Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato Spaghetti

Although I spent last summer practically living within the confines of my in-laws' longstanding Italian restaurant, Luciano's, my most memorable meal was surprisingly not eaten in that delectable locale.  Gavin's father Luciano, a chef originally hailing from Bologna, would whip up some unforgettable pasta dishes at home on warm Reno summer nights.  Scavenging through the kitchen, I would watch him make magic from simple, easy-to-obtain ingredients and little effort.  One of my all-time favorites was when he would add a few scoops of imported sun-dried tomato paste and some extra virgin olive oil to hot spaghetti, stir vigorously, and bombastically toss fresh Parmesan over the steaming pile.  We would enjoy our heaps of pasta with an unbeatable ambiance to boot.  I can still vividly picture the mild summer nights on their verdant back patio, sitting under a gnarled apple tree with the wet noses of their Samoyed pups pressed up against our feet. 

When we purchased a new high-speed blender a few months ago, I immediately set upon recreating Luciano's dish.  If you would like to do the same, here are some instructions:

Fill a large pot with water cleared of micro-organisms.  Add several pinches of salt and heat to a boil.

While the water is heating, prepare your sauce.  You'll need a jar of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (preferably imported from some balmy, Mediterranean coastline), fresh cloves of garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil.  Add about a cup of the sun-dried tomatoes, four peeled garlic cloves (add at your own discretion), and a tablespoon of the oil to your high-speed blender or food processor.

Blend it all together until it becomes a paste.  If the texture looks too dry, be liberal with the oil.  Simultaneously (you have two arms for a reason), chop three juicy, fresh Roma tomatoes and set them aside for the time being.

Once your water has boiled, add one package of spaghetti.  I usually use Barilla or DeCecco (solid brands found in most supermarkets around this blue world), but any package of noodles should suffice.  Although a watched pot rarely boils, keep an eye on the process.  In only a few minutes, you should have perfectly al dente noodles.

When your spaghetti is cooked, pull the noodles from their watery grave, drain, and put them back in the pot.  Next add your home-made sauce and fresh tomatoes.  Stir well to spread the flavor and heat up the sauces.  If your pesto is too clumpy - again add a bit more oil.  (If you are using quality olive oil there is no reason to be bashful!)

Once combined and mingled, you are ready to plate up.  Add fresh Parmesan cheese and serve alongside an eclectic, green salad tossed with balsamic and olive oil.  Remember: splurging a bit for better and fresher ingredients will bring your pasta to new heights.  Eschew those jars of pre-made marinara sauce and start getting creative!

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