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From Liguria to Lima
The culinary legacy of Italian immigrants in Peru
¡Hola! This month’s newsletter is about the food and drinks that Italian immigrants brought to Peru. Tallarines Rojos is a Peruvian pasta dish with a tomato sauce, and El Capitán is a pisco and vermouth cocktail. I also share a farmers market recipe for a refreshing Blueberry Limonada.
Vegan Tallarines Rojos
Italian immigrants that arrived in Peru during the 19th century came from the region of Liguria. They introduced pasta to Lima’s culinary culture, as well as other foods and drinks such as panettone and vermouth.
Of all the Italian-Peruvian dishes, Tallarines Rojos is perhaps the most popular among Lima’s working class. It’s one of the first foods I remember eating as a child (see photo). My mother cooked it for our beach picnic outings, and it’s still a family favorite that I love to cook at home.
Tallarines Rojos means “red spaghetti”—referring to the tomato, onion, carrot, celery, and red bell pepper that are sautéed, blended, then simmered for the sauce. But the tomato is native to Peru and Mexico, and colonial foodways carried tomato seeds from the Americas to Europe.
Today, the tomato stars in Italy’s pomodoro sauces. Can you imagine Italian food without tomatoes? I like that Tallarines Rojos tells the story of the tomato’s journey—from the Americas, to Italy, and back to Peru as a sauce.
I hope you enjoy making my recipe for Tallarines Rojos. ¡Buen Provecho! La Yapa: Pasta and Potatoes, The Peruvian Way on Taste is about a combinado—the combo-plate of Tallarines Rojos with Papa a la Huancaina, a cheesy potato salad.
Italian immigrants served a pisco and sweet vermouth aperitif in Lima after Cinzano Rosso arrived in 1859. But with WWI, a local budget vermouth replaced the Italian import and the low-end aperitif was called 20 centavos, after the smallest value coin.
The story goes that military cavalry captains in the Peruvian sierras ordered the drink to ward off the cold during night rounds, and barkeeps served it respectfully: “For you my Captain.” The name stuck, and today El Capitán is served at bars across Lima.
The classic El Capitán is spirit-forward with equal parts pisco and sweet vermouth, but there are several variations with different ingredient ratios. I hope you enjoy preparing and sipping my El Capitán Variations. ¡Salud!
Cookbooks I am Reading
Here are some cookbooks I’ve enjoyed reading, cooking, and learning from. They are all by women authors and chefs that I admire for their passion and commitment to promoting vegan and plant-based recipes.
Born in Lima, Juan Diego Flórez grew up in a musical family singing Peru’s creole music. But eventually he discovered operas and studied classical music. He’s performed at Italy’s famed La Scala opera house, and has received numerous awards. La Flor de la Canela is a creole waltz with melancholy lyrics about Lima’s yesteryear, and Juan Diego Flórez interprets it in operatic style:
Farmers Market Recipe
A few weeks ago, I was delighted that Portland’s Cook First invited me to contribute a seasonal recipe for Blueberry Week. I found inspiration in Peru’s chicha morada, a purple corn drink spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and citrus peel, and I developed a blueberry limonada that celebrates summer in the Pacific Northwest. It was wonderful to visit our favorite farmers market, where a dancing blueberry welcomed everyone, and a QR code pointed to a collection of blueberry recipes, including mine.