What do American gangsters eat? Spaghetti, according to James Bond in Diamonds are Forever. Felix Leiter thinks so too; after he and Bond arrive at the Pavilion restaurant in Saratoga, he hopes they’re not going to be put off their broiled Maine lobster with melted butter by the sight of the Spang boys tucking into spaghetti with Caruso sauce at the next table. It is claimed that Caruso sauce was invented in the 1950s in Uruguay by chef Raymundo Monti. Given that Fleming’s novel was published in 1956, this origin story seems a little fanciful, and indeed the sauce is demonstrably earlier. For instance, spaghetti à la Caruso appears on a 1948 menu issued by Pomeroy’s Restaurant in the United States, and there may be earlier menus still. There are many variations of the sauce. Here is my version.
- 150g dried spaghetti
- 2-3 (c 50g) shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 100g smoked ham
- 100g mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp finely chopped walnuts
- 150ml double cream
- 35g grated Parmesan
- 1 tsp finely chopped basil
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Bring a large lidded saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti, cover the pan, return the water to the boil, then reduce the heat and let the water simmer for 10 minutes or so until the pasta is cooked. (I tend to switch off the heat after returning the water to the boil. The pasta cooks just as well in the same time.)
As the spaghetti is cooking, heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan or saucepan and fry the shallots over a medium heat until they have softened. Stir in the ham and mushrooms and continue frying, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes or so. Stir in the walnuts, pepper and basil, then pour in the cream and throw in the cheese. Mix the ingredients until they’re well combined and continue cooking until the cream is heated through, the cheese has melted and the sauce is starting to bubble. Take the pan off the heat, then drain the spaghetti and fold it into the sauce. Serve.