It’s been around for a long time but suddenly it’s become a thing – tinned fish. When I was growing up if I wanted a snack, I could always open a can of sardines, squid, or tuna. It’s a very old way of preserving food. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and isn’t perishable until it’s opened.
The Can of Food That Makes Dinner Parties Delicious, Easy, and Insanely Fast
The easiest dinner party you’ll ever throw is the one where all you do is make a few salads, open a few tins of fish and put out a few baguettes. The reason you aren’t throwing this party already is because you think that tinned fish is cheap, acrid, odorous stuff that you’d never serve to company, much less yourself. But that line of thinking stops now.
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Tinned Fish Pasta
Here’s a recipe that works with almost any type of tinned fish. I used sardines.
Lightly sauté the garlic in olive oil in a small pan until it’s fragrant. Don’t let it brown.
Put the garlic and oil it cooked in, sardines, lemon zest and juice, capers, salt, and pepper in a heat proof bowl. Place the bowl on top of a pot of boiling water to gently heat the ingredients. Remove the bowl and cook the pasta in the same boiling water.
When the pasta is done add it to the bowl with 1 cup of the pasta water and the parsley. Mix and serve with a sprinkling of the toasted breadcrumbs.
Simple ingredients and an easy preparation – this one is a classic. Whoever first put this combination together deserves a medal. You can get this in almost any Italian restaurant, hero shop and even in some pizzerias.
2 bunches broccoli rabe
Salt, black and red pepper
3 garlic cloves, sliced
4 Italian sausages (sweet or hot) cut into 1 inch pieces
Boil it in the pasta water for 8 – 10 minutes until tender. Remove and drain. Add 2 tablespoons more salt to the water and cook the pasta in the same pot until almost done.
Fry the sausage in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until browned. Add garlic, salt, red, and black pepper and lower the heat so the garlic doesn’t burn. Cook for 5 minutes and add a half cup of pasta water and deglaze the pan.
Add the prepared broccoli rabe and another half cup of pasta water. Blend and cook for 8 minutes. Add the drained pasta to the sausage and broccoli to finish cooking. Serve with grated Parmigiana cheese.
Put the chicken stock and dried mushrooms in a small pot and bring it to a boil. Remove it from the stove and set it aside.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Sauté until translucent. Add the sausage meat and brown it.
Remove the mushrooms and save the liquid. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan with the onions and sausage meat.
Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes until the alcohol evaporates. Add the tomatoes, 1 cup of the mushroom/chicken stock, oregano, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes or so until it thickens. If it get’s to dry mix in some more chicken stock or pasta water.
While the sauce simmers cook the pasta until almost done. Drain it and add it to the sauce to finish cooking. Sprinkle with parsley and place the pasta in a serving dish. Serve with grated Parmigiana cheese.
A friend I used to work with and had lunch with almost every day invited me home to dinner with him. He said his wife, Marietta, was Italian like me and a great cook. When I arrived and was introduced to Marietta, we made the standard exchange that Italian-Americans often do – “So, where in Italy are your people from?” Since we were both of Italian descent, instead of the general “Naples,” I more specifically said Salerno and instead of “Sicily,” Marietta said Trapani. And so, the inevitable cooking rivalry began. She knew her husband’s friend was coming for dinner but didn’t know I was Italian-American. She made, among other things, what she called simply ‘tomato sauce.’ She knew I would silently compare it to my family’s ‘tomato sauce.’ Before we started eating, I mentioned that my mother’s sister married a Sicilian and learned recipes from her mother-in- law which she introduced to our family. I made it clear that I was familiar with Sicilian cuisine and appreciated it. We put a love of cooking and good food before the old regional rivalry and had a great dinner. Before I left, Marietta wrote down her sauce recipe for me. Keep in mind that you only need just 5 ingredients for a simple tomato sauce – olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and tomatoes. This one has a lot more than that! That’s a ton of flavor.
Marietta’s Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
1 pound of long pasta (ideally perciatelli or bucatini but spaghetti will work)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt, black, and red pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 lb. chopped beef
1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 – 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 sprig of basil
* Sachet – 10 black peppercorns, 1 dried chili, 2 bay leaves, 1 crushed garlic clove
1 – 8 oz. can peas
* Sachet – little cloth bags are available in supermarkets orGoogle, If you can’t find them, cut a white handkerchief into quarters, wrap the ingredients and tie it with a string.
Sauté the chopped onion in olive oil, salt, black and red pepper. Don’t brown it, just cook until it’s translucent. Add the chopped beef and brown it. Add the tomato paste, blend well, and cook about 8 minutes.
Add the red wine to the sauce and deglaze the pan. Add the can of San Marzano tomatoes, a sprig of fresh basil, the sachet, and simmer for 30 minutes.
At the end of 30 minutes add the 8 oz. can of drained peas to the sauce, simmer 5 minutes and serve. Serve the pasta with a sprinkle of basil chiffonade, and pass grated Parmigiana around the table.
It you intend to add additional meat to the sauce (sausage, meatballs, braciole) brown it in a separate pan, deglaze the pan with some wine and add it all to the sauce for that last 30 minutes of cooking.
If you make Sicilian pizza try this sauce without the chopped beef. When the sauce is cool mix in ¾ cup of unseasoned breadcrumbs.
Finely zest one of the lemons and set aside. Cut the tops and bottoms off the remaining two lemons and stand on end. Cut them into four quarters and thinly slice each quarter into triangles. Blanch the lemon slices for two minutes in a small pot of boiling water. Set them aside on paper towels and blot dry.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the dry lemon slices. Add salt, black pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook for a few minutes until the edges brown and remove them.
Add the butter, lemon zest, red pepper and a half cup of pasta water to the pan. Mix in the drained pasta and coat with the sauce. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley, lemon wedges and cheese. Serve with additional cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I encourage you to not limit yourself to using just grated Parmigiana or Loccatelli type cheese on your pasta. For this recipe it’s grated fresh horse radish. The use of ground walnuts and breadcrumbs in the sauce and a good sprinkle of grated horse radish is typical of Basilicata, where my paternal grandparents are from. Fresh horse radish is common in Basilicata but not so much in New York expect around Passover. It’s the bitter herb in the Seder meal that represents the bitterness of slavery.
Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onions on medium low. Add one tablespoon of tomato paste, salt, black, and red pepper. Cook low and slow until the onions are soft and translucent – don’t brown. The onions add a little sweetness to the sauce which is a nice counterpoint to the horse radish.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste to check for seasoning. If you want a meat sauce, now is the time to add some nicely browned sausage or braciole.
Cook the pasta until almost done, drain it and add it to the sauce where it will finish cooking. Add a few tablespoons of the pasta water if the sauce is too dry. Pour in the walnuts and breadcrumbs, stir to thoroughly combine and serve. This is still a very good sauce even if you don’t have fresh horse radish.
Cut about an inch of the end of the horse radish and remove some of the bark with a potato peeler. Pass the horse radish and a grater at the table and top each dish with a good amount of horse radish. Sometimes when the horseradish hits the hot steamy pasta it can make your eyes tear. Don’t let it bother you.
Cover the cut end of the horse radish with some foil and refrigerate.
Swiss chard pasta – it’s just a few simple ingredients and easy to prepare.
¼ cup olive oil
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 lb. Swiss chard, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 lb. short pasta
¼ cup Parmigiana cheese
Start a pot of salted boiling water. You’ll use this for both the Swiss chard and then for the pasta. While the water is heating, lightly sauté the garlic in oil in a pan with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.
When the water in the pot comes to a boil, add the Swiss chard, and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the Swiss chard and without draining it, place it right in a blender. Add the sautéed garlic and oil. Blend until it’s a fine thick puree. Check for seasoning.
Add the pasta to the still boiling water and cook until almost done. Drain it, saving one cup of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot. Stir in the Swiss chard sauce and coat the pasta while it finishes cooking. Add more of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.
Not too many ingredients but there’s a lot more work to this recipe than you might expect for a dish of pasta. I hope you think it’s worth it. Zucchini Pasta Glassata means glazed zucchini pasta. In the glassata cooking technique the pasta is partially cooked, as usual, in salted water but it’s finished in the liquid from a vegetable, in this case zucchini. It can also be made with beets or carrots but you’ll need a juicer for them.
4 or 5 zucchini depending on size
16 oz. pasta – your choice
¼ cup olive oil
2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. Parmigiana
Place a dishtowel in a large bowl and grate the zucchini on the mid-sized holes of a box grater. Squeeze the liquid out of the towel into the bowl. You need one cup of liquid. Set aside the shredded zucchini and its liquid. You can freeze and save any extra.
Cook the pasta as usual in salted water, but only for half the time recommended on the package. Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
In the now empty pasta pot, bring the cup of zucchini liquid to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often until the liquid is absorbed.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil and lightly sauté the garlic, salt and pepper. Don’t brown it. Add 2 cups of the shredded zucchini and cook on medium for 8-10 minutes and add it to the pasta.
If it seems too dry, add some or all of the reserved pasta water. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmigiana. Serve with additional grated cheese.
Pasta e Ceci stew is a Roman recipe. It’s sort of a vegetable stew with pasta. You can use any kind of greens you like – Swiss chard, escarole, even kale. I’m using a mix of arugula and spinach.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
Salt, black and red pepper to taste
2 tsps. finely chopped rosemary
2 minced garlic cloves
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 – 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed
1 cup ditalini
4 cups chopped greens
Lightly sauté the onion in oil in a large pot. Season with salt and pepper. When the onion starts to soften add the garlic and rosemary. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chick peas. Crush about a half cup of the chickpeas with a spoon to thicken the stew.
Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, stirring often. Ditalini has a way of sticking to the bottom of the pot . After the pasta absorbs the water you may want to add some more if you’d like it soupier. Add the greens and stir. They’ll cook in a minute. Serve with grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
“. . . Less than 24 hours after Italy announced a COVID19 outbreak in Lombardia in Northern Italy, photos of barren Italian supermarket shelves were posted on Twitter. The subject of the social media buzz centered around one of Italy’s most favorite topics: pasta. Lonely bags of smooth penne pasta, penne lisce, remained perched on ravaged aisles. All of the penne rigate, ridged penne, was gone. . . “
An Italian Tweet – Continuo a guardare questa foto fatta prima al supermercato e penso al fatto che il grande sconfitto da questo virus sono le penne lisce che agli italiani fanno cagare pure quando sono presi dal panico e si preparano all’apocalisse.
Translation – “I keep looking at this photo I took earlier in the supermarket, and I think the biggest loser of this virus is penne lisce. Italians think it’s shit, even as they panic and prepare for the apocalypse.”