Traditional spaghetti alla marinara … in which Paolo reveals his mother’s secret ingredient

I learn something in the kitchen every time we visit these guys.

They are great cooks. Not flash chefs, just seriously good cooks, using the best of what’s on hand which in Liguria tends towards vegetables, seafood and salads.

In nine days at Sottovalle, we did 2700kms worth of day trips into the mountains and all along the coastline. Long, happy days filled with good food, big walks and plenty of laughter. But today was a rest day.

The boys had been sent down to Aquarta Scrivia earlier in the morning to get some seafood – any excuse to visit ‘The Office’ – read plane tree covered cafe spilling with pastries.

The recipe is below but I’m going to point out a few tips I learnt along the way …

It all starts with parsley and one and a half small cloves of garlic. Don’t overdo the garlic. Chop together finely and divide into two. One half is held back and added right at the end.


Now the secret ingredient…

2 anchovy fillets (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times under water.


chilli jar

Normally I would heat my pan and then add my first ingredients. But no!

Put them into a cold pan and VERY, VERY gently bring up the temperature and fry them off.

gently frying

If the garlic burns you MUST start again.

frying off parsley garlic anchovies chilli

Mussels, clams and prawns measured by the handful.

clams mussels prawns

Clams soaked in salt water to get rid of any muck.

Mussels steamed in a separate pan. Remove from their shells and don’t keep the juice. These guys regard it as dirty.

clams soaking


The squid is very gently fried and then the temperature turned off till we are ready with everything else.

frying off the squid

Get yourself a couple of handy prawn peelers.

steve and paolo peeling prawns


Back on the heat and the mussels and clams are added.

mussels added

clams added

Throw in the prawns, a few chopped tomatoes, a little glass of white wine and cover till the clam shells open.

tomatoes and parsley and garlic

table and garden

Meanwhile bring your pasta water to the boil and you know when they say “Add salt.”  Add salt!


When the pasta is cooked and stirred in with the seafood, that’s the moment to add your remaining garlic and parsley. It adds a note of freshness right at the end.



Find yourself a pretty setting and some good company.


And allora! Spaghetti alla marinara Forest View B&B style courtesy of Louise & Paolo and Paolo’s mama.

louise and paolo


Thanks for sharing lovelies.

Enjoy  xx


Spaghetti alla Marinara

1 and 1/2 cloves of garlic
A small handful of fresh parsley
2 anchovies (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times in fresh water
1 chopped, dried red chilli
Extra virgin olive oil

A handful of prawns (when peeled)
A handful of squid
2 handfuls of clams
2 handfuls of mussels

1 little glass of white wine, say …  half an Australian glass of white wine.

A handful of chopped fresh tomato.




1. Cover the base of a fry pan in extra virgin olive oil. No heat yet.

2. Chop the garlic and parsley finely and add half to the pan. Reserve the other half till the end.

3. Wash the anchovies three times under fresh water. Chop and add to pan.

4. Chop 1 dried red chilli and add to the pan.

5. Very gently bring the heat up and fry and stir till the anchovies dissolve into the mix. The mixture MUST NOT burn. If it does you MUST start again. It’s a very gentle process.

6. Add your chopped squid to the pan and fry gently.

7. Add the prawns and mussels. Stir gently.

8. Add the clams, tomatoes and white wine. 

9. Stir and cover till clam shells open.

10.Turn off heat till pasta is al dente.


Meanwhile …

11. Bring pasta water to boil. Add plenty of salt. Cook spaghetti till al dente.

12. Drain spaghetti. Pour into the seafood pan.

13. Add the remaining chopped parsley and garlic and toss gently.

13. Pour into a warmed platter and serve.


    Chasing dead people and discovering that you’re not a princess afterall …

    The Hound

    So, earlier in the week I had myself, my sister and my immediate family convinced that Robert the Bruce was our 20th great grandfather and James 1st of Scotland our 22nd.

    I was having a field day on tracking back our lineage to Knights Templars, Crusaders, Princesses of the Picts and Outer Islands – all the way back to around 800 – to Vikings goddamit – until I realised that back in the 1700s I’d made a wrong turn.

    Strike all of that. I’m not a princess afterall. And nor are you Maddy. Sorry hon.

    For a moment we’d had our very own “The Hound” which will only mean anything to Game of Thrones fans but alas that was an error too.

    On other family paths I’ve found a couple of convicts, builders from St Just in Penwith in Cornwall and ancestors hoping to strike it rich on the Victorian gold fields. Before I knew it, I’d spent hours, ney days, chasing dead people.




    Days chasing dead people! And the truly tragic part is that the greater number of them turned out to be someone else’s ancestors. You’re very welcome.

    I’m saying this quietly so Steve and Darce can’t hear but they’re on to me. They know I’ve been surreptitiously chasing dead people all week when their backs are turned.

    “Have you seen mum?”

    “Last I saw her she was in the office chasing dead people.”

    (Groans and slumps off.)


    Anyway I’ve stopped now. She says a little petulantly.

    When “The Hound” was lost to me, the fun sort of went out of the chase.


    Besides, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a lot more fun in the land of the living.


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      Under the bridge and up the hill … focaccia col formaggio di Recco

      We’d tried this before.

      But it had been closed. Or we were too late. And in the months that followed when we were back in Australia, Paolo would send us photos of him grinning wickedly, holding a tray of fresh, hot, oozing, focaccia col formaggio … the autentica one, the 10 out of 10 one, the one under the bridge in Recco, the one we’d missed. Damn it!

      So this time, we were on a promise.


      I suspect that for many Genovese you only have to mention the word Recco and they’ll start salivating.


      Because under the bridge, in this little coastal town just east of Genova, the Panificio Moltedo has made an art form of focaccia col formaggio – since 1874.

      It’s a pilgrimage.


      Finger in the cheek stuff, the Genovese sign for molto buonissimo.

      louise-and-the-girls from moltedo-panifici-pasticcerie



      Fresh, hand made trofie and pesto, another local speciality.  We’d come to that later in the week …


      But first, back to the boys waiting impatiently in the car …

      “Where have you been!!?? We’re starving!”

      A speedy, winding ride up the hill to the quiet grounds of the Chiesa Nostra Signora delle Grazie.

      Chiesa Nostra Signora delle Grazie, Recco

      And let the picnic begin … creamy, salty crescenza cheese baked and melted between two, impossibly thin layers of pastry.

      paolo and steve Recco

      steve paolo and focaccia col formaggio

      steve hoes in

      Finger in the cheek all they way. 10 out of 10. But baste! Baste. Enough Paolo. I can’t. Yes, OKayyy you finish it 😉

      A view that looks east towards Camogli and to the point of Punta Chiappa. On the other side of the peninsula lies the ritzy little port of Portafino.

      looking towards camogli from recco

      But this suited us just fine. We had the whole place to ourselves and behind the church, walking paths headed off in every direction past hidden villas.

      Out of the river.

      I think these narrow paths are one of my favourite parts of the Ligurian coastline.

      This spot kickstarted a silly conversation that continued throughout the week “Imagine! Maddy could get married here! Or Darce!”


      hidden villa recco

      walking path behind recco

      recco walking path



      Invites are in the mail 😉

      Tuck this one away if you’re ever near Genova.

      Recco. Under the bridge. And up the hill.

      It’s a little beauty.


      Panificio Moltedo.
      Via Biagio Assereto, 15, Recco, Italy

      Chiesa Nostra Signora delle Grazie
      Sal. Megli, 12, Recco GE, Italy

      And directly opposite the church is a restaurant that Paolo said is very nice
      Al Baretto

      And Louise & Paolo’s Forest View B&B, Sottovalle.

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