Twisty Pasta alla SomeOpera

Ok, so my dinner tonight was a take on “Penne alla Norma.” According to Martha (yes, we’re on a first name basis now), it was named after the Opera “Norma” by Vincenzo Bellini. He was from Sicily… and that’s where the original recipe came from.

However, upon looking at the price of fresh basil and finding that the only eggplant at the grocery store looked really wrinkled and sad, I decided something had to be changed. The plum tomatoes were also very expensive.

In other words, my grocery store sucks ass… but I was not going to let this derail my plans! No, I do not give up that easily. In fact, I rarely give up… it’s a strength/weakness/pathetic habit of mine.

I decided that squash was close enough to being eggplant. They’re the small little un-purple cousin of eggplant, anyway. I also decided that my dried basil would be a sufficient stand in for fresh basil (with less work, yaaaaaay!) and I’d get a mix of “vine ripened” and Roma tomatoes. (I cannot wait until tomatoes are more in season. RED TOMATOES ROCK MY SOCKS!)

Anyway, here’s my recipe: Twisty Pasta alla SomeOpera.

  • 1 pound of twisty pasta (I used fusilli, but anything would work… penne, for example)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or run through a garlic press
  • approximately 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (if I were making it just for me, I would have added more)
  • approximately 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 pounds green and/or yellow summer squash, cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes , cored and cut into chunks (I had Roma and “vine ripened,” as I mentioned before
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • a handful of dried basil (I tried to figure out what 1/4 cup would be), additional for serving
  • ricotta cheese, for serving
  1. Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water. Drain and return to pot.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and onions. Cook until onions are tender (approximately 5 minutes).
  3. Add eggplant to onion mixture, salt and pepper generously and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, until squash releases juices. Uncover and cook until tender (approximately 3 minutes more). Add a little water to the pan if it starts to brown too much.
  4. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, 1/4 cup of water and a tiny bit of basil to the skillet. Cook and stir until tender (another 5 minutes).
  5. Add sauce to pasta with the rest of the basil. Mix well, reheat if needed and serve. Garnish pasta with a spoonful of ricotta and a sprinkle of basil.

This should feed about 6 normally hungry people.

PS: I hate hate hate the way tomato paste smells.

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