Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Easy Penne Al'Arrabiata

I first had Arrabiata while in Bordeaux, France last summer and I fell in love with it… Arrabiata translates literally to "Angry" in English and the name comes from the hefty kick of chili in the sauce. If you're someone who enjoys spicy food, chili flakes on their pizza or just a warming kick of heat, this is the dish for you. If you prefer this a little less hot or with even more heat, just add or reduce the chili flakes as you prefer… This is simply a guide for how I like mine and it's reasonably spicy without being at all overpowering.

Though I appreciate dishes that require hours of stewing and fussing, sometimes I need quick, simple fixes for dinner after work, as we all do. This is my version of a simple and speedy version of this classic Italian dish. You will get 4 to 6 servings out of this which will easily stretch to 8 if you serve it alongside some garlic bread and a side salad, however if you're making it for one or two, don't be discouraged. You can halve the portions below if you like, but I wouldn't… It's just as delicious warmed up either in a microwave or stovetop in a saucepan with a lid on medium-low heat with a little water dripped into the pan. I love making this on Sunday and having it for lunches or solo dinners throughout the week when my husband works late.

1 banana shallot
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jar (680g) of Passata
1 teaspoon seasalt flakes plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper plus more to taste
3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
500g Penne Rigate
150g finely shredded Parmesan cheese
6 to 8 basil leaves chopped

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta with plenty of salt and a drop or two of olive oil.

2. In a large, flame-proof casserole or stock pot with a lid, warm the olive oil. Cook the banana shallots for about 3 to 5 minutes until soft over medium-low heat taking care not to burn them. Add the garlic and chili flakes for the last minute, stirring as required.

3. When the shallots & garlic are cooked and the chili flakes are fragrantly sizzling, add the Passata, salt and pepper to the mix and stir. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to low for simmering. Clamp on the lid and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Taste the sauce at this point and adjust flavorings such as salt, pepper and chili flakes before proceeding.

5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and strain it, retaining a cupful of the starchy pasta cooking water.

6. When the pasta is strained, stir in the Parmesan cheese and then dump into the large pot of sauce and toss or stir until the cheese and tomato have mixed together and coated every piece of pasta. If the mixture is too dry for any reason, add the starchy pasta cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time to moisten the mixture if needed.

7. To serve, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and chopped basil leaves. 

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