Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pasta di Abruzzo and Sweet Memories

Italian food holds a fuzzy spot in my heart. Even as I am engulfed upon this low-carb era, I still crave pasta. I admit it, I love it. In fact, its one of the first things I learned how to make. For awhile, it’s ALL I would make. My dad would always ask, “Hey, what are you making…Al-FREEEDO?” because that’s all I did make for about a year.

Even in college, and on a very limited budget, trying to come up with a clever dinner to make for my roommate “L” and me. I just started cleaning out the refrigerator finding things to throw in the pot. I came up with a great spaghetti bake. There is something about pasta with cheese oozing off the side that just screams comfort.

I still love making pasta today. Despite being easy, it’s good and depending on how the dish is prepared it can be rather impressive. It can be so impressive that I totally attribute my homemade lasagna to landing my husband. What can I say; my Southern Belle Grandma was right when she told me, “If you want to land a man, it’s through his stomach”.

Besides Italian food being easy to make and down right yummy, Italy just holds some nostalgia to me that I will never be able to fully put into words. Allow me to over share. First off, when only dating my now husband for about 3 weeks, he whisked me off to the Virgin Islands for a friends wedding, and 2 weeks after that, we embarked to Italy for another one of his friends weddings. For a person like me, who never took risks, and always over thought every single action I made, this was totally out of the ordinary. I didn’t globetrot, much less with a man I barely knew. But, in spite of all that, I accepted his invitation graciously, and tagged along.

Italy was no less than amazing and for any of you who have been there I am sure could attest to that. So here we were, in a mid-evil town in Pescara, Italy, where barely anyone spoke English. His friend and his wife were the first non-natives to be married in the church, and it was something about the atmosphere, I felt nothing but love for this man I was getting to know, right there, in the church, in the mid-evil town.

Whew…is it hot in here?

Anyway, my point is what I remember most, besides falling in love, was this pasta we had at this mid-evil castle we stayed at. It was so delicious, yet, so simple. I don’t necessarily think you need a lot of ingredients to make something good. You just need good ingredients to make something good. So, here it is, my simple version of this pasta…that means so much to me. I hope it will mean something to you…

This is us in Abruzzo, literally eating this pasta, June 2004
Tomato Basil Penne
½ Pound of Penne Pasta
Pot of scant water (scant= season the water with salt!)
5-6 Fresh Roma Tomatoes (you can use any tomato you like really, as long as it’s fresh and good)
¼ Cup White Wine
5-6 Fresh Basil Leaves, roughly chopped or torn
2 T. Toasted Pine Nuts
1-2 Garlic Cloves
Freshly shaved Grana Padana or Parmigianino Reggiano (good quality)
½ Cup Good Quality Olive Oil, preferably Sicilian or Tuscan of sorts because it’s more pungent (you can add more if needed)
Salt/freshly ground black pepper

Boil water, season well with salt. Cook pasta until el Dente.
Meanwhile, clean and chop tomatoes into smaller chunks.
Toast Pine Nuts. Set aside.
Drain pasta, reserve about a ladle full or pasta water in a separate bowl.
In a separate pan (or you can use the pan you toasted the pine nuts in), sauté garlic with a few turns in the pan of olive oil. (Be careful not to burn it. If you burn it, discard and start over.) Add tomatoes and ¼ cup white wine. Let wine cook off a bit.
In pasta pot, add tomato garlic mixture, olive oil, and a handful of the cheese, and basil. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water at a time. Stir. Serve.
Adjust cheeses, oil, seasonings to taste.

View of the church from our window

The view of the castle we stayed at from the road

Eating in Sorrento

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