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24 October 2012

Conchiglioni con Frutti di Mare al Cognac (Shell Pasta with Seafood & Cognac) & A Day Around the Pantheon Area


Going around the city with the cameras around our necks, my husband and I continuously click on the monuments that we've been taking pictures of over the years, each time with a better camera from the last.  I can see the chain we are going through.  In a few years again, better equipment, still the same route, to the city's most photographed monuments.  I showed you some shots of the Colosseo and its confines in the previous post.  Now, let me show you the Pantheon and its surrounding area. 


Go straight to last paragraph if you want to read about the recipe and skip the Pantheon and its neighborhood. 


I'm sure you have seen thousands of pictures of the Pantheon. Good, bad, mediocre, professional, spectacular, passable, impressive, "What is that?", all invoking different reactions.  The Pantheon is very difficult to photograph inside and I am still thinking of ways on how to capture it better.  The only thing I haven't tried is to lie down on the floor or paste myself against one side of the circular wall.  Armed with grand ideas when I arrive and snagged with disappointment upon exit.  I can just never get it perfectly.   Sigh.  Next time, better camera, new ideas, the same disappointment.  Or maybe I will just have to learn that not all things fit in the frame of my camera.  Some things are just best enjoyed sitting down and gazing at it.


Going inside restaurants in Rome for a full meal robs our whole afternoon away.  There are times when a good restaurant wins us over but there are also times when we just grab a slice of pizza al taglio and look for a nice quiet bench to sit on and enjoy our surroundings.  It is still one of the best and cheapest ways to dine in Rome. 


Pizza is followed by a cup of gelato.  The area of the Pantheon boasts a number of these gelaterie.  There are Gelateria della Palma, Giolitti, Grom & Il Gelato di San Crispino.  I have always loved Grom's extra noir so a cup mixed with Syrian pistachio ice cream was a treat.  After walking a few hundred meters more, we stopped in front of Il Gelato di San Crispino and my stomach called for another cup of ice cream.  I got their Valrhona chocolate flavor which I mixed with another flavor with meringue.  I really don't remember the exact flavors.  I just know that I enjoyed the chocolate.  Good, rich chocolate ice cream.  Period. 


There are four important churches around the Pantheon area.  There is the Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Basilica of Saint Mary above Minerva) from the 13th century with its vibrant blue with gilded stars and trimmed with red ribbing.  Inside are some important works of art namely Micheangelo's statue of Cristo della Minerva and Filippino Lippi's frescoes in the Carafa Chapel.  It also houses the tombs of St. Catherine of Siena (except her head, which is in the Basilica di San Domenico in Siena) and  Fra Angelico.


Close by is the Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio (Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius) built between 1626 to 1650  dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order.  The impressive fresco that stretches across the nave ceiling was painted by Andrea Pozzo.  It depicts the works of St. Ignatius and his entry to Paradise. 



Still in the area are the 11 surviving columns of the Tempio di Adriano (Temple of Hadrian) built in 145.  It was incorporated into a 17th century papal palace which is presently occupied by the Borsa Bank.  


A few steps more and you will arrive at Piazza della Colonna where the Colonna di Marco Aurelio (Column of Marcus Aurelius), erected between 176 and 192, stands in the middle.  The spiral picture relief tells the story of Marcus Aurelius’ wars from 166 to his death.   


Nearby, is the Obelisco di Montecitorio (Obelisk of Montecitorio), also known as Solare It is an ancient Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome in 10 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus to be used as the gnomon (a part of a sundial that casts the shadow).


The other two churches in the area are the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena (Church of St. Mary Magdalene) with its Rococo facade and Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi (Church of St. Louis of the French), the National Church in Rome of France.  Both were closed when we passed by.  


During our walk, I read some menus displayed outside the restaurants.   My attention was riveted by some seafood pasta entries and remained in my memory until long after I finished my pizza and gelato.  My mind was made up.  If we don't have the time to sit down for a seafood lunch, then I had I to dedicate my time when we get home to prepare it for dinner. 


A quick trip to Eataly resulted in procuring some fresh canocchie (mantis shrimp), shrimp & calamaro.   I put them together with the conchiglioni (big shell pasta) I had at home.  I normally pair the sauce with paccheri pasta but the shells were the only ones I had.   I like pouring cognac in my seafood sauce and having no kids around for dinner, I splurged on the alcohol.   Tasty and delicious.  It was worth waiting for.

I really hope I didn't bore you to sleep with this post.  Thank you for reading and for keeping those eyes open.  Have a good week!



Conchiglioni con Frutti di Mare al Cognac 

(Shell Pasta with Seafood & Cognac)

Ingredients:
Serves 4
  • 300 g. conchiglioni (or paccheri or any other big pasta)
  • 200 g. small shrimp
  • 100 g. big shrimp (optional)
  • 200 g. canocchie (mantis shrimp)
  • 1 big calamaro (squid), cleaned & sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 pinches piment d'Espelette or Espelette pepper (replace with 1 fresh chili if you don't have this)
  • parsley, chopped finely
  • 300 g. cherry tomatoes, quartered
Directions:
  1. Soak canocchie in water for at least half an hour to get rid of any sand trapped in the shells.  If you don't have the time, rinse them under the faucet very well.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the back vertically starting from the part of the head.  Set aside.
  2. Boil water in a pot for the pasta.  When it boils, add salt then drop pasta.  Cook according to the number of minutes indicated in the package or until al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, while waiting for the water to boil, warm up some oil in a large saucepan.  When it becomes hot, saute' canocchie.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Open 2 - 3 canocchie, taking out the meat.  See link for procedure (in Italian).  Discard shells.  Set aside with the unopened canocchie. 
  4. In the same saucepan, saute' shrimp.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to the bowl with the canocchie.  Set aside.
  5. Still in the same saucepan, saute' garlic & chili (if using the fresh one).  When they turn golden, add tomatoes.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  
  6. Add calamaro.  Saute' for a couple of minutes.
  7. Put back the canocchie & shrimp.
  8. Pour cognac.  Put up the fire and let the alcohol evaporate.  
  9. Season with salt & piment d'Espelette (if using).  
  10. Add cooked pasta.  If the sauce is too dry, add some water used for cooking the pasta.  Mix for a minute.  Turn off fire.
  11. Sprinkle parsley & drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  12. Serve hot.