13 March, 2012

Sweet Spigazzuoli!

Marco Polo probably brought pasta back to Italy with him from China in the thirteenth century A.D.  I recently found a tubular pasta that looks wacky and has two z's in the name and brought it back to my appartamento to whiz up a variation on a Neil Perry dish.  

(recipe follows)
You see, I get my inspiration on the fly.  I don't always ask questions (especially if it's as simple a dish as this one).  Perry's cookbook "The Food I Love" was spotted at a cafe, so I randomly flipped to a page and there was a stark recipe for pasta "with toasted breadcrumbs." It appealed to me for reasons unknown.  And then I made it (with basil instead of tarragon) and it rocks!

Perhaps spigazzuoli is better suited to a more "saucy" dish but it was fun to try something new.  Reading about the history of pasta I came across a few tips I thought I'd share.
When draining the pasta remember to save about a cup of the water in the pot, this starchy water will add a little body to whatever sauce you choose. Never, ever rinse off the pasta after cooking unless you're making pasta salad. Washing off all that starch and salt will kill any flavor your pasta once had.
When it comes to sauce it is really up to personal preference unless you are trying to follow a traditional recipe. A good rule is to remember simple pasta works best with simple sauces while complex shaped pastas are ideal for thicker sauces. 
Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs
(Adapted from Neil Perry's The Food I Love)

400 g of pasta (pretty much any kind would work)
2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs (I used multigrain)
1 cup of olive oil
sea salt
1 bunch of fresh basil (or tarragon or mint)
2 handfuls of fresh flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons of salted capers (rinsed)
3 anchovies
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Drizzle olive oil over the breadcrumbs and season with a bit of s&p.  Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking tray and toast for about 12 minutes in the oven. Set aside.

Put the herbs, garlic, capers, anchovies, vinegar and remaining oil in a food processor and pulse until well mixed.  

Boil water in a large pot and cook the pasta until al dente, then drain.

Put the pasta back in the pot, add the herb mixture and the toasted breadcrumbs and stir together.  Serve immediately.  

If there are leftovers, try a variation another day:  mix in roasted sweet potato pieces with the pasta.  Sweet Spigazzuoli!