Pasta Favorites, New and Old

31 01 2010

It seems like a good time to get back to basics.  I’m talking about simple, quick, easy weeknight meals.  Nick’s been requesting pasta lately, and I am more than happy to oblige.  People have been telling me to make pasta alla’amatriciana forever, but I have only just now gotten around to it, thanks in part to a reminder from The Hungry Dog.  I mean, bacon in spicy tomato sauce?  Sign me up!  I only wonder why it’s taken me so long to get around to making this, because if there’s a fantastic meal to come out of the pantry, it’s this one.

Pasta alla'amatriciana

So that’s the new favorite.  Here’s what you do:  cook some diced bacon, not to the point of crispness, but until most of the fat has rendered out.  Add some chopped onions, soften, add garlic and red pepper flakes, then a can of tomatoes in tomato purée.  Simmer, salt (but not too much – bacon can be salty) and pepper, toss with pasta (in this case, whole wheat penne) and freshly grated cheese (Here I used Grana Padano, but would normally have Parmigiano-Reggiano).  Done.

As for the old favorite, this is something I used to whip up almost every other Friday night, especially when our Italian market in Dallas burned down and set up temporary shop in the liquor store across from one of our favorite bars.  It was super convenient to have a couple of happy hour beers, then go pick up some fresh raviolis (porcini being the favorite) and whatever tomato products our pantry was lacking before inviting a handful of friends back to the house and cooking up a big pot of tomato cream sauce for those scrumptious raviolis.

Tomato sauce, in process.

The trick is this: after softening/slightly caramelizing some diced onion in olive oil with salt, red pepper flakes, and fresh thyme or dried oregano, throw in a couple spoonsful (spoonfuls?) of tomato paste, and let it cook, stirring frequently, until it gets browned and roasty smelling.  That’s when you deglaze with red wine, balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, or even water.  Scrape up the delicious fond from the bottom of the pot and add a can or two (depending on how many people you’re feeding) of tomatoes, pre-diced or whole, diced by hand.  Simmer while the raviolis cook, and just before serving, stir in an ounce or two of cream.

Porcini raviolis and quick tomato cream sauce

It turns out that even slight changes like switching dried pasta for filled, fresh pasta, or switching out bacon for cream in the tomato sauce, make having pasta for dinner two nights in a row not only viable, but desirable.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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