We don't eat out a lot as a family, it is a culture induced from BH's consulting days. He would be so bored of eating out regularly when he traveled on work that he would be craving for some home cooked meal and I loved to experiment, cook and feed, so it worked both ways. Whenever we go out, we try different cuisines almost avoiding Indian food in restaurants as they don't always measure up to our expectation of good Indian food. Then again, non Indian fare is a different ball game. Anything from American to Mexican to Italian to Thai to Chinese to Mediterranean with vegetarian choices is a welcome change.
But things are changing as I started to cook recipes from World cuisines at home regularly especially since I started blogging. Sometimes we sit in the restaurant and the conversation gets centered around how I can recreate the recipe at home or how I can make it a tad bit healthier, spicier or anything else to make it personalized to our tastes. Case in point, we went to a Chinese resturant in town recently that all of BH's collegues were raving about and had a pretty decent Schezwan rice and an ok sort of vegetable masala noodles. DD who ordered the noodles for her main course said, 'Amma you make a much better Indo-Chinese noodles'. The narcissistic me always feels exhilarated by such praises but it also made me think if I was inculcating a habit in my daughter of not enjoying food else where outside of home. See, I worry about the time when she goes off to college in a few years and has to survive on the tight string student budget and find good things to eat in the college cafeteria? But then she turns around and tells me that her L mama made the best eerulli(onion) gojju when she visited him recently or digs enthusiastically into her Burrito roll from Chipotle or bites with glee into her Olive Garden bread while slurping her delicious Minestrone soup, I know my passion for cooking has not raised a snobbish child. I feel assured it is just a child with good taste in food who will find good eats to survive on when the time comes. All is not lost, no long term damage done and
the my world is a happy place so I can get back to my cooking and blogging without upsetting the semblance of life :-).
Here is a confession, I am not a fan of pasta. Before you gasp and give me the 'weirdo, where did you come from?' look (it has happened before whenever I tell people that I don't like pasta very much), let me just state that it is a personal quirk. Everybody is entitled to one or more and I have mine too but I do not portray my eating habits on my family or insist that they follow it. So I cook all kinds of pasta & noodles dishes since both BH & DD love it.
Arrabiata is a a very popular pasta sauce from Italy, the word means 'angry' because of the heat generated from the red chilies and the vibrant color of the sauce itself. Yep, it doesn't make the person eating it angry :-). Ok, enough of PJs. Infact the sauce is extremely delicious (according to the reliable tasters/testers at home) and a tad bit spicier than regular sauces. It gets its flavor from 2 key ingredients - garlic and basil and of course juicy tomatoes. I strongly recommend using fresh basil versus dried version as the flavor component can drastically vary.
What do you need for making Penne Arrabiata?
Makes 2 servings
3 cups dry penne - I used a whole grain Penne
7-8 cups water to cook pasta
For the Arrabiata sauce:
2 large tomatoes or 4 cups chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tblsp tomato paste or tomato ketchup
4-5 twigs of fresh basil (about 20 leaves picked)
1-2 twigs fresh Thyme (optional but highly recommended)
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped or 1/2 Tsp garlic powder (up or down based on your preference)
1.5 Tblsp crushed chili flakes (I used the kind you sprinkle on pizzas)
3/4 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3/4 Tsp brown sugar
2 Tblsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tblsp olive oil
How do you make Penne Arrabiata?
- Wash, remove stems and chop tomatoes into bite size pieces. Take them to the blender and puree, a few small pieces of tomato is good as it makes the sauce chunky.
- Heat a heavy bottom skillet on medium heat, add olive oil and finely chopped garlic (or garlic powder) and roast it for 2-3 minutes taking care not to burn it. The idea is to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor.
- Add chopped onions and continue to fry stirring frequently until onion turns soft and light brown. Do not crisp the onions.
- Add the tomato puree and the rest of the ingredients listed except for cilantro, mix well and let it come to a boil on medium heat.
- Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer and thicken for another 35-40 minutes by which time your kitchen will be smelling like a pasta lover's paradise.
- Cook pasta per package instructions until al dente, drain the water. Add a couple of drops of olive oil and 1 Tblsp chopped cilantro, mix well to coat evenly and keep aside until ready to use.
- The sauce reduces and turns a brighter red. Switch off.
- Add the cilantro coated pasta to the sauce and give it a mix. Serve hot garnished with remaining cilantro.
- I used fresh tomatoes as they are in season and I like them fresh. You can use canned tomatoes instead. Be sure to drain the preserving liquid.
- Arrabiata traditionally has tiny bits of tomatoes, it is a matter of texture, I prefer to puree the tomatoes as my family likes it this way. The chopped onions still bring out the same chunky texture and we don't miss anything.
- Feel free to up the amount of chili flakes used in the recipe if you can tolerate the heat, after all it is an Arrabiata sauce :-), DD says, the amount I put is perfect so I stick to these measurements.
- Use fresh basil only in this recipe, dried herbs do not do justice here.
- The longer you let the sauce simmer, the herbs have a better chance to work their magic. 20 minutes is a minimum and do not hurry the process.
- It is important to not burn the garlic or crisp the onions in this recipe as it spoils the sauce. Manage the heat on your stove.
- You can make this sauce in bulk and store it in the refrigerator in a clean, dry jar for a couple of weeks.
- Although Arrabiata is tradiationally served on Penne in Italy, no one stops you from enjoying this delicious sauce with any other choice of pasta :-).