Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simple Suppers: Penne alla Arribiatta

Because of my gluten allergy and lack of interest in finding good g/f pasta, the FvF blog has always been lacking in pasta recipes.  About six weeks into my pregnancy, I started having a serious aversion to most meats and was craving starch like a crazed person recovering from Adkins.  With my allergies, newfound pickiness, and Mr. FvF's selective palate, I had no idea what the hell we were going to eat for the next few months.  
We ate pasta a  few times, but it made me so sick that it was hardly worth it.  I remembered a friend telling me that the Ancient Grains quinoa blend pasta was so awesome that her kids and husband didn't know the difference when she used it.  After scouting all over God's creation for it, we finally ended up going to the Kroger by her house on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road to get a few boxes.  Note to Kroger:  this product would sell like stupid sunglasses at a Kanye West concert at ALL of your stores, so wise up and get your distro on.  I cooked just a smidge of it to check out the texture and loved it.  It's a quinoa-corn blend that cooks to a nice al-dente - but you have to make sure not to overcook it, or it will get pretty mushy.  The taste isn't any different than regular semolina pasta, nor is the texture when cooked right.  Now that I knew I could have pasta back in my life, I was really eager to get back to making my own sauces.  First up - penne a la arribiata! 

This is one of the simplest pasta sauces to make, and it doesn't require hours of stewing, like a bolognese. It has a super fresh taste, and is a perfect summer pasta dish.  Here's what you'll need (serves 2): 

Whole peeled plum tomatoes, San Marzano style*
2 oz pancetta, or 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
1.5 C (dry) penne pasta
salt, pepper, olive oil to taste
Pecorino or romano cheese for garnish
*These are normally only available in large cans, so if you're cooking for two, you'll only need half. San Marzano style also already has basil leaves in with the tomatoes, but if you're using fresh tomatoes, feel free to ass your own freshly chopped basil.    

The sauce can basically be made in the time it takes to cook the pasta, so chop your bacon and mince your garlic while you're waiting on your pasta water to boil. Over medium heat, cook your bacon pieces until crisp, then remove them from the pan to drain on a paper towel and clean your saute pan (or just use another one). I like bacon fat just as much as the next gal, but we're not making carbonara here, that's another entry coming your way soon.  This dish should have a sassy, fresh flavor and you don't want it weighed down by fat.  

Reduce heat to mid-low, add a little olive to the pan and simmer your garlic (and onion if you prefer - but it's verboten in our house), then crush the tomatoes by hand over the pan, adding them as you do.  Add the red pepper flakes, re-introduce your bacon and salt & pepper to taste.  Sometimes I like to add a little nip of sugar, too, if I'm using canned tomatoes.  Bring it down to a simmer and let it hang out for a few more minutes while your pasta finishes cooking.  I know, I didn't tell you to do that - but come ON, you guys.  I'm not your mammy.  I can't do everything for you. 

Drain and rinse your pasta, then add the pasta to the sauce and toss it around until it's all coated in spicy tomato-y goodness.  Serve with a big heapin' helpin' of shredded romano or pecorino.  Parmesan works, too, but spend the extra few bucks on a brick and shred it yourself - not the stuff in the big green Kraft canister, you hillbilly.  


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