Last month, we learned to cook pasta the Italian way, at a cooking party to benefit our school. Our hostesses, Lucia and Susanna, from La Bottega in Menlo Park, created a thoughtful menu highlighting three pasta dishes from the north, center and south of Italy – Linguine al Pesto, Bucatini Casio e Pepe, and Caserecce alla Puttanesca. Served with wine, it was a lovely party.
Linguine al Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 pound linguine pasta
Place garlic cloves and pine nuts in food processor and blend while slowly adding the olive oil and basil leaves. Process basil pesto until it forms a thick, smooth paste.
In a large stock pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, wait until it boils again, and then cook linguine until pasta is just done. Remove 1 cup of cooking water, set aside. Drain pasta and transfer to a bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon salt and grated Parmigiano to basil pesto, and toss with hot pasta. If pasta is dry, add a little of the reserved liquid. Serve.
Bucatini cacio e pepe
- 1 pound bucatini pasta (to be truly Roman you need bucatini, but feel free to use spaghetti if that is what is available)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (packed) freshly grated Pecorino cheese
- Heaps of fresh ground black pepper
In a large stock pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, wait until it boils again, and then cook bucatini until pasta is just done.
While the pasta cooks, put Pecorino cheese along with a few tablespoons hot water from the boiling pasta into a blender, and blend until cheese is creamy. This is best done slowly and by spoonfuls to ensure you get the right consistency. When creamy, add the pepper. Yes, lots of pepper – un vero Romano would use a tablespoon.
Drain the pasta, and transfer to a bowl. Quickly pour the olive oil over the top, then mix, mix, mix to blend the cheese, pepper and oil. Serve.
Casereccie alla puttanesca
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 28 ounce can Italian tomatoes with juice
- Italian parsley
- 1 pound Casarecce pasta
- 2 tablespoons capers in salt
- 10 to 15 Gaeta olives, pitted and halved (Kalamata are ok too)
Rinse capers well to remove salt. In a skillet, heat olive oil with garlic and a few sprigs parsley – cook until garlic is golden brown. Remove garlic and parsley and discard. Add olives, capers, tomatoes and salt to taste. Cook uncovered until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
In a large stock pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, wait until it boils again, and then cook Casarecce until pasta is just done.
Drain pasta and pour into serving bowl. Pour sauce over the pasta and toss gently. Sprinkle with chopped, fresh parsley. Serve.