Saturday, April 9, 2011

Falling in Love with the Simple Pasta

Dinner: April 8

As previously mentioned in this space, I’ve recently put the Cooking Channel’s “Extra Virgin” at the top of my foodie viewing list. Actress Debi Mazar and Tuscan husband Gabriele Corcos make a fun kitchen team as they cook up his various homeland recipes week after week. Some weeks are even better, as they recently traveled back to Tuscany to renew their marriage vows. Toscana scenery!

On one of the recent shows filmed in Tuscany, a recipe caught my eye that seemed so simple yet intriguing. Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, with its bits of anchovies, olives, capers, and tomatoes as the sauce, was something I had to try. And when Amy offered to come over for an evening of much-needed company and friendship on Friday night, she brought the wine, and I offered up the food.

We shared some platters of appetizers first, including a plate of sliced fontina cheese, bread, Italian sopressata sausage, prosciutto, and black truffle pesto I found in an olive oil shop months ago. I also sliced up some tomatoes and cucumber, drizzled them with olive oil, and served them up as a lighter appetizer.



Then we cooked the pasta. What I changed about the recipe was the use of fresh tomatoes, as I didn’t have the time to cook, peel, and dice them. So instead, I used a can of diced tomatoes. Also, I used kalamata olives instead of black ones because of what I had on hand, and I love the taste of kalamata much better. Other than that, I tried to keep to the recipe.

Basics:  Heated olive oil in a large pan, and added garlic, anchovies, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes to sauté for about 4 minutes. Added can of tomatoes and simmered on low-medium heat for 10 minutes. In large pot, boiled water, salted, and cooked spaghetti until al dente. Drained, added spaghetti to sauce pan, allowed to cook another minute with sauce. Added parsley to pasta, grated fresh Parmesan cheese to plated dishes.

Results:
The flavors were riveting! It was a strong sauce, as the anchovies, capers, and olives combined to be very flavorful, but it wasn’t overpowering to me. I believe the recipe called for more spaghetti, which would’ve made the sauce lighter in its presence, but I liked the full and plentiful sauce with the noodles. It was a filling yet not overly heavy pasta dish.



Simple pasta sauces have been appealing to me lately, and as I become more comfortable with sautéing and combining basic flavors, it is even that much simpler to whip up a dish. This was my first use of anchovies, which was interesting, but they dissolved in the olive oil in the way shown on television, and I discovered that I really do love that flavor. Mixing a few interesting flavors into a simple pan of tomatoes does wonders!

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