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Tumact me tulez (tumacë me tulë)

"a deeply good dish with anchovies, walnuts, breadcrumbs and Albanian roots, from Barile in Basilicata." Rachel Roddy

My husband tells me I've not been writing about food much. I think I beg to disagree - food always comes into what I write however, briefly, but perhaps he's a little bit right.

Anyway today, not having a lot of time, and it being very hot, I'm doing a short piece about a pasta dish with that very strange and non-Italian sounding name above.

It doesn't sound Italian because it's Italo/Albanian - Arbëreshe - and the variation of the name in brackets is in Arbëreshe - a language that still exists in Barile in Basilicata in the south of Italy. It's still spoken in Barile and the other pockets of Italo/Albanians that are dotted over the southern parts of Italy.

I have always found Albania to be a mysterious place, and Basilicata too is not one of those 'hot' Italian tourist destinations. We found Abruzzo to be relatively unvisited by tourists, but I suspect that Basilicata is even more so. So go before it is overrun. I mean look at it:

Why is that not as stunning as the Cinque Terre? So I wonder why it is not more well-known? It's often a mystery to me why some places become tourist hot spots and others are not. Obviously if you are a town like Florence, or Paris or Sydney you can see why, but there are thousands and thousands of places throughout the world that are just as lovely, historical and interesting as the most well-known.

But I digress. Back to the Albanians and the small town, large village, of Barile, from whence this pasta dish comes. It's not very close to anywhere important and is not that spectacular, but for some reason back in 1447 the Albanians fleeing from the Ottoman Turks who were invading their homeland, decided to build a home here. Maybe the very fact that it is remote, was the reason. Whatever the reason they have stayed, kept their faith - a form of Eastern /Orthodoxy, their traditions, their language and their food. I gather that it has been largely down to their church that all of this has been preserved, and maybe the remoteness too, but pretty amazing in a world in which languages, especially, disappear every fourteen days apparently. UNESCO recognises the language officially.

Odd fact - Pier Paolo Pasolini filmed his The Gospel According to Matthew here, and that novel and film Christ Stopped at Eboli centred on Basilicata, both of which emphasised the poverty of the area.

So back to the food, Tumact me tulez which has now been recognised by the Italian government as an official traditional food of Basilicata. It even has its own festival which began in 1997, and is becoming larger each year. American Express listed it in their top ten Italian food festivals. And when I looked at the subsequent posters to the 2013 one I found that the local wine, seems to be playing a bigger and bigger part, with the wine being the focus of the posters, although the photo of the pasta from 2013 is always chosen - but small. The wine is red and I think may be either a Fiano or Aglianico. I think the Aglianico is becoming quite well-known. Indeed I may even have once written a post about it - Aglianico del Vulture - named for the local mountain.

So what is this pasta dish which is so important? Well I first came across it as it was mentioned by Rachel Roddy in a recent Guardian Feast newsletter, in which she mentioned how she had helped British chef Jacob Kenedy make it for some special event. She had helped by:

"chopping the walnuts into rough, sandy pebbles, half of which were stirred into the anchovy, garlic and tomato sauce, which was then tossed with fettuccine, while the rest went into a hot pan with olive oil and breadcrumbs. Surprising and divine." Rachel Roddy

The recipe I found online was on the British House and Garden website and was from the book Pasta Grannies by Vicky Bennison. You can also watch those pasta grannies make it on YouTube. It's not just a sprinkle of breadcrumbs involved here. This is a poor area of Italy and breadcrumbs replaced cheese, which was far too expensive. It's a lot of breadcrumbs - fried in oil with garlic and parsley. The pasta grannies, layered some of the breadcrumb mix with the pasta which had been tossed in the tomato sauce, and then sprinkled more of the breadcrumb mixture on top. The sauce is made with tomatoes, garlic, lots of anchovies, and passata, and the pasta is a - fettuccine/tagliatelle, either with a crinkly edge or a straight one. The width of the pasta seemed to vary too. Basil is added to the parsley sauce and chopped walnuts to the breadcrumbs on top. The version at the top of the page is Jacob Kenedy's. So if you like anchovies and if you are looking for a slightly different pasta some day, give it a go.

A plate of pasta = history, geography, language, tradition, religion - though I didn't really go into this - tourism maybe even commerce.


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