Sunday, September 28, 2014

Real Italian Home Cooking

Italians as a habit and societal necessity put their best face forward. They call it "bella figura." It's the unspoken rule that keeps Italians from running to the supermarket in pajama pants and flip flops and makes sure every guest is treated as visiting royalty.
There are dishes you make for company and there are cozy one pot suppers you might eat with just the family at home  -- people with whom you can completely relax.
Way down in Pulgia, the heel of the boot, one of those simple dishes you'll never find on a restaurant menu or even as an invited guest in a friend's home combines potatoes and squash with spaghetti in a rustic, quick, comforting dinner.
I dress it up a little with olive oil, herbs, and chili peppers but even with just cheese, pasta water and pepper this dish is a quick meal favorite. To the salted water boiling for your spaghetti add two large handfuls of diced potatoes, after they boil along for 2 minutes add the spaghetti and diced zucchini. Cook according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti mixture. In the same pot -- I could do this in a skillet and make dinner even quicker but it's nice to have less dishes to wash -- heat a glug of olive oil with chopped garlic and crushed red pepper. As the garlic just starts to color add in the drained pasta with potatoes and squash, 2 TB (or more) each chopped parsley and basil, the reserved pasta water (as much as you need to make a bit of a sauce), and a large handful of grated parmesan (or pecorino which we prefer) cheese. Toss everything together for a minute or two and serve with a bit of grated cheese on top.
No, it's not fancy but with potatoes and tromboncino squash from our backyard garden it felt just right for just the two of us.

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