The first half of my life was very much influenced by my Italian-American surroundings … my paternal relatives, my Brooklyn and Staten Island neighborhoods, and my extended family and friends.
That meant I grew up eating all the traditional “Italian” foods of that era.
It was rather simple. We didn’t do cream sauces, like Alfredo or Bechamel. Pasta was always served with a sauce made with canned tomatoes, tomato paste and a lot of ‘gravy’ meats.
In more recent years, however, as I broadened my knowledge of ingredients, techniques and lighter fare, I chose my own style of Italian cooking.
And the funny thing is it’s more Italian than what I grew up on!
I no longer use canned tomatoes — only fresh tomatoes that have been roasted or sautéed. In fact, my pantry is can-free these days.
Oh, I continue to enjoy the occasional “Sunday Sauce” with all the gravy meats when I’m invited to family dinner elsewhere, but it’s not something I make at home anymore — or even order in restaurants.
This is a perfect example of a ‘throw together’ but totally satisfying pasta dish where the “sauce” was made with sautéed red lentils, grape tomatoes, onion, leek, garlic, and dry seasonings. It was cooked down first with olive oil, then white wine and, lastly, chicken broth.
I thought about adding a little anchovy (or paste) to the base — or perhaps a few sprinkles of crumbled bacon for saltiness, both of which I’ve done before. But, in the end, I decided to keep it vegetarian and topped the dish with toasted chopped walnuts and freshly grated Italian cheese.
A New Pasta
I love that Italian imports are flooding the shelves of markets and Ronzoni is no longer the only choice (not that I’m dissing it). I found this new shape by Alma called Trottole (a large, fat, short corkscrew) in my local Publix supermarket. It cooked perfectly in 12 minutes.
Note: There are 142 non-traditional pasta dishes on FOODalogue which are accessible via the search engine.