When we got back to the hotel late that afternoon, we bundled up for one final stroll around the marble streets of Verona. We walked under the Porta Borsari, which is at the end of the elegant Corso Porta Borsari. The ancient Roman gate to the city is constructed of local white limestone. It has two arches framed by pillars with Corinthian capitals. We made our way to the Basilica di Sant’Anastasia, which drips with Gothic influence. The colors of red, black and white echo from the floor to its crossed vaulted ceiling. Reverently, we walked around the church, attempting to take in all its beauty. Finally, we made it to the Piazza Bra, which is the largest square in Verona.
We walked over the liston, which refers to the long marble slabs used for paving the west side of the piazza. We passed café after café filled with tourists and locals enjoying the brisk evening air and the bustle of the holiday festivities. The last stop was the Arena di Verona, the amphitheater located in the heart of the Piazza Bra. I imagined all the gladiator fights, jousts and tournaments that took place just on the other side of these stone walls. We walked all the way around the pink and white stone amphitheater. By this point, Michael and I felt quite confident we knew our way back to the hotel without directions, and we were about to be served a very large slice of humble pie.
We were supposed to turn left at the arena. We thought we turned left. At first, it was romantic strolling arm in arm under the icicle lights strung along piazza after piazza. After ten minutes or so, we both realized we were absolutely lost. Shockingly neither of our phones were working so looking up directions to our hotel was out of the question. After about an hour or so (or for what felt like an hour), we dove deeper and deeper into the city. In which direction, I couldn’t tell you. Miraculously, of course, we made our way back to the hotel. In a matter of moments all was well with the world, but we will never forget about our time getting lost head over heels in the Marble City of Verona.
Generously Serves 2
Note: We traveled to Verona to visit with Giovanni Rana, which is a family owned pasta company in Verona. Having their pastas stocked in my refrigerator is a lovely way to remember the trip! I use fresh Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle for this recipe, but you can use any pasta shape you love!
Arrabbiata literally means “angry” in Italian. The dishes namesake refers to the spiciness of this pasta dish. If you are sensitive to spice, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes to 1/4-1/2 teaspoon. I love using whole, green Castelvetrano olives for this recipe. To easily pit the olive, crush with the blade of a knife like you would smash a clove of garlic and fish out the pit. But, of course, you can use pitted olives if you like!
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove
1 small shallot
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice bacon, chopped
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 ounces Giovanni Rana Tagliatelle
10 green olives, pitted, roughly chopped
Small handful basil leaves, hand torn
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
Finely chop red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic and shallot together. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and bacon. Once the bacon is crisp and lovely and golden in color, toss in the red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, shallot, and black pepper.
Once the shallots and garlic begin to color around the edges, about a minute. Slowly add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the skillet. Season with salt, and allow the tomatoes to gently come to a bubble. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve about ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.
Toss the olives and basil leaves into the sauce at the last minute. Add a little reserved pasta water and pasta to the sauce and toss. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.