So one of our best friends had her birthday last night. She originally wanted to go to the North End with us and the baby for dinner. Eh, not too easy with a baby. So we decided to make her an Italian feast. It was delicious.
My wife grew up learning to cook in her family’s Italian restaurant, so making good Italian food is a source of pride and joy in our household. When we went to Italy last summer, we took a cooking class and made these wonderful things:
They are spinach and ricotta filled fresh ravioli. Amazing!
Here are some things we did to make it special. We set the table nicely, put flowers on the table, and made sure there was good Italian wine. Instead of a million courses, we had two, but that was still more than usual.
We started with an amazing antipasto. It included chunks of good provolone, marinated artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, homemade roasted red pepper with lots of garlic, and roasted green beans and mushrooms. It we served on a bed of lettuce with an amazing balsamic vinaigrette. There was also bruschetta with an amazing white bean dip (recipe here).
Yum. That was probably enough food, but I also made pasta puttannesca.
Now. We made puttannesca our first year having Christmas together with my family. It was amazing. I swore up and down the recipe was from the Moosewood cookbook. So I made it again last night. It was not as good as I remembered.
Here is the recipe as I would make it next time:
1 1-lb. can of good crushed tomatoes
10-12 cloves of garlic, sliced
15-20 Kalamata olives sliced
2 tablespoons of capers
Salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
1 lb. linguine
Parmesan for the top
First, I started the pasta water since water takes forever to boil.
Then, I chopped up the garlic and the olives:
Next, cook the garlic for awhile by itself with some olive oil (on low heat, make sure you don’t burn it). Then throw in the olives, capers, and your seasonings and cook for a little while longer. Then add the can of tomatoes.
Bring to a boil on medium heat and then lower the heat to simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
When the pasta is done drain it and put it into the pan with the sauce. Mix until the pasta is coated.
Serve right away topped with Parmesan.
Italians tend to eat pasta that doesn’t have too much sauce on it and I think that is one of the things that went wrong with how I made it last night. It called for a can of tomato paste which made the sauce too tomato-y and made too much sauce. You could probably use the amount of sauce that is made with the recipe for a pound and a half of pasta. Also, with so few ingredients, quality is key. Make sure you cheese, olives, capers, tomatoes etc are of the best quality.
We ended the night with decaf coffee from Zabars and fresh cannolis from the North End. Amazing. A great way to celebrate someone we love!