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Try this for Christmas Lunch: Ling Al Cartoccio

by on December 16, 2009

I’m all for paradigm shifts

Pasta in bag

I mean, who says roadside waiters are without honour?

Or Christmas cannot be Christmas without Turkey?

In my opinion, it all depends on what you’re after.

In the past, when I spoke to people about my husband, I tended to describe him more as a Michelin star eater, than chef though that is rapidly changing but more on that another day!

Today we talk about a historic moment and where better to experience such than….in Rome. On this fateful February day, we’d done a daytime tour of the Pantheon and had a night time one arranged. In between, we had gelato at one of Rome’s finest – Giolitti and next on the agenda was dinner. Even though we’d already had dessert! Please don’t let the cute mullets scare you!

Red mullet

As we made our way back to the Pantheon, the catcalls began. Loads and loads of restaurant waiters were out on the street trying to entice guests with meal offers. By nature I seem to be a fairly suspicious human being but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing does it?

Anyway we sort of got pulled into a restaurant and sat down to dinner. I ordered saltimbocca and my husband went for a ‘seafood meal’. Because it was almost time for our tour, I dashed to the Pantheon to see if we could cancel. I couldn’t find the guide where were supposed to meet up and so hurried back to dinner (it turned out later that the guide got tied up elsewhere, and we have a free city tour the next time we’re in Rome).


By the time I got back, the meal was ready. I started to eat and it was lovely….till I saw and tasted my husband’s. Delicious seafood with pasta, wrapped and baked in a bag of foil. See why he’s the one wearing the stars? You could tell there were no spices and yet it had the most amazing flavours. EVER. (Mind you, this is not a photo of the famous meal….I wasn’t camera savvy back then!)

Second helping

Of course I kept the receipt and looked up line item X called Ling Cartoccio as soon as we got home. A couple of google searches later, I had found some recipes and set out to repeat the feat, and repeat I did.

So what exactly is Ling Cartoccio?

  1. Ling = Linguine: flat, thin pasta
  2. Cartoccio = Al Cartoccio: to bake in a bag
  3. So Ling Cartoccio = Linguine, baked in a bag…with anything you fancy!

Simple as that.

So what  exactly was spectacular about the meal?

  1. You received a ‘puffed up dinner parcel’, which you got to open at the table (imagine Christmas on a plate!)
  2. When you opened it, you got a delightful nose of pasta, fresh seafood and herbs
  3. You got to eat it…and enjoy it…and remember it, for who would forget such a memorable serving.

To add more pluses, I would say

  1. It is easy to make and adapt
  2. Takes no time at all
  3. Guaranteed results.

So…why not try this for Christmas Lunch?

Here’s the deal if you’re at all interested.

Linguine Al Cartoccio

Recipe, adapted from Italian food @ About.com


450g 350g (3/4 pound) linguine (or spaghetti) (approximately – thanks Kate for the correction)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 a hot red chili pepper, deseeded and shredded
20 small squids, cleaned and sliced into rings
20 carpet cockles
12 mussels
3 red mullet, cleaned and cut into steaks (Seabass also works EXTREMELY well)
3 moderately ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped finely
2 tablespoons minced parsley
5 basil leaves, chiffonaded
Salt to taste
Aluminum foil
Note that this is a highly adaptable dish. I’ve made it with Chicken breasts to applause!


Bin any shellfish which are open before cooking; bin any which remain closed after cooking

Prepare the foil sheets ahead

Fold the parcels directly on the oven tray (if you can) so you don’t have to move them from worktop to tray, risking disaster

Set all the parcels up at the same time so you can ensure an even distribution of seafood and sauce in each parcel

Don’t leave the parcels for too long in the oven otherwise the sauce dries up….

How to

Start off by preparing eight (8) A4-sized sheets of foil paper. You’ll need 2 per parcel. Lay these on the oven tray and leave on your counter/table-top.

Wash all the shellfish very well and sort. If any are open already open and don’t shut when lightly tapped on your counter, bin them….rather than risk ill health. If any remain shut after cooking, bin them too!

Having a bath Being sortedDone Sorted

Put the oil in another pan and heat gently. Add the garlic, pepper, and the seafood and cook on low heat  for 5 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes, parsley and basil. Leave to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

Garlic slices chopped chilliesCrossed tomatoes Parsley and Basil

While the ‘sauce’ is simmering, put the oven on to preheat at 250C (450 F).

Cook pasta:  Put 2-3 litres (2-3 quarts) of water in a large pot. Salt it lightly and set it to boil.When the water boils add the pasta and let it cook until half done. Drain it in a colander  and transfer it while it is still hot and dripping to the pan with the sauce. Toss the pasta-sauce mixture gently, moving the pan about gently/as you would do if you were flipping an omelette so you don’t flake the fish to bits!  Take off the heat and set aside.

Now, you are ready to make the parcels.

You can make a large one to take the entire pot or make individual packets like I did. Double up 2 foil sheets, shiny side down per parcel.

Place a spoonful of  pasta and seafood in the centre of the foil, and spoon some of the pan’s juices over the top.

Ladle sauceThen fold one side halfway over the pasta. Fold the other end in, overlapping the intial fold. Roll both ends up to make a sealed pouch.

Fold one side in Ready to fold up endsFold up end Fold up the ends

Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, at which point the pouches will have puffed up, though if they haven’t…..its no problem at all, it will still taste super good.

Ready to bake

Slide it onto individual plates and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Ready to rock and roll

Of course, watch out for bones…..

Watch out for bonesNote that you may need more than just a fork, get a spoon out for assistance please!

Extol with praises

If you’re feeling adventurous, mop up with some bread.

Mop up with some french bread

So now, what do you think  about this for a festive occassion? So what if it doesn’t come with ribbons and strings? It is gilt-wrapped…and tastes super too!

This is my contribution to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice….and

The debris

to John’s Seven Fishes Festival.

image15What would you like ‘Al Cartoccio’?And is Christmas Lunch a good time to serve this up or would you rather some other hour of the day?

Leave a reply »

  • December 21, 2009 at 5:21 PM

    What is it about things cooked in individual parcels that makes them super-irresistible?? This was on the menu at a restaurant in South Africa that I visited last week – but I didn’t notice it until after I’d ordered my pizza. BOY, did I have a bad case of order envy!! Yours looks sublime – and I *love* the Pantheon!


  • December 21, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    Cooking in a bag is so underdone – I always see it suggested for fish, but never with pasta as well. With Australia having Christmas at the peak of summer, we often forego having a hot roasted bird in favour of seafood, so this is perfect!


  • December 21, 2009 at 12:01 AM

    What a great idea! I love this! And How Tasty!!!


  • December 20, 2009 at 11:58 PM

    Thanks Mowie, Joanne – I am excited about serving this up again for Xmas!


  • December 19, 2009 at 5:20 PM

    Wow this is an eye-catching post. The pictures are gorgeous! And the food looks pretty dang delicious as well.


  • December 18, 2009 at 11:56 PM

    I will definitely try this – looks and sounds yummy!


  • December 18, 2009 at 11:32 PM

    Oh Laura…wish I could help. But Idaho surely has great seafood places?

    Velva…promise when next my friends come to rustle this up!

    Ellie, Mimi,Peilin – Thanks

    Unplanned cooking – enjoy SD and let me know how it goes…if you make it!

    noobcook – glad to know this is ‘acceptable’ to the turkey and poultry regulars

    Barabara Bakes – so will you make it for him?


  • December 18, 2009 at 1:57 PM

    This would be a perfect Christmas lunch, especially if eaten in Rome! It looks delicious! My husband would especially love it!


  • December 18, 2009 at 12:20 PM

    Agreed with others! This is a great idea … especially for Christmas dinner!

    Love your blog! Will keep following yours! Keep it up!

    Cheers from Malaysia,


  • December 18, 2009 at 9:12 AM

    I love anything baked in foil. It’s great to enjoy some seafood for a Christmas feast … usually it’s just so much poultry!


  • December 18, 2009 at 6:45 AM

    Love the story and the recipe.


  • December 18, 2009 at 5:04 AM

    That is amazing! I have never seen that before. We’re going to San Diego and as well be close to the ocean I want to make an amazing seafood dish. This may be it!!!


  • December 18, 2009 at 4:49 AM

    What a great pasta idea!! I absolutely love it. Thanks for sharing.


  • December 18, 2009 at 1:49 AM

    Very nice Ozoz! You should have invited your friends, opened a bottle of wine and served up these delicious meals in the puffed foil. This way, everyday can be Christmas.


  • December 18, 2009 at 12:21 AM

    If I thought for a second I could get these ingredients I wouldn’t be waiting for Christmas lunch. I would be making it asap. Wow!!



  • December 17, 2009 at 10:33 PM

    Thanks Reeni

    Shayma….Its ok, you did leave Rome for a good cause :-)! Thanks dear.

    Kate, thanks…for everything! And spotting my error in the measure for the pasta!

    Sarah…aah, so that’s what the French call it. Good lesson.

    Kari, it is like a gift, especially if the person who receives it knows nothing about what’s in it!

    Ruth, pls don’t be jealous, it was MONTHS ago! Consider me almost-a-regular at Presto Pasta, ok?

    Rebecca, thanks dear. I would love for it to be featured. Let me know if I can do anything else


  • December 17, 2009 at 10:26 PM

    this is fantastic I write for an Alaskan seafood company could this be featured and linked back to you?



  • December 17, 2009 at 7:47 PM

    I am sooooo jealous of your trip and especially that ling al caroccio your husband ate. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe at least with the rest of us who had to stay at home.

    I can’t wait to see what you’ll share at the the next Presto Pasta Night…you will share again, won’t you?


  • December 17, 2009 at 5:30 PM

    I just made a soup from a recipe that called for peeled tomatoes- so funny its in your post too. :) This sounds delicious and like just another present to open on Christmas day!


  • December 17, 2009 at 3:44 PM

    Ha ha I guess correctly, I thought it would be same as French “cartouche” and I was right. I love the little silver parcels, they look like bags of crisps!


  • December 17, 2009 at 2:29 PM

    Oh, man! This is my favorite kind of dish! Thanks for the recipe and the variations. Also the photos–they make it very clear.



  • December 17, 2009 at 3:09 AM

    i do adore this dish very much. there is a place in rome called Caecilia Metella where this is their specialty (i just left rome a year ago, which was my home, due to marriage). i feel so nostalgic when i read something like this- loved your post. *sob* 😉
    ps i love your cute red mullets photo.


  • December 17, 2009 at 1:58 AM

    This sounds perfect for Christmas lunch! Or anytime! I love that you recreated it from a meal you ate – that’s a common theme in my kitchen. I bet it’s absolutely delicious! Thanks for sending it to Presto Pasta Nights.


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