What's the deal with pizza marinara without seafood?

A marinara pizza, no seafood in sight.
A marinara pizza, no seafood in sight. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

I went to a posh pizza place and ordered a pizza marinara. They served it without seafood. Not even a bloody anchovy. M. Cleave

In Italian "marinara" does not mean seafood. It means "in the style of a seafarer", and not necessarily fishermen. So "vestito alla marinara" is a boy's sailor suit. It doesn't mean the little chap's jacket has prawns and calamari rings sewn onto it. "Sugo alla marinara" is a simple tomato sauce. The story goes that it was the sauce served with pasta when the Italian sailors returned to home port – something quick and ready at the last minute. The sauce is served over pasta, pizza and other dishes that need a rich tomato topping. Spaghetti alla marinara, however, is more complicated. In Italy it can mean spaghetti with a plain tomato sauce, perhaps with capers. It can also be spaghetti served with a sauce made with or without tomatoes and different types of fish and molluscs. In Australia, however, spaghetti alla marinara almost exclusively refers to a pasta dish with seafood cooked in a tomato sauce. When it comes to pizza, expect anything. For goodness sake Pizza Hut once stuffed the crust with not only cheese but – wait for it – Four'n Twenty party pies – BAKED. IN. THE. CRUST. So there is no sin in expecting that your pizza marinara could feature the cast of Finding Nemo. That the pizza place you visited served it just with tomato sauce would indicate they are traditionalists.

Use your fingernails to remove the skin from chestnuts.
Use your fingernails to remove the skin from chestnuts. Photo: Wolter Peeters

What's the easiest way to peel chestnuts? P. Ho

With someone else's fingernails. I just peeled a kilogram of chestnuts for a kale and chestnut salad, with finely chopped French shallots and a honey and tarragon vinegar dressing. It was sensational but it took forever. You can buy peeled vacuum-packed Australian chestnuts from cheznuts.com.au. With fresh chestnuts, make a slit in the bottom of chestnut with the tip of a sharp knife and cook them – 20 minutes in boiling water is easiest. Allow them to cool enough to handle, them remove the outer skin with the help of a vegetable knife. The best tools to remove the skin and keep the chestnuts in one piece are your fingernails. However, you can use the tip of the vegetable knife to winkle out the skin where it gathers in the folds of the chestnuts. For extra flavour, saute the chestnuts in a pan with a generous slab of butter and a little chicken stock and allow to reduce. Season and add warm to salads.

Why is it OK to serve raw meat and raw fish but not raw milk? R. Thomas

Brain Food by Richard Cornish.
Brain Food by Richard Cornish. 

Seeing this was delivered on April 21, the date of International Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day I will, in the words of ABC's Q&A host Tony Jones, take that as a comment.

Letters

Thank-you to everyone who wrote in saying it is possible to bake bread in a cold oven turning it on when the bread goes in. There were several examples of readers using this method in a Dutch oven.

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @Realbrainfood.

Brain Food by Richard Cornish is out now from MUP (RRP $19.99, eBook $11.99).