Lockdown recipe: Arrabbiata pasta a.k.a red sauce pasta

The lockdown imposed across India and several other countries to fight off the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has given us a few hours every day to focus on the things we love. I have started cooking with love again, after what seems like a very long time, when all I did was cook for the sake of filling my tummy, without addressing the art and beauty of the combination of various ingredients that arouse the olfactory nerve.

Although not a new recipe for me, having been in love with pasta for years, I’d made both red and white sauce pasta numerous times. But the current situation called for some improvisations in my general cooking.

Today, I’m sharing the recipe for Fusilli all’ arrabbiata, with simple ingredients available at hand.
Not having the usual penne pasta (for this recipe) at home, I went ahead with fusilli.
Also, the lockdown prevented me from extensive grocery shopping, so I had to settle for processed cheese instead of parmesan; and rice bran oil instead of olive oil.

Ingredients (serves 1)

Parmesan cheese/processed cheese – grated
3-4 medium tomatoes – blanched and deseeded
Penne/Fusilli pasta – 100-150gm
Garlic – 3-4 cloves
Oregano
Red chilli flakes
Salt
Black pepper (crushed)
Olive oil/Rice oil/general white cooking oil
Butter

Method

  1. Start with the sauce, then halfway through it, boil the pasta.
  2. Make criss-cross slits at the bottom of each tomato and blanch them for barely a minute. Then remove them from the hot water and dip them in a bowl full of cold water, and leave for a minute.
  3. Take the tomatoes out, peel off the skin from the slits made at the bottom. Deseed and chop them up. Transfer the chopped pieces into a blender, with 2 crushed garlic cloves.
  4. Heat 1tbsp butter in a frying pan and add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, add 2 tbsp oil here, as well. Stir for 7 seconds, and add 2 tsp of red chilli flakes, stir for some time and add the blended tomato. Mix them well, and add salt to taste. You can also add half a teaspoon sugar to the sauce(optional).
  5. Now add the pasta to the same pot of hot water (which has now come to boil) where you blanched the tomatoes. Add 2 tsp oil, 2 tsp salt to the water and let the pasta cook for about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Once done, drain the pasta well, and store some of the cloudy water for the sauce. DO NOT wash the pasta.
  7. On the other pan, add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water, a 1 tbsp tomato ketchup, and keep stirring the sauce occasionally. Add 1 tsp oregano, and 1 tsp crushed black pepper to the simmering sauce, and allow it to thicken.
  8. Now, add the fusilli to the sauce, and gently toss the pan to spread the sauce evenly over the pasta. Add some grated cheese in the pan and gently toss it over. Do not cook the pasta in the sauce for more than a minute.
  9. Turn off the heat and scrape off the sides of the pan, and transfer the mouthwatering dish to a bowl/plate.
  10. Garnish with grated cheese, and your spicy red sauce pasta is ready to eat!

Things to note

  • Cook the entire dish in medium flame.
  • Cooking the pasta in the same water as the tomatoes and sometimes vegetables (if you choose to use some) helps save water and retains the nutritional value of the veggies in the pasta.
  • DO NOT wash the pasta after boiling them. Once it is done, simply turn off the heat, drain it, and keep aside some of the water which can be later added to the sauce for better flavour. Washing the pasta causes it to lose the starch coating, which will not allow the sauce to stick to it.
  • The trick of checking if your pasta is cooked to perfection is to see if it’s al dente. Just like you check with rice, by pressing onto a grain to see if it’s cooked all the way through, the process of checking pasta is somewhat similar. You have to check if the pasta has a firm bite to it(i.e. it should be slightly undercooked, you’ll be cooking it with the sauce again so it won’t be raw), only then you will drain it and immediately transfer it to the sauce. Getting the pasta soft already will ruin it as it is delicate, and upon turning it with the sauce it’ll break.
  • Sometimes people add red chilli powder to give the sauce a good red hue. But since the tomatoes I used were naturally red, I didn’t opt to do so.
  • DO NOT go overboard with salt in this recipe. Be very careful with the use of salt, since we are adding it at every step – while boiling the paste, and while making the sauce.
  • Ideally, Italians do not have a lot of sauce in the pasta, it is supposed to barely give a coating to the pasta and make it moist. But I loved my sauce and decided to use it entirely in the pasta.
Baby Groot is very happy to see my spicy red sauce pasta!

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