Sunday, October 31, 2010

Al fresco lunch with my special tuscan penne marinara

Ok. Forget politics, worries of the world, economic downturn, religious terror, the social network or retirement plans. Today come with me to wonders of Italian cooking.

First of all you may not be an Italian but always remember this “you can pretend to be an Italian”. There is nothing in this Universe to prevent you from being childishly obsessively crazy about life, love, good food and good wine. Your choice.

The recipe I am going to disclose here is a variation using my favorite basic ingredients, pasta, tomato sauce, and prawns. You can experiment with various combinations of this terrific theme.

Your pasta can be penne, spaghetti, fusilli or fettucine. My personal preference would always be penne. Penne has this robust working class persona and embedded manhood which I find natural to express with my style.

The tomato sauce has to be cooked slowly with passion, full attention, and love. I learned how to cook a variation of tomato sauce from my Sicilian friend Mario. According to Mario tomato sauce is the heart and soul of a great Italian pasta dish. Cooking good tomato sauce deserves time, intellectual investment almost to the extent of exhaustion, and passion. You lack any of these and your dish will be ruined.

Prawns should be fully thawed, sexy, and marinated overnight with herbs and olive oil. Use your imagination on herbs. But they need to be Mediterranean herbs, such as basil, theme, or mint. Do not ever use Asian or even Moroccan herbs especially coriander (my personal enemy). Red chillies are OK.


Open yourself a good red (cabernet merlot or cabernet sauvignon). Air for few minutes, smell half deeply, feel human, and try enjoying the first sip around and under your tongue. You need to be happy while cooking Italian. Start rolling a Luciano Pavarotti or Cecilia Bartoli loud in the background.

Ingredients (for two):

Organic penne pasta 250g.
Largish fresh green prawns, full thawed, preferably marinated overnight with herbs 250g.
2 soft biggish, juicy trust tomatoes.
1 table spoonful of tomato paste.
Half a glass of your red wine.
Good olive oil (abundant).
2 pieces of large firm garlics.
half lemon juice, optionally its skin rendered in fine stripes.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Start with tomato sauce. Crush tomatoes in food processor, add one crushed garlic, crush a bit more and stop. In a saucepan put abundant olive oil to cover the base, add tomato garlic mixture, add red wine, start with high heat, but don’t stop watching.

Meanwhile start cooking your penne in abundant salty boiled water. You must aim firmness but penne should be swollen at the end about double of its original size. This process should take about 15 minutes with organic good brand pasta (you must count after you put your pasta in and after boiling starts again).

If your tomato sauce started sizzling add tomato paste, evenly combine with sauce, and wait until the sauce starts sizzling again. Then reduce heat. Keep it simmering for half an hour at least, lid open. Always remember to keep an eye in the sauce (don’t leave your kitchen or start your second glass;) It should be simmered and saturated slowly reaching to a dark lusty color at the end but it shouldn’t be too dry. Stir often enough with love and passion. Keep an eye on tiny bubbles. Keep lava bubbles popping like in the mouth of Mount Vesuvius.

Start cooking your prawns in the last 10 minutes. In a saucepan put some olive oil, add the remaining garlic piece crushed, add lemon juice, keep stirring and heating this sauce in high for a few minutes. Join prawns to the sauce, keep the heat high and keep stirring until lots of maddening fumes turn up (prawns got angry;) Reduce heat, cover the lid and leave it like that for another 5 minutes. Cook your prawns with their own steam (don't waste ocean's natural iodine flavour). But don’t overcook them otherwise they’ll be too firm.

Drain your pasta well (never ever run cold water through it, horrible Turkish tradition). Oil the base of a pan, put and stir your pasta back into the pan.

Make sure you topped up your and your partners’ glasses with red.

On beautiful white plates put some pasta. In the middle put about 2-3 full tablespoonful of tomato sauce. Finally pour over prawns and about a spoonful of juicy lemon flavored prawn sauce. Salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Finally I like stirring pasta with sauce thoroughly before eating (my wife doesn’t), the choice is yours.

Mamma mia! Buon appetito!