during those three years while Jacques worked at sea. On the days when the ship docked, boy we headed towards the white-and-green tiled pizzeria that always made my heart beat a little faster. I never get tired of the single offering at this historic pizzeria founded in 1870 – a margherita pizza – with tomato, mozzarella, and a single basil leaf. Perfection. And you don’t mess with perfection. When Jacques would suggest that we explore elsewhere for lunch, I looked at him with horror. We never did. Same place. Same pizza. Every time. I knew we had to take Seb there. Because in this way, Seb and I are identical. Culinary creatures of habit.

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If we like something, we order it regularly. I lie. We order it exclusively. At the same place. We do not like change. And since he has only ever ordered one kind of pizza – a margherita – in his many years of pizza-eating, it brought us great joy to take him to the legendary Naples hotspot that had been making pizza for 149 years. He was suitably appreciative, as I knew he would be. This child of my heart. In Rome, he ran on the cobblestones, had pasta al pomodoro for lunch, rubbed his small hands over the smooth marble of the statues of the Bernini fountains and marvelled at the angels on the Ponte Sant’Angelo while eating gelato. I don’t know if Seb will ever remember seeing the Colosseum on his first trip to Rome, or if he will recall the park of the Villa Borghese, or the winding streets of Naples, or the pretty colours of Tuscany.

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But what I do know for certain is that the flavours of Italy will remain in his heart. I know that when we eat a Caprese salad or a tomato-based pasta, or when he smells fresh basil, or sneaks a spoonful of Nutella, or begs for some of my affogato, or swirls his spaghetti around his fork, he is transported elsewhere. The experience of travel has nourished him as much as any food we have ever placed before him. Because an Italian tomato just hits differently

Find the recipe for caramelised shallot pasta with olives here.

Read more of Sam’s work on and follow her on Instagram on @samwoulidge

Sam Woulidge Article by: Sam Woulidge

Cape Town-based writer Sam Woulidge is a regular TASTE columnist, blogger and author of 'Confessions of a Hungry Woman'. Follow her on Twitter @samwoulidge

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