The food of the Venetian Republic is diverse: prosecco & snapper risotto, Croatian roast lamb shoulder with olive oil potatoes, the sweet & sour red mullet of Crete, zabaglione from Corfu, or Dubrovnik’s ricotta & rose liqueur crepes.
These are recipes steeped in history; dishes from the days when Venice was a world power. How did this small city-state rule the waters of the Mediterranean, enjoying unrivalled wealth and prestige? How could this serene, safe-haven city of canals come to play a defining role in shaping the cuisine, culture, and architecture of her Mediterranean neighbours? Yet, for a thousand years, the ships and merchants of the Republic dominated salt, silk, and spice trade routes.
To tell this story, respected writer and restaurateur Nino Zoccali focuses on the four key regions that geographically encapsulate the Venetian Republic, each of which has its own distinct cuisine: Venice and its lagoon islands; the Veneto, of which Venice is the capital; the Croatian coast and the Greek Islands formerly under Venetian rule. The 80 dishes he has selected all have strong traditional Venetian roots or influence, celebrating ingredients and techniques that show how, to this day, food in this magnificent region continues to be influenced by neighbouring cultures.
Stunning food and location photography from around Venice, the Dalmatian Coast, and the Greek Islands make this cookbook a must-have for foodies and lovers of Mediterranean cuisine.
Spicy Lobster Linguini
This is a special occasion dish, usually served in high-end restaurants and showcasing some of the best flavours of Mediterranean Greece, including fresh lobster and Metaxa, an iconic Greek brandy. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a pinch of dried chilli—something not commonly found in Greek cuisine—adding a lovely heat to the dish.
1 x 2 lb 4 oz-2 lb 10 oz (1-1.2 kg) live lobster
Generous ½ cup (150 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup (125 ml) Metaxa brandy (or any quality brandy)
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
6 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 cups (500 ml) Crustacean Broth (recipe follows)
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ cup (¾ oz/20 g) basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 lb 5 oz (600 g) dried linguini
1 tablespoon (½ oz/15 g) butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the lobster in the freezer for 10 minutes before cooking.
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the lobster in the water and cook for approximately 5-7 minutes, depending on the size. Remove the lobster and place into iced water to stop the cooking process.
When the lobster is chilled, cut in half and carefully remove the meat from the tail. The meat will be largely raw except for the flesh near the shell. Dice into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces, reserve the head for serving.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over low heat, add the onion, and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the brandy and cook for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, red pepper flakes, basil, and parsley and simmer over medium heat for 25-30 minutes.
Before serving, heat the lobster head in a hot oven, in boiling water, or under a broiler for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 9-13 minutes or until al dente. Just before the pasta is ready, add the lobster meat and butter to the sauce, giving the lobster 3 minutes to cook through before serving. Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and toss through the sauce. Serve on a platter and decorate with the warm lobster head.
Makes approximately 12 cups (3 litres)
100 ½ oz (300 g) shrimp shells
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
7 oz (200 g) onions, roughly chopped
5 ½ oz (150 g) carrot, roughly chopped
2 oz (60 g) celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 ½ oz (40 g) garlic cloves, roughly chopped
7 oz (200 g) tomato paste (concentrated purée)
4 lb 8 oz (2 kg) fresh snapper bones (including heads), washed thoroughly and roughly chopped
2 blue swimmer crabs (or any hard-shelled crabs), cleaned and cut into quarters
Scant ½ cup (100 ml) dry white wine
2 lb 10 oz (1.2 kg) ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the shrimp shells in a small roasting pan and toss with the olive oil. Roast for 10–15 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the vegetables and garlic. Add the shrimp shells and tomato paste and sauté for 1 minute. Add the snapper bones and blue swimmer crabs and sauté for about 5 minutes before adding the white wine. Cook until the wine has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and 15 cups (3.5 litres) water. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer and cook for 40–60 minutes, skimming occasionally.
Discard the large fish bones and strain the liquid through a fine strainer. Make sure you press the shrimp shells while straining as they are full of extra flavour. Pass again through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to make sure all the bones are removed. Use the broth straight away or refrigerate.
Crustacean broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Excerpted from Venetian Republic by Nino Zoccali. Copyright © 2020. Photographs by Alan Benson. Used with permission from the publisher.