Cucina Italiana Part 3: Penne All’Arrabbiata

Spent a lovely Saturday afternoon rummaging through the cookbook section of a rather large bookfair. The stack of cookbooks were endless, I did not know where to begin. The musty smell of paper and books filled the air while I began my adventure through the shelves. Each cuisine had a plethora of books dedicated to it making my task harder. Italian cookbooks consisted of those that simply explained how different types of pasta are made and what are their origins and uses (it was the size of an encyclopedia) to cookbooks encompassing the essence of Italian home-cooking through the centuries. It was as if the shelves were strewn with shimmering culinary jewels, waiting to be picked. Since, I knew I could not buy out the entire fair, I sat down perusing through the books hoping to soak in and retain some ideas. With my husband lurking in the shadows, I realized bookfairs are best enjoyed when alone and with plenty of time. Hence I tucked one Italian cookbook and a novel on food and was on my way.

Penne All'Arrabbiata

Buying the Italian cookbook actually worked out. Since we are leaving for a short vacation tomorrow, we had not done our groceries for the week. The idea was to empty out the refrigerator before we left. The cookbook had some great recipe ideas using very few ingredients, most of which I had. Upon opening the fridge, my eyes fell upon the 6 juicy tomatoes that stared at me, hence Penne Arrabbiata it was. The name somehow will always remind me of an Italian acquaintance who told me arrabbiata in Italian means angry. Hence the dish gets its name due to its fiery flavors through the use of red chillies. My penchant for spicy food has always made this one of my favorite dishes but this time I was trying out the recipe from the cookbook, albeit with slight modifications. It required red wine and tomato paste which I did not have so instead I substituted the paste with some sundried tomato puree that was leftover from earlier on. The book was an interesting read as it made me understand the concept of ‘sugacosa’. It is a crushed tomato base passed through a large sieve to make a chunky sauce. This method was new to me, but I tried it anyway.

Penne All'Arrabbiata

Ingredients:

  • 6 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomato puree
  • 5-6 red chillies, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 500g penne
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried basil (optional)
  • Red chilli flakes (optional)
  • Parsley (optional)

Preparation:

  • For the sugacosa, heat the olive oil in a pan. Once it begins to smoke add the tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes till the tomatoes are soft and pulpy. Season with salt and pepper
  • Let them cool slightly and then pour into a large non-metallic sieve. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press the tomatoes through into a saucepan. This should leave you with a chunky consistency sugacosa
  • Put the saucepan back on the heat and add the sun-dried tomato puree, garlic, red chillies (add the red chilli flakes and dried basil for a stronger flavor if you want), salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to let the sauce simmer for 5 more minutes
  • Meanwhile, boil the penne in salted water for about 8 minutes or till al-dente. Drain the liquid and sprinkle the pasta will some olive oil to prevent it from sticking to each other
  • Transfer into a serving bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss the pasta to coat it with the sauce
  • Garnish with parsley or fresh basil or pecorino cheese shavings before serving

Penne All'Arrabbiata

I had never attempted to make pasta with sugacosa before, but I must admit due to its chunky texture, there was much more flavor. Since the flavors of this pasta are heavily dependent on individual palates, it is best to taste the sauce to adjust the spices. I enjoy spicy food, hence always add extra chillies to my dishes. Serve it warm or eat the leftovers of Penne Arrabbiata straight out of the fridge, it is a hearty dish for everyone to enjoy. In fact, we ate it 2 days in a row and also picked on it as a midnight snack. It was a day well spent at the bookfair, which in turn added to my knowledge of cooking finally leading to a delicious meal.

Penne All'Arrabbiata

Since I am going on vacation, I will not be posting for a week, but on the plus side will have lots of new culinary stories to share once I am back.

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