One of the most typical dishes of the Campania region or more specifically of Naples, spaghetti allo scarpariello is a simple yet super flavorful pasta dish rich with history and tradition. Low-income class created many traditional Italian dishes. This particular class also did not have many ingredients at their disposal. However, lack of access sure didn’t stop them from creating delicious dishes eaten today in their respective regions. Simplicity, like in most Italian dishes, is the key to making spaghetti allo scarpariello. With just a few good quality ingredients you can make magic. Let’s dive right in to see how the dish was born and how you can recreate it right in your own kitchen with this rustic Neapolitan pasta recipe.
A Brief History
The exact timeframe of the birth of this dish is a little muddy. We can somewhat piece together it’s invention given the following information: 1) Pasta, once eaten primarily by the wealthy, began to be eaten by the common classes shortly after World War II. 2) Spaghetti allo Scarpariello used to be prepared with the leftover ragù or traditional Neapolitan sauce prepared for Sunday lunch. 3) The dish takes it’s name from the word “scarpari,” which in Neapolitan dialect means cobblers. 4) Scarpari or cobblers take credit with inventing the dish and they were poor, working class people.
Given these facts, we can assume that the dish got invented not too long after the close of World War II in 1945. Though we don’t know the exact year when the dish was invented, we do know the precise location of the birth of this delicious pasta dish: The Spanish Quarter in Naples. The Spanish Quarter had many shoe factories where the cobblers worked for hours everyday and produced the most beautiful shoes around. It is said that during their lunch hour they would prepare this dish in the back of their shops because it was a quick and low cost recipe. Using their leftover Sunday ragù and cheese, which they had an abundance of due to the fact that many of the cobbler’s clients were short-on-cash farmers that paid with cheese, the cobblers would prepare the scarpariello. This was the perfect meal for the cobblers because they didn’t have a lot of time or money to spend on lunch.
21st Century Spaghetti allo Scarpariello
Today, it has come to be acceptable, if you don’t have leftover Sunday ragù, to prepare this dish with fresh cherry tomatoes. If you’re pressed for time like the original scarpari (or even if you’re not), here’s a quick and simple recipe for spaghetti allo scarpariello that make’s even a Neapolitan grandma smile.
Spaghetti allo Scarpariello (yields 4 servings)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
2 cloves of garlic
400g cherry tomatoes
3-4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese
A few very generous pinches of chili pepper flakes
A handful of fresh basil leaves
6) Remove the garlic from the oil right before it turns golden brown and discard it.
7) Add the tomatoes to the oil along with +/- a teaspoon or 2 of salt and continue to let them cook covered with the flame on low until tender and a red sauce has been created. If you like a more full-bodied sauce, you can add in a little tomato puree during the cooking process.
As a proud Neapolitan girl myself, I am partial to this cuisine. It’s what I grew up on. However, the food speaks for itself; you don’t have to take my word for it. You be the judge; try it today and see for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. Easy, simple, delicious! What more could you ask for? Happy eating!