Ever have one of those people in your life that just knows everything? Yup, you do. I know you do. Like that friend of a friend, who upon hearing I had a food blog about Italian recipes took up five minutes of my life telling me pasta was Chinese.
Sigh. Yes, there are Chinese noodles. They are similar. In fact, most cultures have some semblance of a pasta-like dish (spaetzle, anyone?). I’m sure most cultures have their version of salad or bread too.
It’s not a matter of who came up with what dish first – each has evolved. But pasta – made with durum wheat or semolina – is completely Italian. Durum gives pasta a high gluten content, and semolina isn’t highly absorbent – both qualities that give pasta the ability to be dried and last long, but also give that al dente bite when mixed with sauces.
And if you ask me, it’s not pasta “noodles” that I focus on as Italian so much as the sauces. The fresh vegetables and herbs, thrown together straight from the garden; quick mixtures with fresh olive oil or pasta water that coat the pasta in numerous tasty variations. In fact, so many times it is the pasta that takes longer to cook than the sauce. Those fresh flavours, that’s Italian.
And this recipe for Pasta Arrabbiata is a great example of it. It was one of my grandfather’s favourite meals if just for the sheer speed of it. Put the pot for the pasta and the pan for the sauce on at the same time and about 20 minutes later you can dive in. This recipe is so quick that it’s now a tradition to have it when we get home from trips. When I land at the airport, a quick call to my mom and she puts on the pot to boil and by the time we’re in the driveway, it’s ready to eat.
Arrabbiata means “angry”, referring to the fiery dried hot peppers, but in our dialect, we call it “’ragata”. It can be made with penne or spaghetti, but be sure to get great tomatoes for the sauce. Serve it up extra hot for your know-it-all friend!
400g pasta (or 1 full standard package of 454g to 500g)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
150 g (2) cured sausages, sliced (or the equivalent in soppresata, or in pinch, bacon)
1L crushed tomatoes
crushed hot pepper flakes
grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
Put a large pot of water on the stove on high heat. At the same time, put a large frying pan on medium heat. Heat olive oil in the pan until just shimmering. Meanwhile chop the onions and sausage.
When the olive oil is heated, add the onions, dried peppers and sausages to the pan. Cook until the onions are softened and the sausage has begun to slightly crisp at the edges. Add the tomatoes to the pan and stir together. Allow the sauce to simmer to reduce, stirring occasionally. You can choose to add salt to taste for this sauce, though I generally think the salt in the sausage or soppressata and the cheese later is enough.
Once the pot of water has come to a boil, salt the water generously. Add the pasta and cook to just under the allotted time on the packaged (for example, if there’s a 10 minute cook time, cook for 8 minutes).
Once the pasta has cooked, drain the pasta reserving a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta directly to the pan of sauce and toss together, cooking for the remaining pasta cook time (for example, 2 to 3 minutes). If you find your sauce to be very thick, add some pasta water to the pan so the pasta has some liquid to absorb.
Serve immediately, topping with freshly grated cheese.