Friday, February 12, 2016

Pasta Arrabiata

Last Year's Post: Coconut-Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Rice
Two Years Ago:  Sesame Seed Chicken Salad

Arrabbiata is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil.   The word "arrabbiata" literally means angry in Italian, which supposedly is a reference to the spiciness of the sauce.  If that's true, this recipe is more grumpy than angry - it's mildly to moderately spicy depending on how much crushed red pepper you add.  Additional depth of flavor comes from the paprika and optional pepperoncini without adding a lot of heat.  I just happened to have a jar of pepperoncini in my refrigerator (no idea why) so I added some, but didn't notice it in the finished dish so I listed it as optional.  I don't think it's worth buying an entire jar just for this recipe.

In addition to being spicy, Arrabbiata recipes often include black olives and capers to give it additional flavor and texture.  I particularly like the salty pop of the capers.

Because the sauce is relatively light, it's important to throw the cooked pasta into the pan with the sauce and toss it around for a couple of minutes.  This allows the sauce to evenly coat all of the pasta and infuse it with flavor.  I've heard Lidia Bastianich, one of the foremost Italian cooks in America, state that this step is so important that she wouldn't finish pasta any other way. I've discovered there's only one caution to this approach - add the cooked pasta to the sauce gradually unless you're very sure of your pasta-to-sauce ratio.  If you dump it all in at once and decide it was too much pasta for the amount of sauce, you're up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

This is a simple, fast healthy and light pasta dish that won't weigh you down but is perfect comfort food on a cold night.  And, it even qualifies for meatless Mondays.

Pasta Arrabbiata
Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
¼ - ½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, depending on your preference
½ teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
2 tablespoons stemmed, seeded and minced pepperoncini (optional)
1 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
1 pound hot cooked pasta
Grated Parmesan Reggiano

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the olives, capers, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, red pepper flakes, paprika, anchovy paste and pepperoncini and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer until reduced slightly, about 20 minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan to the sauce and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.   

No comments: