Photo/Illutration Boscaiola spaghetti (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

Editor’s note: In the Taste of Life series, cooking experts, chefs and others involved in the field of food introduce their special recipes intertwined with their paths in life.

* * *

Mamoru Kataoka, the owner-chef of Ristorante AlPorto, was in junior high school when he first encountered Italian cuisine.

One day he snacked on carbonara pasta, which his mother who worked as a housekeeper at a diplomat’s house brought home. Although it had gone cold, he was blown away by the pasta that “tasted so good.”

When the diplomat was posted to Milan as the consul general, Kataoka accompanied him as a cook. That was when he promised himself “to become a master of pasta.” He was around 20 at the time.

Mamoru Kataoka (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

In Milan, he improved his culinary skills by learning at restaurants favored by the consul general who was a gourmet as well as the homes of acquaintances.

The intensive training session of cooking Italian dishes for lunch and Japanese dishes for dinner for the consul general continued.

Since the guests to the official residence were often served Japanese dishes, he made tempura, sukiyaki and “unagi no kabayaki” (eel prepared into fillets, skewered, seasoned with sweet soy sauce-based marinade and grilled) as well as sweets such as “kintsuba,” a Japanese confection.

“So, my culinary taste is a mix of Italian and Japanese cuisine, namely ‘wa-itarian’ (Japanese-style Italian),” he says.

The chef also visited restaurants of good repute in various places.

One that remains in his memory offered boscaiola spaghetti, which he tried in Rome. “Boscaiola” is an Italian word meaning “lumberjack style.” As he wondered what kind of spaghetti it was, he was served with a tomato-based spaghetti featuring tuna and porcini, a kind of mushroom.

Delighted by the combination of porcini and tuna that was new to him, he noticed that a rough cooking procedure was printed on the back of the menu. He brought back the recipe and made it repeatedly until he mastered it.

In the recipe introduced this week, he has added a Japanese flavor in the form of shimeji mushrooms. You may also use a combination of maitake, shiitake and eryngii mushrooms.

“Depending on the combination of the ingredients, pasta sauces have infinite potential. I think my life began with pasta and will end with pasta,” says Kataoka, whose research into pasta sauces is far from over.

Born in Tokyo in 1948, Mamoru Kataoka is an owner-chef of an Italian restaurant. In 1968, after training at the Japanese cuisine restaurant Tsukiji Tamura for three months, he flew to Italy as a cook for the consul general. He opened Ristorante AlPorto in 1983.


Main Ingredients (Serves one)
80 grams pasta, 1/4 onion finely chopped. 1/4 pack shimeji mushrooms, 8 grams dried porcini, 15 grams canned tuna in oil, 1 tsp chopped capers, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 clove garlic finely chopped, 1 pod chili without seeds, 1/2 Tbsp red wine, 1/2 cup of whole tomato in can, some chopped parsley, bit of salt and black pepper

1. Reconstitute porcini in 50 cc water and cut into dices 1 cm on a side. Set aside water used to immerse porcini. Separate shimeji into smaller clusters.

2. Add olive oil, garlic and chili pepper in frying pan and place on low heat. Cook until garlic turns golden. Add onion and stir-fry slowly for about 30 minutes on low heat until it turns light brown.

Stir-fry porcini, shimeji mushrooms and tuna together. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

3. Add porcini and shimeji mushroom to No. 2 and stir-fry lightly. Add tuna and caper and mix. Pour red wine and burn off alcohol.

4. Add tomato while crushing it. Add water used to reconstitute porcini and parsley and mix. Reduce slowly and sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste.

Cook ingredients for pasta sauce together, then add the whole tomato and boil down. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

5. Cook pasta al dente per instruction on bag. Add to No. 4 and mix. Serve on plate and sprinkle with parsley.

About 645 kcal and 2.9 grams salt per portion

(Nutrient calculation by the Nutrition Clinic of Kagawa Nutrition University)

* * *

From The Asahi Shimbun’s Jinsei Reshipi (Life Recipe) column