Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Pasta Arrabiata

There are few dishes that are truly as easy to make, as cheap or as utterly fucking delicious as this little gem. You could buy a jar of factory-made pasta sauce, but you'd be frigging stupid when this will take probably just as long and tastes infinitely better. It's really like the difference between Corn Flakes from Kellogg's and corn flakes from a chiropodist.

In our house we call this recipe "bacony thing" for some historic reason we can't remember. It is probably the stupidest name for a meal there has ever been, but it's ours. This is especially the case because, in many restaurants, arrabiata is made as just a spicy tomato sauce without the bacon (or in some cases the bacon is replaced by salami or even chorizo). There would be other differences between "bacony thing" and "arrabiata" on a menu, most obviously about ten quid a fucking portion as a second language supplement, because anything in a foreign language costs more.

Naming issues aside, I started making this many years ago when I was a student. A wanky, pretentious student with a foul mouth so, obviously, I've changed in the intervening time: I'm no longer a student. Yet, I still come back to this fantastic dish. It's a family staple which we have every week. It's usually the first thing we make when we have our first dinner after coming back from holiday. I got the idea of this from a recipe book I purloined from my Dad before I went to university. That recipe is called penne arrabiata, meaning angry (pasta) quills.

Funnily enough, in Italian, spelling penne with one fewer "n" apparently means penis. Pene arrabiata is therefore "angry penis". This makes me think of Noel Edmonds getting upset and stamping on the pavement after receiving a parking ticket. Why is he called "Noel"? Because there's no "L" in "smug, hideous shirt-wearing, bearded prick"

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed (or more, you can't put too much garlic in this dish)
220g smoked bacon, finely chopped (an odd quantity, I admit, but that's how they package it)
1 medium red pepper, finely chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
Black pepper
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 tsp mixed herbs (dried work, but fresh are better if they are available)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Arrabiata Ingredients
The bacon, finely chopped along with the fresh vegetables. Note the fresh thyme on the plate

Pour the oil in a pan and heat before adding the onion and garlic. Fry for 5 minutes until translucent then add the bacon and continue to fry until that's cooked. Throw in the pepper and fry for another minute or so. Pour in the tomatoes, add the puree and stir well. Grind in plenty of black pepper, add the chilli, the herbs and bay leaf then pour in the balsamic vinegar and stir well. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 30-60 minutes. You may need to reduce the liquid in the pan if it's especially runny.
How it looks when it's finished
Note bay leaf

 Serve it over pasta with bread on the side to mop up the sauce

The recipe I developed this from didn't have red pepper in it but it bulks out the dish and works well. It needs to be fairly finely chopped like the other ingredients to make a smoother pasta sauce.

As I mentioned above, this recipe can be made without bacon for an even cheaper, vegetarian/vegan version which is still better than some ready-made crap you can buy in a jar.

Unlike most of my previous entries, whilst containing chilli, it's only there to add a slight kick. It does need shitloads of garlic though. It can't really have too much garlic.

While the original recipe was penne, virtually any type of pasta would do: spaghetti, fusilli,even tagliatelli. You'd probably be best drawing the line at tinned ravioli, mind.

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