ed brick walls. The menu is small, simple. I love it there – it feels like New York to me. The guys see me walk in and after a big hello, one of them turns to the kitchen and yells “Spicy Angel!” The portions are huge, but I usually manage to polish off the whole plate. Any leftovers go back to the office for tomorrow’s lunch heated in a coffee mug. When done properly, this dish will take you to Italy with every bite. We honeymooned in Italy for two weeks and I always say we didn’t do it right. It was summer, it was hot. The Ducati shop was closed, because the shopkeepers were away on their own holidays. Most importantly, I wasn’t tempted to buy any shoes. We plan to go back someday and show the world to our beautiful little sweetheart. The Grotta Palazzese restaurant is already on our itinerary, candlelit tables lining a cliff overlooking the waves. I can’t wait.
There are two kinds of tomatoes I use to make sauce – whatever Shawn plants in our backyard garden and San Marzanos which are akin to the Roma, but have a have a richer, sweeter flavor. Imported from Italy, they are readily available in cans. Evidence of the acid in tomatoes absorbing BPA from the lining of the can raises the question of how much is safe for
consumption. The answer varies depending on whom you ask. The fix is to choose jarred tomatoes over canned, but finding them isn’t always easy. Jarred tomatoes, especially San Marzanos are elusive. So, I have resolved to stock up on glass jars when I see them, but get cans as needed. Unless you eat a big bowl of pasta marinara every night, you should be safe.
Pasta is quick, comforting and perfect for busy weeknights. Cooking pasta is simple, but also something of an art. It really isn’t hard to do. The most common mistake is adding oil to the water, which is something I used to do routinely, thinking it would help keep the pasta from sticking. What it actually does is make the sauce slide right off the noodles. The only thing the past water needs is a generous amount of salt. The salt flavors the pasta, but, more importantly, helps keep the delicate noodles from breaking in the boiling water. Be sure to cook your pasta al-dente as it will continue to cook in the sauce. Always serve pasta in a bowl to help keep it warm longer.
The subtle flavor of this particular arrabbiata comes from the marsala, Sicily’s version of sherry, which adds an effortless touch of class to ordinary pasta sauce. If you cannot find marsala, use sherry. I have even made it with a splash of sweet vermouth. It came out perfectly each time. If you cannot get either (or be bothered to leave the house), just add a splash of red wine. Just make sure it is good quality. If it isn’t good enough to drink it doesn’t belong in your sauce. Be sure to taste your sauce several times during the simmer to adjust the salt, sweet, heat, tang to your liking.
Tonight, on your way home from the office, stop at the market and grab a fresh loaf of crusty bread. Then, go straight to the kitchen and whip up this marinara sauce. It is so versatile, it meets everyone’s requirements. Vegans can enjoy it by omitting the Worcestershire and adding creamy cannellini beans for protein. Vegetarians can have it with a dollop of mascarpone or cream cheese on top.Carnivores will love this sauce with everything from rock shrimp to pork. Hell, even an old pair of sea captain’s boots will taste delicious.
It’s Friday night and I can tell you right now that by the time I get home, I will not be in the mood to cook dinner. I’d rather play tea-party with my little sweetheart. Spicy Angel is what will be served at the villa this evening. I can whip up the delicious marinara in no time and let my Bertazzoni do the rest while we play upstairs with Daisy”s doll house. Then, all we have to do is cook some pasta and Prego! Dinner is served. Just close your eyes, take a bite and imagine yourself at the grotto in Puglia.