Friday, March 18, 2011

Courtesan's Pasta: cheap and easy goes elegant

Although I don't really think of pasta when I want something to eat, my husband does.  It's his long-time squeeze when he wants comfort food.  I once went for seven years without having even so much as a rotini in my pantry, simply because I don't crave pasta and would rather have other things.  But now that I am compelled to produce more Man Food, I find that keeping several pounds of pasta around makes life easier.  Of course, my idea of pasta is one that's made from whole wheat or spelt, something my husband takes umbrage to, since his idea of pasta is whatever is made from semolina, or your standard readily-available grocery store spaghetti.  No matter, it's all good.

However, this is where Vindaloo gets to use her feminine wiles.  Because even though Vindaloo believes in lavish extravagance and a daily elegant repast, she also believes that she should prepare food that provides a high amount of nutritional bang for the buck whenever possible.  Most any pasta is complemented by the sauce you put on it.  For instance, the texture and flavor of spelt and whole grain pastas work well with heartier, earthier, nuttier sauces.  Lighter dishes, like aoili, primavera, seafood and cream-based sauces are best complemented by a semolina pasta.  You might say that the sauce makes the pasta, sort of like the clothes make the man--er, woman. 

The other night when my husband asked for pasta (having quietly suffered through several nights of Thai, Indian, French and Hungarian cuisine), I humbly relented.  Searching the pantry, I was inspired by capers, fire roasted and San Marzano tomatoes, anchovies, roasted red peppers and olives.  It had been over a decade since I could recall making Pasta Puttanesca, so that was the starting point.  And, also having been inspired and fortified by a glass of the medium-bodied berry/cherry, vanilla and spice of Firesteed Pinot Noir 2008 (Oregon), I felt as though I was on a mission to transform one of the working girls from a brothel in Storyville to a high dollar escort from Beverly Hills.

Courtesan's Pasta is a rich, intense sauce with depth from the olives, pepperoni and anchovies and a little kick from the crushed red pepper.  It melds perfectly with whole wheat penne pasta and when dressed with plenty of Romano cheese and fresh parsley, is earthy and elegant all at the same time.  She's the girl of your dreams.  Served with a simple green salad, it makes a great weeknight meal.  I hope you'll agree.

Courtesan’s Pasta

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped fire-roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 cups San Marzano tomatoes, broken up (or use other whole canned tomatoes)
1 cup dry red wine
1 ¼ tsp. Penzey’s Italian herb seasoning (or use ½ tsp. oregano, ½ tsp. basil, ¼ tsp.
              marjoram and a pinch of rosemary)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (increase or decrease to taste)
1/3 c. tapenade
1 oz. anchovy fillets
3 Tbs. capers, drained
1 cup cracked Italian green olives
½ cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup pepperoni slices, cut into slivers
1 lb. pasta, cooked according to package directions and kept warm
Romano cheese
Chopped fresh parsley

  1. Heat olive oil in medium-large saucepan until shimmering; add onions.
  2. Cook and stir onions until caramelized.
  3. Add chopped garlic and cook very briefly, stirring constantly.  Be careful not to burn garlic.
  4. Add fire-roasted tomatoes, broken San Marzanos, red wine, herbs, salt, and crushed red pepper.
  5. Cook and stir, bringing sauce to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
  6. Add tapenade, anchovies, capers, cracked olives, roasted red peppers and pepperoni and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve over warm pasta and garnish with plenty of Romano cheese and chopped fresh parsley.  Serves 4. 

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