At Bucato in Los Angeles, chef Evan Funke doesn't worry too much about re-creating regional dishes exactly as they're done in Italy. His menu is inspired, instead, by a combination of Italian home kitchen wisdom and of-the-moment Southern Californian ingredients.
This melding of traditions is what inspires Funke's unique take on battuto, a hybrid condiment that brings together the chile-infused olio santo ("holy oil") of southern Italy with the warm garlic and anchovy bagna cauda dip of the north. In it, he combines oil-marinated white anchovies, fresh garlic, olive oil and piquant red jalapeños from Fresno, which evoke the warm spice of Calabrian chilies. The flavors add a punchy boost to other sauces, dressings, dips and more.
Here are four of Funke's favorite ways to put battuto to work.
Puttanesca: While puttanesca takes many forms in Italy, most people here envision it involving tomatoes, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil, three of which are already in Funke's battuto. He suggests mixing two tablespoons of battuto into two cups of tomato sauce for "a subtle approach" to classic puttanesca. "It's a more genteel version, if you will," he says.
Caesar Dressing: The anchovies and garlic in battuto make it a good base for Caesar dressing, while the chile adds gentle and unexpected heat. To make, whisk together three tablespoons of battuto, ¼ cup lemon juice, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, one tablespoon Dijon mustard and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Toss the dressing with sturdy lettuces like radicchio or Romaine.
Marinade: Battuto packs enough strong flavor to stand up to serious proteins like steak and lamb, as well as sturdy fish like mahimahi, tuna or swordfish. The salt and acid in the paste can be particularly helpful for tenderizing tougher cuts of meat. Add one tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar or lemon juice to ½ cup battuto, then rub it all over your protein of choice. Let it marinate at room temperature for thirty minutes before cooking.
Antipasti: Funke uses the battuto to dress raw vegetables, cured olives and cheese, presenting them antipasti-style for snacking alongside cured meats. Toss hunks of fresh mozzarella or sharp pecorino, Castelvetrano olives or sliced carrots and peppers with a light dressing of battuto, and let them sit for 15 minutes before serving. "It adds a subtle garlicky and salty aspect to anything savory," Funke says.
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