Filei Piccanti al Pomodoro

I don’t eat pasta very much these days (I’m trying to cut down on the carbs), so when I do, I want it to count.  This hand-rolled Italian semolina pasta with fiery red chili and homemade roasted tomato sauce with fresh herbs fits the bill quite nicely..

Filei Piccanti al Pomodoro

For the Pomodoro Sauce

8 ripe red tomatoes, cored, roasted and skinned
2/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, slivered
2 tablespoons raw olive oil, plus more if needed
1/4 cup (loosely packed) whole purple basil leaves, dried
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh herbs such as oregano and green basil
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic has “melted” and the onions Oven-roasted tomatoeshave all but disappeared, about 20 minutes.  Drizzle in additional olive oil if needed to keep the vegetables moist while cooking, taking care to prevent browning.

Crush the tomatoes by hand into the pan with the vegetables.  Crumble the purple basil into the tomatoes and stir to combine.  Allow mixture to boil for a moment, then partially cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer, stirring often, until most of the water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. The sauce should be very thick.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, cutting the time by 2 or 3 minutes.  Stir enough of the boiling pasta water into the tomato sauce to thin it to a spoon-able consistency, then quickly add the pasta and herbs to the pan.  Stir and simmer for the remaining 2-3 minutes until the pasta is finished.

Season the dish with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste, then turn out into individual bowls.  Lightly drizzle with raw olive oil and top with a little sharp cheese, if desired and serve immediately.

This post is part of Meatless Monday, a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns,
in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Sugo all’amatriciana or alla matriciana (in Romanesco)is a traditional Italian pasta sauce based on guanciale (cured pork cheek), Parmigiano-Reggiano and tomatoes.  Originating from the town of Amatrice (in the mountainous Province of Rieti of Lazio region), the Amatriciana is one of the most well-known pasta sauces in Roman and Italian cuisine..

While in Amatrice the dish is prepared with spaghetti, the use of bucatini has become extremely common after the recipe became popular in Rome, and is now prevalent.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana (adapted from a recipe by Anne Burrell)

Extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces guanciale, cut in 1/4-inch strips
2 large onions, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes, passed through the food mill
1 pound bucatini or perciatelli
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish

Coat a large saucepan with olive oil.  Add the guanciale and saute over low heat  until it is brown and crispy and has rendered a lot of fat.  Remove and reserve 1/3 of the guanciale for garnish.

Bring the pan to a medium heat and add the onions and crushed red pepper.  Season generously with salt, to taste.  Cook the onions until they are translucent, starting to turn golden and are very aromatic.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 1 hour, tasting periodically.  Adjust the salt, as needed.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the package.

Drain the pasta from the water and add to the pot of sauce.  Stir to coat with the sauce, and cook until pasta is done, about 1 minute . Add in the cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and serve in shallow bowls garnished with cheese and the reserved guanciale.

Guanciale is a pork cheek is rubbed with salt, ground black pepper or red pepper and hung in the refrigerator to cure for three weeks.  Its flavor is stronger than other pork products such as pancetta, yet the texture is more delicate.

Sometimes difficult to source locally in the US, guanciale can be ordered online from La Quercia.

Italian Roast Boar Knuckle with Mostarda di Frutta

Boneless knuckle of wild boar is rubbed with a mixture of Italian sweet chili powder, fennel pollen, salt, black pepper and garlic then roasted to a turn, sliced and served with a mostarda of figs, pears and apricots with grainy mustard, dry white wine and a few red chili flakes..

Chili-Fennel Roasted Boar Knuckle with Mostarda di Frutta

For the Spice Rub

3 tablespoons sweet Italian chili powder
1-1/2 tablespoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon fennel powder (substitute fennel and anise seeds)
1 scant tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons granulated garlic

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

To prepare, coat knuckle roast on all sides with spice mixture and refrigerate uncovered for 4 hours.  Remove from refrigerator and allow to stand while you pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the knuckle until the internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees, about 1 hour for a 1-1/2 pound roast.  Allow to stand a full 10 minutes before carving.   Serve with mostarda, bitter greens and a hunk of crusty bread.

“Though you’ll find mostarda from Piemonte on through the Veneto and down into Emilia Romagna, the best known variation is that from Cremona (Mostarda di Cremona), which is also produced commercially. According to Italian food scholar Antonio Piccinardi, the word mostarda derives from the French moustarde, which in turn derives from mout ardent, fiery must, which was made by adding powdered mustard seed to unfermented grape must and cooking it down to produce an invigorating condiment.”