Thursday, August 7, 2008

On Top of Spaghetti

I’m so glad to be home. I missed the family. Now, you can read previous posts to know I wasn’t suffering too badly but still –family comes first. The other meaningful reunion was with my kitchen. It really is magical to me. The cabinet space is unending and there are shelves that roll out in the pantry –magic, I tell you. Nestled on the 3rd shelf are several types of dried pastas. Nothing special about that, I guess. I assume the rest of you have a box or two of pasta on hand. What you may not have though (or perhaps you might) is a copy of my new cookbook, “On Top of Spaghetti.” No, not MY cookbook as in “I wrote it”, but MY cookbook as in “I bought it”.

During my aforementioned and over-documented dining experience at Al Forno in Providence, I picked up a signed copy of their new cookbook. Restaurateurs Johanne Killeen and George Germon title their second cookbook leaving no mystery as to the content. No self respecting Atkins-follower would touch this with a 10 foot pole –but I will. This carbohydrate laden book is packed with so many wonderful pasta recipes, that I want to go out and buy a larger waste size before I even try one. Resisting that notion, I take note of where the sewing kit is (for popped buttons or split seams) and dive into this book head first.

Baked or boiled, fresh or dried, their love story with this simple base of Italian culture is appreciated from the fist page. What stands out to me is how basic their ingredients are for most of their recipes. With only a few exceptions, the ingredient list for any given recipe is only 6 to 8 in length, yet they are thoughtful ingredients indeed. The angel hair with zucchini is a testament to that. And what self respecting cook would use tomato juice in a sauce? Apparently, these two. Also a hit with me. They write about how they come up with their variations. Sometimes they would have loving competitions for their pasta dishes and other times the recipes are born after arriving home late and rummaging through the pantry.

Zucchini bubbling away on the stove

Within a few days of being home, I give two of these recipes a go and WOW!!!! I’m amazed at how deliciously simple this was. Both recipes take about the same amount of time to prepare (from start to finish) as it does to bring the water for the pasta to a boil and make it al dente. It just goes to show that passion and vision can combine magically (like my pantry shelves). I take some liberty when making these creations. For example, I prefer angel hair when I use a more cohesive sauce, such as pesto. So I used that with the zucchini sauce rather than the Rigatoni called for. There is no right or wrong; only delicious variation.

So here are my variations. Making either of these will set you back about 30 minutes.

Fettuccini in a Delicate Tomato Sauce with Capicola (Adapted from “On Top of Spaghetti”)

This has such a wonderful tomato perfume without the heavier acidity found in a more traditional pomodoro sauce. Along with the meatier fettuccine noodles, this light compliment infuses the taste buds as a perfect pairing. I added 2 things. I put some chopped fresh tomatoes in as well as some crisp capicola ham. Now I’m sure this changes the landscape from the original intention but the salty crispness was bright and welcome.

7 or 8 slices of deli capicola, chopped
¼ cup chopped tomato
1 ½ chicken stock (they always use home made but I used a store bought low sodium broth)
½ cup tomato juice
1 stick unsalted room temperature butter
1 lb dried fettuccine
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Render the capicola in a very large skillet. Once crisp, after about 2 minutes over medium high heat, remove with slotted spoon and place onto paper towel lined plate to drain. Add the stock, juice and half of the butter to the same skillet. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and reduce by a quart.

Add the pasta to the water. Cook until al dente. Just before draining the pasta, add the rest of the butter to the sauce. Stir until combined. Drain the pasta very well then add to the skillet with the sauce. Turn to coat. Every strand should have the same lovely pinkish red color of the sauce. Top with the capicola.

Serve warm and pass the cheese if you like.

Serves 6-8 as a first course or 4-6 as a main

Angel Hair Pasta with Zucchini Sauce (Adapted from “On Top of Spaghetti”)

I deviate a bit from Johanne and George’s version. They call for onion instead of shallot and no garlic or olive oil. Plus I used angel hair instead of rigatoni. They also called for a touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional) and grated zucchini (optional) to top the dish at the end. I don’t include either of these. I tried the cheese and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I felt it didn’t work well and even took away from the pureness. Then I simply forgot about the grated zucchini and used all of it in the recipe. Oh well. I fell in love with this emerald green dish anyway and plan on adding it as a staple. Simple ingredients with such pure earthy flavors make this such a unique hit with zucchini being the shining star.

1 stick of butter
2 lbs firm, young zucchini, trimmed and chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp or more kosher salt
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leafed parsley
¼ cup olive oil plus a bit for drizzling
1 lb angel hair pasta

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the chopped zucchini. Sauté over medium high until soft. Add salt, shallot and garlic and continue to cook a couple of more minutes. Set aside and cool.
In a food processor and in batches combine the zucchini mixture with the parsley and olive oil. Pulse until coarsely combined. Return to a clean sauté pan and place on low heat.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the angel hair. Stir often. This will become al dente in just a couple of minutes because the pasta is so fine. Drain very well and add to the sauté pan with the zucchini sauce. Turn to evenly coat.

Serve warm.

Serves 6-8 as a first course or 4-6 as a main course

1 comment:

Monique said...

I am going to try both of these recipes with Al Dente Garlic Parsley Fettuccine. If you haven't ever tried this brand, it cooks in just 3 minutes and tastes exactly like homemade. (available in many stores and at Wondering if it is necessary to use that much butter. I love butter, but......