Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Green and Hot Penne ( Pasta quills with tuna and courgettes)

It was meant to be a blog mainly about the food of Italy. Instead, it's turning out to be a box of Turkish Delight. When I open it, out comes the smell of rose water and, when I pick up a sweet, I can't help licking my fingers and tasting magic fairy dust... Scented icing sugar melts in my mouth and a window suddenly opens... this time onto a delicious plate of pasta!
This recipe is one I kind of "created," I like to think, though, really,It is a variation on a family favourite, which uses mozzarella, and Pecorino cheese, instead of Cheddar. I find that Cheddar makes this dish really creamy and more interesting. In Italy, I make this recipe using a cheese they call "formaggio filante" which is ideal, as it is a cross between mozzarella and Cheddar.

The fresh, deliciously mild courgette becomes "sexy", when mingled with the heat of the chilli and the black pepper and the fragrance of the tuna and the garlic. The final sprinkling of cheese really is a "Gran Finale" complete with red chilli fireworks!

(Serves 4)
6-8 Tbsp Extra Vergin Olive Oil
3 Garlic cloves (finely chopped)
2 Courgettes (zucchine) grated
1 Large can of tuna in brine (or olive oil, if preferred... this has a much better flavour!)
1 Fresh red chilli pepper, finely sliced
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese, or even Cheddar, to taste (Cheddar makes the dish much creamier-I think)
Freshly milled black pepper
Small bunch of fresh flat leaved parsley
400 Grams Penne (Pasta Quills)
Before you start making the sauce, fill a large pan with water, for your pasta. It will come to boiling point while you make the sauce.
In another pan or a wok, heat the olive oil. When really hot, add the garlic, and half of the thinly sliced chilli pepper.

 Stir and watch for a couple of minutes, until the garlic turns a lovely golden colour. Drain the tuna,pour into the oil and chilli mixture together with the grated courgettes. Keep the heat quite high, as this helps the flavours mingle and develop.
By now your kitchen should be filled with the fiery and at the same time delicate fragrance of garlic, chillies and tuna waltzing together. Delicious!
Cook for a further 5 minutes, as you don't want to reduce your zucchine (that is courgette in Italian!) to a puree. Make sure they stay a beautiful shade of green, and almost translucent, like jade. Taste, add salt and some black pepper and set aside (off the heat, of course.)
By now the water should be boiling, in the other pan. Add your pasta and some sea salt, stir and leave to cook until "Al dente", firm, shiny and still golden in colour. Do not overcook pasta. There's nothing as unpalatable as "pasta scotta" (overcooked pasta.)
There are three things most Italians would not eat: Brussels sprouts, boiled carrots and overcooked pasta! True!
Now, let's finish off the dish. When your pasta is cooked, drain it, then pour into the pan where the sauce was made. Reserve a small amount of the cooking liquid. Mix all the ingredients with TLC, add the cheese (as much as you like) the rest of the finely sliced chillies, lots of black pepper and it's ready.
Should the end product be too dry, add some of the cooking liquid you reserved, garnish with freshly chopped garlic and parsley, and serve with another sprinkling of cheese. Fantastic!

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