Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

Bucatini all"Amatriciana

This is another one of those favorite tried and true recipes of mine.  Frankly, the first time I tried Amatriciana I was in Miami, and how far from the reality it was.  The best Amatriciana I have ever had, is obviously, in Rome.  Hands down unbelievable.  That trip to Rome sealed my fate forever, because my daughter learned what a good Amatriciana and a good Carbonara was……so mom better learn how to perfect them quick, cause boy, she’s a food snob if there ever is one!

As many Italian dishes, it has dubious origins, some say the Swiss canton of Grisons, some say Amatrice…..and also, there is the onions/no onions?  Chili pepper/no Chili pepper?  I prepare it the way the Romans do.

Chili Pepper, one of these beauties that I brought back from Napoli

Chili Pepper from Napoli

 

And the other key ingredient, Guanciale (cured pork cheek).  Not bacon my friends, guanciale is the stuff of Gods.  If you’re not vegetarian that is.  Then it’s devil’s speak.

GuancialeAs you see, there is a lot more fat on pork cheek.  I mean, if you think about it, no one ever does cheek workouts……except for when we eat, so I guess that’s why there’s that teeny sliver of non fatty meat, for chewing effort.

And, I do use onions.  Only a bit, but that is how the Romans prepare it.  There is also a debate on what type of fat, olive oil, or lard?  Well, if you’re not afraid of it, go ahead and lard it up!  I do, it gives it a damn incredible pork-y taste, and hell, you’re not going to eat this everyday, so give your diet a break and eat some fat!

That said, it is a very very easy dish to prepare.  The beauty is in the simplicity of the ingredients.  The best tomatoes, the best guanciale, and of course, Pecorino Romano!  Don’t be putting on the northern neighbor Parmigiano, or some Roman might come flying into your kitchen and scream “ ti spacco la faccia!!! ” *

So, if you are so inclined, here’s what you’re going to need!

Serves 4

100g Guanciale, sliced or diced

1 small onion, minced

1 chili pepper, chopped

1/2 tbsp pork fat or olive oil

450g crushed tomatoes

Salt and Pepper to taste

400g Bucatini Pasta

Grated Pecorino Romano

 

In a large sauté pan, place the guanciale, onion and chili pepper, and pork fat or olive oil over medium high heat.  Cook until the onion is translucent, and the guanciale is golden.   Add the tomatoes, salt, and lower the heat to a simmer.

Bring the water for the pasta to boil.  Cook the pasta to 2 minutes before package directions.  Strain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the boiling water.  Add the Bucatini and the water to the sauté pan where you have the sauce, and turn up the heat to medium.  Cook, tossing the bucatini with the sauce until it coats it all evenly.

Serve with the freshly grated pecorino and pepper.

Buon Appetito!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

* That in Italian means, I smacka you face!

 

 

 

Green bean and Chickpea “Stew”

Chickpeas to me is comfort food.  My father’s side of the family being Egyptian/Syrian/Turkish, I have grown up eating this grain and it is a staple in my diet.  A couple of months ago I received my favorite magazine in the mail, Saveur, and I came across this recipe.

Initially, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it.  Generally I like my vegetables barely cooked, fresh and crispy.  But this article praised slow cooked veggies.  I figured I would give it a try, thinking that I wasn’t going to be that thrilled with it.  What a surprise!  I fell in love with it.  It is really simple, flavourful, and the one word that comes to mind, is comforting.  It was so reminiscent of the flavour profiles that I grew up with, that instantly I knew I was going to make this dish again and again.

It is quite heavy on the cumin, which I love, but the original recipe calls for an hour of cooking time.  I reduced that to 35 minutes, because I wanted more tomato sauce than Saveur’s.  This is a perfectly simple and delicious meal that can be enjoyed on it’s own with a loaf of crusty bread, à la girl in a food frenzy’s.  But you can always have it as a side dish as well, with something simple, like grilled fish or steak.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Saveur Magazine

SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup olive oil

2 tsp. cumin seeds

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. paprika
1 ½ lb. green beans, strings removed
1 28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat the oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; add cumin seeds and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the garlic and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned, about 12 minutes.
3. Add the tomato paste and paprika, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato paste is lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add the green beans, tomatoes, chickpeas, and 3 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 35 minutes. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Maccheroni Gambrinus

Ristorante Gambrinus.  The name invokes memories of my early “tween” years when I first started TASIS, in Lugano, Switzerland.  I went to school there from 1986-1992, and frequently we used to go to this restaurant in the main square.  I remember when I first tried this dish.  It was made table side, the server expertly flambeeing the vodka over the penne pasta, then adding the fresh cream and parsley.  And then the first bite.  Heaven.  Nirvana.  Valhalla.  Whatever you want to call it, it was delicious.  With a capital D.  For many years I have recreated this dish, from the stained, crumpled hand-written recipe my mother wrote out as per the restaurant owner’s directions, or from sheer memory.  And of course, it will never, in my mind, be as good as the original.  There is always something about someone else making you food, that makes it taste better.  Or maybe it’s a little eleven year old girls’ memory of that perfect moment, when things were a lot easier, when your parents paid the bill, and when all I had to do was dress up for dinner and then fall asleep in the car ride home, with my belly full of that scrumptuous pasta, knowing that the next morning the world would be all right.

Here, I give you my version of this dish, and I hope you will recreate it at home.

Maccheroni Gambrinus

Serves 4

1 lb of penne pasta

2 tbsp of olive oil

4 strips of bacon or pancetta (pancetta is obviously the choice, but I only had bacon on hand), chopped

1 tsp of crushed red pepper

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1/8 tsp of dried oregano

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 small can of tomato puree

1/2 cup vodka

1/4 cup cream

Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Parmesan cheese, grated

Put 8 cups of salted water to boil.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat, add your bacon, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Saute until the bacon is not yet crispy, but starting to cook.  About 5 minutes.  Add your onion, and cook until soft and translucent, about another 7 minutes.  Then add your garlic and let it cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste, and mix well until combined.  Then add your tomato puree, and fill the can/bottle with water and add to the sauce, and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Now here is the tricky part.  Once you have let the sauce simmer so the water has evaporated and you get a wonderful smooth sauce, raise the heat to high, and let it come to a boil.  Get your matches or lighter ready, close at hand, and add your vodka and flambee.  It only takes a second for it to flambee, so there was no way I could get a picture of the flames.  But trust me, it lit up!

Don’t do it like I did.  You could light the vodka bottle on fire.  I was just being greedy and pouring some more in.  I like vodka.  And I am not ashamed to say it.

Once the vodka has been evaporated, take it off the heat, and add your cream and parsley.

Boil the pasta according to package directions, and then toss with the warm sauce.  Serve with a large mountain of freshly grated parmesan cheese….or a small one.  But I love cheese.

Enjoy!!!!  Have seconds.  You only live once.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla