Traditional Tastes Of Naples

Posted on: 18 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Three authentic Italian recipes from Naples.

Always in the shadow of Vesuvius, Naples is a vibrant, chaotic, passionate city with food to match.

Home to the wood-fired pizza from its simplest version, the Margherita, to more contemporary interpretations with rocket and seafood. The cuisine makes maximum use of fruit and vegetables grown on the rich volcanic soil, moistened with monocultivar olive oils and enriched up with creamy buffalo mozzarella. 

Petto Di Pollo Aromatico

Spicy Chicken Roulades In Tomato Sauce (pictured above)

There is little meat in much of Campania’s regional cuisine.  What there is usually comes from the two other historical elements that have had such a profound influence on the area’s food: the royal and noble households of the French and Spanish courts, and the monasteries and convents. 

This recipe originates from the convents, and bears that unmistakable Campanian touch in its use of fresh herbs and a rich tomato sauce.

Serves: 4


500 g (1 lb 2 oz) chicken breast fillet
2 or 3 stalks of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Small handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
2 whole fresh bay leaves, roughly chopped
Sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
1 fresh sage leaf, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
1 glass of dry white wine
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) passata
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small handful of large fresh basil leaves, rolled and finely sliced into chiffonade, to serve


To make the chicken roulades, slice each breast fillet through the middle so that you are left with 2 thinner fillets.  If you find it easier, or the fillets are not big enough, pound out the chicken using a meat mallet or wooden rolling pin, then cut each fillet in half lengthways.  Trim the edges to neaten, if necessary. 

Lay out the slices of breast fillet side by side on a work surface.  Put a little parsley on each slice, reserving some for later use, then divide up the garlic, pecorino and Parmesan, and use to cover each slice.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Roll up the chicken into roulades, starting from one of the short edges, and secure with toothpicks or cocktail sticks. 

Add the remaining parsley, the mint, bay leaves, rosemary and sage to a heavy pan over a medium heat with the oil.  Quickly brown the roulades on all sides.  When they are nicely browned, pour over the white wine and continue cooking for 20 minutes until the wine has reduced, turning the roulades from time to time. 

Add the passata, sprinkle in the chilli and season with salt.  Cover the pan and leave to simmer over a gentle heat for 20 minutes.  When the roulades are cooked, sprinkle with the basil and serve immediately, accompanied by a fresh green salad or a vegetable side dish such as lightly sautéed courgettes.

Braciolone Alla Napoletana

(Pork roulade with prosciutto, Parmesan & Parsley)

Braciolone Alla NapoletanaIn Campania and elsewhere in Southern Italy, the term braciola refers to a slice of meat such as veal rolled up around a filling; in other parts of Italy this is usually known as involtini.  A braciolone is simply a large braciola, where several slices of meat are rolled together to form a roulade, as seen in this classic Neapolitan recipe for pork.

Serves 4-6


1.25 kg (2¾ lb) pork fillet or boned shoulder of pork
200 g (7 oz) lean pork mince
150 g (5oz) prosciutto or pancetta, chopped
30 g (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
50 g (1¾ oz) sultanas
50 g (1¾ oz) pine nuts
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
50 g (1¾ oz) dried breadcrumbs (see note)
1 tablespoon olive oil
50 g (1¾ oz) lard
1 onion, cut into fine wedges
500 ml (16 fl oz) red wine
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced (see note)
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Note It is easy to make your own dried breadcrumbs.  Simply use up any leftover good-quality stale bread such as ciabatta or sourdough.  Whizz into medium-coarse breadcrumbs in a food processor, chop up with a knife or break up with your hands. 

Spread the breadcrumbs on a flat baking sheet, and leave in the oven at a very low heat until they are dried and toasty.  (The ideal time to make them is after you have used the oven for something else - you can then utilize any residual heat to dry out the bread.)  Use straight away or store in an airtight jar until needed.  They should keep for up to 2 weeks.

It is not such an onerous task, peeling fresh tomatoes.  Simply score the skin slightly with a sharp knife, blanch in boiling water for 10 seconds or so until the skin starts to soften and split, then refresh in cold water.  This makes it far easier to use a sharp knife to peel away the skin.

Cut the meat into thin slices lengthways.  (Alternatively, you can slit the pork lengthways down the middle, about halfway through.)  Using a smooth meat mallet or wooden rolling pin, pound the meat to flatten slightly if necessary.  Trim away any rough edges to neaten. 

On a flat work surface, arrange the pieces in a row one next to the other, slightly overlapping the edges.  Make a stuffing using the mince, prosciutto or pancetta, Parmesan, sultanas, pine nuts, hard-boiled egg, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Combine all the ingredients thoroughly, and spread the stuffing over the meat. 

Roll the meat up firmly like a Swiss roll, and tie in place with butcher’s string, securing in enough places along the length of the roulade to keep the meat in a tight roll and the stuffing in place.  Also tie at each end like a sausage so that the stuffing doesn’t ooze out.

Heat the oil and lard in a deep-sided heavy frying pan over a medium heat.  Brown the roulade on all sides with the onion - you want the meat to colour before it starts cooking in the sauce.  Pour over the red wine and allow to reduce for 10 minutes. 

Add the tomatoes, cover the pan and cook for about an hour, turning the meat from time to time.  Towards the end of the cooking time, season the sauce with salt and black pepper, and if necessary a little sugar to cut the tartness of the tomatoes.  Cut the pork into thick slices and serve with green beans and roast potatoes, or other vegetable side dishes.  

Polpette Alla Napoletana

Meatballs In Tomato Sauce

Polpette Alla NapoletanaPolpette (meatballs) and polpettone (meatloaf) feature throughout Italian cuisine.  In this version from Campania’s convent tradition, naturally enough the juicy meatballs are cooked in a rich tomato sauce. 

The meatloaf below is also a convent recipe, and has a scamorza cheese filling.  Scamorza is made from cow’s milk and is similar in many ways to mozzarella.  It melts far better when baked, however, and its smoked version adds a lovely depth of flavour.

Serves: 4


500 g (1 lb 2 oz) stale crustless bread such as ciabatta or pane casereccio
A little milk
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) lean beef mince
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
50 g (1¾ oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
45 g (1½ oz) sultanas (optional)
45 g (1½ oz) pine nuts (optional)
Light olive oil for cooking
1 small onion, finely chopped
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) tinned whole peeled plum tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Soak the bread in a little milk.  Squeeze gently to remove any excess liquid and place in a bowl with the mince, parsley and garlic.  Mix well and add the egg, a pinch of salt, black pepper, Parmesan, sultanas and pine nuts (if using).  Combine thoroughly with your hands. 

Shape into meatballs, and fry in plenty of hot oil in a large heavy pan over a medium heat for 10 minutes.  Keep turning the meatballs carefully to prevent them catching on the bottom of the pan.  Remove from the pan, drain on kitchen paper and set aside. 

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce.  Sweat the onion in a little olive oil in a heavy pan over a medium heat until soft and translucent.  Add the tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper.  Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and cook for 10 minutes to heat through.  Serve hot.

Polpettone - meatloaf with prosciutto, scamorza and Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF/Gas 4). Soak 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) bread in 1 litre (1¾ pints) milk, drain and squeeze the bread gently to remove any excess liquid. 

Put in a bowl with 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) lean beef or pork mince, 2 eggs, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves. 

Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Combine thoroughly with your hands, and pat out into a rectangle about 2 cm (1 in) thick.

Cut 100 g (3½ oz) prosciutto and 60 g (2 oz) smoked scamorza cheese into thin strips, and arrange over the mince mixture. 

Put 2 whole hard-boiled eggs on top, and wrap the meat around the eggs, shaping it into a meatloaf.  (This is easier if your hands are wet.) 

Carefully transfer to an oiled baking dish - you need one larger than the meatloaf, so that you will be able to turn the loaf during cooking.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, turning from time to time.  Cut into slices and serve hot.

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Taste the delights of hot chocolate from the Piazza dei Martiri, journey up into the hills to sample the wines and fine foods at Mustilli or explore the exquisite olive oils from the Torre Cangiani overlooking the bay of Sorrento. Cucina Napoletana by Arturo Lengo, published by New Holland, is out 11th August and available from all good bookshops for £17.99 RRP or you can order it online at Amazon for £11.87.

If you cook one of the recipes, we would love to hear from you.  Either leave a comment below or share your thoughts in the 50connect forums.

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