Recipe: Tomatoes are in season - try them in this delicious penne arrabbiata
Jessica Webster | AnnArbor.com
When I was my twenties, I was an impulsive traveler. I’d drive 14 hours at the drop of a hat to see a concert or volunteer to drive a friend to Los Angeles for an internship. It didn’t take much to convince me to hit the road for an adventure.
Sometimes the inspiration would come from a movie. Once, my friend Jhoanna and I jumped into a car and drove all night from Ann Arbor to Manhattan after seeing a Woody Allen movie. Another time, my friend Emily and I bought tickets to Rome after falling in love with the scenery in the otherwise disappointing movie “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
The Italy trip was a culinary revelation, as you might expect. During our first evening in Rome, we headed down a narrow street that branched off from the Piazza del Popolo and found ourselves at a small trattoria with no tourist menu — a good sign that there might be tasty food ahead. And there was.
La Buca di Ripetta (which is still there, and you should go there if you go to Rome) serves up a whole lot of amazing food, but the dish that has haunted me for years was their penne all’arrabbiata. Arrabbiata sauce is pretty simple; just a spicy “angry” tomato sauce. What magic did La Buca di Ripetta employ to make me long for that dish, even 12 years later?
I’ve tried for years to replicate what I ate that night in Rome, using fresh tomatoes and canned, varying the ratios of garlic and red pepper flakes, swapping out basil and parsley, blending in capers (I was reaching with that one, I think). Then just last week, I tried the penne all’arrabbiata recipe from “The Geometry of Pasta.” Bingo!
This sauce is deceptively simple, but the ingredients meld together in a complex spiciness. It would be even better if I had the patience to make my own pasta, but a good quality dried penne will do the trick. Just be certain not to overcook the penne. You owe it to yourself and the sauce to serve it al dente.
Penne all'arrabbiata from The Geometry of Pasta
- 1 pound penne
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes, pureed (seeds and all)
- 10 basil leaves, torn
Fry the garlic in the olive oil for a few moments until cooked, but not yet colored. Add the red pepper flakes followed by the tomatoes and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Boil fairly briskly until the sauce has a little body (you will see the bubbles get a bit bigger) but is by no measure thick. The tomatoes should taste fresh, but no longer raw. Season with more salt to taste, remove from the heat, and stir in the basil.
Boil the penne until marginally undercooked — I like to pull it out a minute before the suggested cooking time. Drain, transfer to a frying pan, and add 2 cups of the spicy tomato sauce along with a splash of the cooking water. Cook together until the sauce coats. Best served without cheese, but rather with a drizzle of oil.