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Oct 24, 2010 03:40 AM

Spaghetti Belladonna, recipe anyone?

Ten years ago in Italy, in Bologna, my husband ordered something called Spaghetti belladonna. It was so good. Does anyone know what it is? Have a recipe?

It was vegetarian & tomato based...which is what is so frustrating, it must have been mostly the most beautiful tomatoes I have ever tasted plus a little bit of ?????

Over the years I have googled a few times and once I read someone say it was a euphemism for puttanesca, but I have had a million puttanescas and this was definitely different.


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  1. I wonder if they would dare to throw some belladonna berries in there, I have those little red suckers growing all around my yard. I heard in small quantities they are a hallucinogin, although I won't be trying that soon! Consider that it was probably the chef's special sauce and he just named it something catchy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coll

      Not a chance a restaurant would do such a thing. Apart from the hallucinogenic effect, those things'll kill ya if you ingest enough. Bella Donna just means, "beautiful woman", and my guess is that it's a chef's invention, self-named. One thing I always do, if the resto still exists, is to give a call (G-d bless free international long-distance) to the place and just ask. Some will not be forthcoming, but most will take the compliment as intended and give you at least components, if not proportions. Ooops, I just read the post below. Sorry for repetition. (Edit) it occurred to me that by leaving the anchovies out, they might have made a fun play on puttanesca......the omission of such being what turns her from a "puta" into a "bella donna."

    2. I suspect the what your husband had was some sort of pasta 'Bella Donna,' which in Italian simply means something like "pretty woman," and NOT pasta "belladonna" because belladonna (the plant, aka "deadly nightshade") is highly poisonous! There is no traditional Italian recipe for a sauce or pasta dish called Bella Donna that I'm aware of, but it may well have been a specialty of the house, or if the name of the restaurant was Bella Donna (a common name for Italian restaurants) it could have been their version of a standard recipe normally called by a different name. Good luck!

      1. I was able to find a menu item which, unfortunately, lists only ingredients:
        Spaghetti Bella Donna
        Gaeta Olives, Capers, Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic and Olive Oil withPenne pasta.
        Hope that helps ....

        9 Replies
        1. re: todao

          Ooops! Sorry. I thought you wrote "Spaghettie Bella Donna." My bad.

          1. re: Caroline1

            You were correct, Caroline1. I just made a type when I posted the info.
            Thus, the "bad" transfers to my camp.

          2. re: todao

            tadao, are you trying to describe Spaghetti Puttanesca or the "ladies of the night spaghetti".. very similar ingredients!

            1. re: JRCann

              Well, JR.., I'm really not trying to describe anything specific. I just tried to offer some ideas that might strike a familiar note in the memory of hillsbilly's husband by listing some of the ingredients I found when I searched for a recipe. I figured that listing the ingredients on menu items might get hillsbilly started. Here's another one:
              Spaghetti alla Bella Donna
              Spaghetti, Kalamata olives, sautéed garlic, pine nuts, raisins & parmesan cheese with extra virgin olive oil

              1. re: todao

                Then I'll go back to my original question which I deleted! :-) I'm curious about the name of the restaurant from which your found the menu listing Spaghetti ala Bella Donna... Is Bella Donna the restaurant's name? Because I've gone through my Italian cook books, such as they are, and used a couple of search engines on line, and I can't find any listing not connected to a restaurant for an actual recipe called "Bella Donna." Thanks!

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Yes, the items I found were included in restaurant menus.
                  Spaghetti alla Bella Donna
                  Spaghetti Bella Donna
                  As I pointed out, these are not "recipes" but if they help get the concept rolling and develop into something the originator of the thread was looking for we've achieved success.
                  The combination of Gaeta Olives, Capers, Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic and Olive Oil with Penne pasta appears to be the most popular as a menu item so I'm betting that's the list of ingredients her husband experienced. Then again, I'm a terrible gambler.
                  Hey there, hillsbilly, were are you in this conversation?

                  1. re: todao

                    Interesting! Thanks for the added clarificantion. The common ingredients seem to be olives, garlic, olive oil and the type of pasta but the similarity seems to stop there. This is Pulcinella's version:
                    Spaghetti alla Bella Donna
                    Spaghetti, Kalamata olives, sautéed garlic, pine nuts, raisins & parmesan cheese with extra virgin olive oil
                    And this is Il Porto's:
                    Spaghetti Bella Donna
                    Gaeta Olives, Capers, Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic and Olive Oil

                    Maybe it is more of a traditionally home made dish that doesn't make it onto a lot of restaurant menus or into a lot of English version Italian recipe books, and every once in a while somebody in a restaurant wants to put it on the menu in memory of their grandma or whatever? Who knows? For me there is a similarity between having a great dish in a restaurant only to find out it's the chef's secret recipe and God doesn't even know it, and walking into a restaurant and being swallowed up by this fantastic aroma of everything they're cooking in the kitchen. You just can't have it! <sigh> Good luck on solving your mystery, hillsiblly!

                2. re: todao

                  see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghett...

                  maybe you are confused or the name has been Americanized from spaghetti alla Buona Donna as Wiki suggests. Most American Italian restaurants would recognize "puttanesca".

                  1. re: JRCann

                    It's not a name derived from my experience, JR, it's something the author of the thread made reference to. After reading your Wiki-link I can see where the similarities exist and, perhaps, this will be of some help to hillsbilly; who is conspicuously absent.

            2. "Bella Donna" does mean "beautiful woman" but in this instance it refers to shall we say "working girls" it is a hearty tomato sauce that was used by the brothels to feed the girlsseing as it was cheap, easy to make And quick to eat. For that reason for the name bella donna being unsavoury to most it was renamed in western restaurants to puttaneca.

              1. You can't replicate that dish because 1) Italians cheat by using amazing tomatoes and 2) no dish you make can compete with dish you remember as perfect. Especially not a dish you ate on a perfect holiday. But if you want to try, focus on quality ingredients, like finding a source for fresh, flavorful tomatoes.