It’s Pasta Night!

Dinner was good and simple tonight, and made even better by Andre Ethier’s walk-off hit!  Pasta! Baseball!  What else could I ask for!??!

Penne with Chicken Sausage and Peppers in Simple Tomato Sauce

Make sure to check out the slideshow at the end of the post, it’s silly and boring and cool!

Ryan and I eat a lot of Italian food.  In part because the ingredients are simple, good, and really affordable.

The first dinner Ryan ever made me was in my little studio dormitory on 2nd Street and Bowery at NYU.  He made me whole-wheat linguini with ground turkey breast, zucchini, bell peppers, baby mushrooms, and onions, all warmed up and cooked in marinara.  Now, this was good!  Ryan’s parents make it to sneak veggies into pasta, and super-lean ground turkey really benefits from all that tomato sauce.  I’d take this meal again in a heartbeat, sitting on the floor with my boyfriend

Ryan Cooks Me Pasta, 2008

of four days, using a plastic storage bin with a dish rag on top as a table, barely able to eat a thing because my twelve-cent-neon-green-made-in-China-plastic fork was failing me, and the butterflies in my stomach couldn’t be hushed.

But Ryan and I haven’t made that dinner in a while.  Here are some rants on the changes to our Italian cooking in the past couple of years:

  1. I am now absolutely, 100% okay with refined flour!  It is not the devil, it’s damn excellent!  I don’t mind whole-wheat pasta; in fact, If I were cooking for one, I’d probably use it.  I throw it in soups and when I make myself pasta salads because it really has such an excellent, nutty taste and holds up really well to spices and zesty dressings.  Another thing that’s really great about 100% whole-wheat pasta is its nutritional profile—7 grams of protein and 5 grams  of fiber per the standard 2-ounce serving.  To be fair, there’s also 7 grams of protein in the traditional penne pasta, too, but only 2 grams of fiber.  We buy all of our pasta at Whole Foods.  For everyone who says Whole Foods is unaffordable, I challenge him/her to find comparable value and quality of everyday kitchen essentials anywhere else.  You can get a pound of organic whole wheat pasta at Whole Foods for under two dollars, and there’s only one ingredient on the label: 100% Organic Durum Whole Wheat Flour, made in Italy.  I’ll definitely toot Whole Foods’ horn more extensively in another post, as Ryan and I do almost all of our shopping there and managed to move to California with the savings.  This was a huge, huge, digression.  The point is, I choose whole grains more often than I do not, but let’s get real: plain pasta rocks.  Also, I’ve been that girl, who doesn’t eat refined flours and blah, blah, blah, and I wish somebody had pulled me aside and slapped me, saying: “Who the &*#! do you think you are!?”
  2. I’ve tried and tried with jarred tomato sauces, with different degrees of luck.  The thing is, I can’t throw down 10 bucks for a solid jar of pasta sauce.  I really like Rao’s Roasted Eggplant Sauce but it’s stupidly expensive so I make my Mommy cook it for me when I’m in Miami.  The Whole Foods sauce is okay.  I actually like the Trader Joe’s Organic Marinara, and it’s around 2 bucks, but I never actually shop there, even though it’s definitely an option now that I’m in Los Angeles.  Memories of TJ’s in Union Square still haunt me–seriously, one has to plan his/her week around shopping there.

    San Marzano Tomatoes

    Anyway, we began to experiment with canned tomatoes, from the Whole Foods brands, to the Muir Glen Organics (about which many people rave), but ultimately, the best wins:  San Marzano tomatoes.  That’s it.  Simple as can be.  They are amazing and all you need, so sweet and bright and outshined only by prime, fresh-from-the-market tomatoes. Now, technically, to be all fancy-schmany certified, San Marzano tomatoes must be grown in their namesake region in Italy.  But I can’t afford that, so we buy the same variety of tomatoes that are grown in the USA.  This sounds lame, but it means a 28-ounce jar of tomatoes for under four dollars, and they are damn, damn good.  Plus, I saw Tyler Florence use them in his Ultimate Rigatoni, Eggplant and Sausage show, so either he’s an idiot who doesn’t look at the ingredients with which his crew stocks his pantry, or he doesn’t care, either!

    Who Moved My Cheese?

  3. One thing we don’t skimp on is cheese. Spend the money on real Parmigiano-Reggiano, use a little, and enjoy yourself.  Think about how the pasta at the bottom of your bowl cost about, what, thirty cents, and indulge.

Okay.  I said way too much.

Let’s get to the fun part, where you don’t have to read!  Yay!  Dinner!

Check out the slideshow!  Woo!  I’m off.  Turkey sandwich and job hunting and gym/run awaits.  Then, Ryan is going out to dinner so I’m gonna trash the kitchen!

7 Responses to “It’s Pasta Night!”
  1. Rosine says:

    Okay…that looks really good. You’re cooking next time we come to visit!

  2. Rosine says:

    Okay…that looks really great. You’re cooking when we come to visit again!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] the leftover crushed tomatoes, you can prepare a little bit of simple sauce to serve with pasta as a side dish. Chop […]

  2. […] get a big old can of diced San Marzanos and use them all, because I love them, and they are rich and delightful and make the best broth.  You could use half a can if that makes […]

  3. […] and I make them a little differently than my Mom does, because we are San Marzano tomato snobs and stick with our simple tomato sauce approach, because it works for us.  In honor of my mother, […]

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