The recipe this week is penne arrabiata, or angry penne if you were to say it in English, although it does sound better in Italian, don't you agree?
I am not a particularly angry person, even if I have a reputation for losing my temper and throwing customers out of restaurants. I actually believe that self-control is one of those virtues that is extremely underrated. True strength comes from self-control, and not from shouting and screaming, as anyone who has worked with me will tell you.
Anyway, that's my rant for the week, and now we can focus on the food, glorious food. Penne arrabiata is a dish from Rome, one of the classic Italian pasta dishes. Some people sprinkle basil on top rather than parsley, but this is not the traditional way. The basil is a little too sweet for this punchy number.
If you are cooking for kids, you might want to go easy on the chilli. In fact, this dish works quite well without chilli if you are one of those people who really cannot stand anything spicy at all. Though obviously that is less arrabiata and more of a penne fortunata.
One tip is to always buy Italian-made dried pasta. It's a little-known fact that most times you are better off with Italian dry pasta than with fresh pasta made somewhere else.
The Italians know their pasta, and there are even laws regulating the fabrication of pasta. For example, dried pasta can only be made with durum flour or durum semolina because of its density, high protein and gluten strength.
Then there is the thorny issue of how long to cook the pasta. If you lived through English school dinners, you may be under the impression that pasta is soft enough to melt in your mouth. It shouldn't be. It should be cooked al dente, which means firm to the bite. If I had a penny (or penne) for every person I have heard complain that their pasta is undercooked, I would be a rich(er) man. And they all come from England and they're all over a certain age, almost as old as me. Thankfully things have changed. But it does make me angry.
MAKE IT YOURSELF
800g penne rigate
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
4 fresh red chillis, seeded and thinly sliced
2 400g tins of crushed peeled tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
200g Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan), grated
6 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1. Boil the penne for 10 minutes in a large pot in salted boiling water.
2. In the meantime, sauté the crushed garlic and chilli in oil in a separate pot.
3. When the garlic starts to caramelise, add the tomatoes. Cook the sauce for 5 minutes on medium heat, then add salt and pepper.
4. Toss the penne with the sauce and serve in a deep pasta bowl sprinkled with grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley.