Italian cuisine is such a favorite with us that I inevitable end up either making my beloved pasta, lasagna or pizzas at home over the weekends. Be it picking the right ingredients from the store, making pizza dough from scratch or putting together the herbs and spices for ragu, I love it all.
Ever since I first tasted Pasta with Arrabiata sauce, I have been hooked to it. Also, been incessantly on look out for good recipes to replicate them at home. I haven't understood exactly what an authentic Arrabiata sauce is like, since most Arrabiatas that we have had in restaurants have slight variations in flavors. I guess it comes from the herbs used. But yes, arrabiatas have a thing in common and that's the heavy tang from tomatoes, which I totally adore.
While I am a spaghetti person and love the noodle strands, my husband loves pastas in every other form, be it penne, fusilli, macaronis. Give me a choice and I would pick spaghetti. My Mr. finds it too clumsy to swivel the fork around the noodle and pick them. Probably a sound reason why he chooses Chinese Fried rice over Hakka noodles. Anything, other than the noodle shape. Period. Astonishingly, his evergreen love for Maggie noodles still hold strong roots. There's something in there which hooks men to their beloved Maggie!
A few months ago, I lay my hands on the cookbook 'Vegetarian Cookbook', picked from Crossword. A hard-bound book with some good vegetarian recipes from all over the world, some good photography to accompany it, this undoubtedly would you leave you with cravings and hunger pangs. The book has been with me for a couple of months and the recipes are simple, yet worth the attempt. Pasta all'arrabiata was a winner recipe for me, pretty close to perfecting the flavors we get in an Italian restaurant. A little modification was required in terms of ingredients like dry wine and pecorino cheese which is far from my reach here. May be, you should give an attempt to agree to this.
Penne al'arrabiata (pasta in tomato chilli sauce)
(Adapted from Vegetarian Cookbook)
150 ml dry white wine (I skipped this)
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
1 aubergine, chopped to squares
2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 pod garlic cloves, finely chopped
350 gm penne pasta
4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper
Fresh pecorino cheese, to garnish (I used grated cheddar cheese)
4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 kg ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
First make the Sugocasa, the sauce. Heat a tbsp of oil in a fry pan over high heat until smoking. Add the chopped aubergines and cook till tender. Set aside. Again heat the remaining oil in a fry pan over high heat until smoking. Add in the tomatoes and cook stirring frequently for a few minutes. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about 20 minutes, or till very soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Press through a sieve and strain to a saucepan.
Add the tomato paste, the red chillies and garlic to the sugocasa and bring it to a boil. Simmer gently. Add the stir fried aubergines. Taste the sauce. If you like hotter flavor, add more chillies. Adjust the seasoning and stir in half of the parsley.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes till tender, yet firm to bite. Drain the pasta and transfer to a warmed bowl. Add the sauce and toss well to coat. Sprinkle remaining herbs and garnish with cheese shavings.
Addition of aubergine was not a part of the original recipe. You may add mushrooms, courgette, zucchini or other vegetables of your choice. In case you don't like the bite from chillies, use chilly powder instead like I did. Also, sun-dried tomato paste may not be an easy access to all, hence substitute with thick tomato paste. My pastas are doused in sauce and that's how I like my pasta saucy, so I tend to make a little excess of the pasta sauce always. That's explains why my pasta has a rich red color.
I love to toss my pastas with a dash of mixed Italian herbs, imparting it a nice flavor. While the basic recipe for the pasta remains the same, I have tried the pasta with basil instead of parsley. That too renders awesome flavors with a slight variation in the herbal notes. Serve the pasta hot with garlic bread. This recipe is a keeper for sure and since pastas so often appear on my kitchen counters, I am sure to make this again and again.