Sunday, January 1, 2012

St John's Eve Pasta

As you can see, there has been something of a blog post backlog of late.  I only managed a paltry 11 posts in December (which I believe is a new all-time low).  Work was insane and with the holidays and everything it was hard to find the time.  So I am now on a pace to post 4 recipes in one day, some of which we made yesterday or Friday and some of which we made today.  This pasta for instance was today's lunch.  For some reason I have been wanting to make this recipe for a long time.  I'm not sure what drew me to the recipe - it's a fairly basic recipe with tomato sauce and an anchovy-breadcrumb-almond topping.  Actually, I know exactly what drew me to this recipe - it's a Batali.  The man knows his pasta.  When I decided that I wanted pasta for lunch I immediately thought of this recipe.  The name just sounds festive, which seemed appropriate for New Year's Day.  According to my research the dish is traditionally eaten on June 24 - St. John's Eve, but since when has tradition ever stopped me?

Sometimes a single element really makes a dish.  In this case, the anchovy-breadcrumb-almond topping was it.  If gave the dish amazing texture and a lot of salty, nutty flavor.  I know that the process of toasting the breadcrumbs and almonds is a little tiresome, but the end result is more than worth it.  Without the breadcrumb mixture I'm sure the pasta would have been fine (if perhaps a little boring), but with the topping it was a total revelation.  I had no idea that almonds and pasta went together so well. 

Recipe after the jump!

St John's Eve Pasta
Molto Italiano
By Mario Batali

3/4 cups sliced blanched almonds
1/2 cup evoo
2 cup fresh bread crumbs
4 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed, and chopped
1 onion finely, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
1 pound lasagnette or pappardelle

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons of salt.

Meanwhile, in a 10-inch sauté pan, gently toast the almonds in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat until golden brown.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the almonds to a plate. In the oil remaining in the pan, toast the bread crumbs, stirring, until golden brown and crisp. Combine the bread crumbs and almonds in a small bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons more olive to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the anchovies and crush them into the oil with a fork. Add the anchovies and oil to the bread crumb mixture and season with lots of black pepper. Set aside.

Add the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, add the onion and garlic, and coo gently until softened but not browned.  Add the tomato sauce, being to a brisk simmer, and cook until the sauce has reduced by one-third. Add the basil, remove from the heat, and set aside.

Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain the past well, and toss into the pan with the sauce. Add half of the bread crumb mixture and toss to mix well.

Transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl. Sprinkle the remaining bread crumb mixture over the top, and serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Molto Italiano
By Mario Batali
(makes 4 cups)
1/4 cup evoo
1 Spanish onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 28-oz cans peeled whole tomatoes (use San Marzano if you can find them)
kosher salt
In a 3 quart saucepan, heat the evoo over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until softened and light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the thyme and carrot and cook until carrot is very soft, about 5 minutes more.  Using your hands, crush the tomatoes and add them along with their juices.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often, then lower to simmer.  Simmer until the sauce is as thick as cream of wheat/grits, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt to taste.
(**This sauce lasts up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer)

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