Posted in dry heat, wet heat

Aglio, olio e peperoncino

This is one Italian pasta sauce that I was completely unfamiliar with.  Which is ridiculous.  But I happen to have aglio (garlic) and peperoncino (peppers) from the farm.  So I gave it a whirl.

I got contradictory advice from an Italian website and an Italian person.  The website said you just use the aglio e peperoncino to flavor the oil, and then you take them out.  The person said to leave them in.  My loyalty lies with real people. So the trick to this sauce is not to burn the garlic.  I left most of it in big pieces so I could take it out if I didn’t like it, because I’m not one of those people who are obsessed with garlic.  But I got the big pieces to cook just right – soft, slightly golden, but not brown – and I actually liked them.  The problem, rather, was with the peperoncini.  I used three little red ones that had been dried, and three was too many.  But I washed my hands very carefully immediately after handling them to try to avoid what happened last time I cut a bunch of peppers – apparently the oils stayed on my hands long enough that washing them didn’t help, and they were stinging for the next 24 hours no matter what I tried.  Alton Brown says washing your hands with baking soda works, too.  What I really need to do is just get some gloves.  The website said fresh peppers are better and I think I would have appreciated the extra flavor.

I think I used too much oil – I tried to cover the bottom of my cast iron pan, which I think is 12 inches, and my little single serving of pasta (I go with 80g per person, a tip from the same Italian person) was swimming in it. I used extra virgin olive oil, although the website said it couldn’t take the heat.  I found it fine in terms of the heat (as my Italian consultant said “Funziona lo stessoooo” it works the saaaame), but perhaps it isn’t necessary to use the expensive stuff?  I don’t know, since it’s such a simple sauce, it seems like extra virgin would be the way to go.  The pasta came out a little tough, and I think it had to do with all the sizzling that went on when I put the pasta into the hot pan with the oil.  So next time: try the peppers first, don’t overdo the oil, and add the sauce to the pasta rather than the other way around.  I’ll report back when I perfect it.

Posted in dry heat, wet heat

Carrot and bell pepper pasta

After a real Italian mom taught me how to make tomato sauce, I realized I can make a million variations on it by putting in whatever vegetables (especially those fruits that we consider vegetables) I have on hand.  This time I had carrots and a purple bell pepper from my farmshare.  The purple pepper (since the farmshare does measure some things in pecks and I do pick some of the stuff there myself, I really wish I could say I picked a peck of them) turned dark green when it cooked, just like the purple beans (I’d call them green beans, but…they’re not) that we get there do.  If anyone knows what pigments are involved and what they’re sensitive to, I’d love to know!  Anyway, I sauteed my veggies with a little shallot and olive oil, added my canned diced tomatoes and some wine, simmered that while I cooked my pasta, and voila, or rather, ecco.  I grated some parmesan cheese on top, of course.  The moral of the story is: don’t be afraid of homemade sauce!  You can use canned tomatoes (in fact, I prefer them, because they don’t get mushy), and you don’t have to simmer it all day long.  I start heating the pasta water at the same time as I start the sauce, and I finish the sauce at about the same time the pasta is finished.  Just remember that it’s better for your sauce to have to wait for your pasta than for your pasta to have to wait for your sauce, since sauceless pasta will start to dry out.

Start a sauce by sauteing aromatics in olive oil.
I always start a sauce by sauteing aromatics in olive oil.
I decided to use penne for a change.  Normally I'm a spaghetti gal.
I decided to use penne for a change. Normally I'm a spaghetti gal.