I remember, back in the 80s, when all of a sudden you were allowed to eat pasta all the time. When sun-dried tomatoes took over the world, and pink vodka sauce was the height of sophistication. My mother and I would order penne alla vodka at a little place on Third Avenue in New York City, and I would feel Extremely Grown Up, because, you know, it had vodka in it.
Those were good, pasta-loving times, the 80s were. On happy days, I'd slurp linguini with white clam sauce, and on sad ones, I'd drown my sorrows in Velveeta shells and cheese. It was all pasta, all the time, with an occasional break for a Yoo-Hoo or a bag of Smartfood.
So it was with great delight that I learned that my friend and colleague Domenica Marchetti, an expert in authentic Italian cuisine, devoted her third cookbook to pasta in all its carbo-loaded glory. The Glorious Pasta of Italy (Chronicle Books, 2011) is a classy, almost rustic-looking cookbook filled with Italian recipes both elegant and homey. In it, Marchetti teaches how to flavor fresh pasta sheets with pumpkin, saffron, and spinach, and how to enrich hearty sauces with vegetables, meats, and shellfish. While accessible to the home cook, there's a lot to chew on here, so I'd recommend it more for a serious pasta enthusiast than a scatterbrained dilettante. Some of the recipes do take time.
But not all. The BLT Bucatini, for example, was ready in about 35 minutes. (I cheated -- see below.) Others, like Pot Roast Pappardelle, yield two meals at once, creating instant leftovers with no extra work.
Marchetti is the genius behind some of the most popular recipes on 5 Second Rule, including these smoked mozzarella arancini and this rib-sticking pork ragu. Her recipes really work, and they leave no one at the table hungry.
To see more sample recipes from The Glorious Pasta of Italy, visit Domenica Cooks. There, Marchetti has aggregated links to posts such as this one, so you can get a little taste of the book and try some recipes out for yourself.
Recipe for BLT Bucatini, adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
If you like BLT sandwiches, you'll love this clever variation. Pancetta stands in for the bacon, arugula for the lettuce, and pasta for the bread. Also, while the recipe instructed me to roast cherry tomatoes for 2 to 3 hours in a low oven, I roasted mine for only 15 minutes on the convection setting. I tell you, the results were fantastic, and even with more time on my hands, I'd probably cheat like this again in a heartbeat.
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound bucatini or thick spaghetti
8 ounces arugula (baby or regular)
1/2 cup freshly shredded pecorino romano (or parmesan) cheese
If you have a convection setting on your oven, preheat it to 250 degrees / convection. (If not, preheat it to 275 degrees, and cook the tomatoes about 25 percent longer, or as long as time allows. The longer, the better.) On a rimmed baking sheet, set the tomatoes cut-sides up and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with the garlic, and season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until their juices exude and they begin to shrivel, about 15 minutes, or longer if time allows.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
Warm the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until the fat renders and the meat turns crispy, 12 to 15 minutes. Tip off about half the rendered fat. When the tomatoes are ready, scrape them (and their juices) into the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cover to keep warm.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions, until al dente. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain.
Transfer the pasta to the skillet with the tomatoes and toss to combine thoroughly. Add a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce, then toss in the arugula one handful at a time, turning everything with tongs so the heat wilts the arugula. Serve hot, sprinkled with the shredded pecorino.