Thursday, January 25, 2007

Penne with Balsamic Vinegar and Tomatoes

This recipe is from Marcella's Italian Kitchen. It's not Marcella Hazan's most well-known book, but it is excellent, one of my favorites, and a good addition to your collection.

I'm not fond of balsamic vinegar in salad dressing, but used as a flavor enhancer, as it is here, it can add tremendous, almost elusive, depths of flavor. This dish is really different and wonderful.

If you happen to have very high quality, aged balsamic vinegar, now is the time to use it. I got this vinegar

from DiPalo's at 200 Grand Street, between Mulberry and Mott, a treasure trove of Italian food. If you live in NYC or are visiting, this is definitely worth a visit. If you can't get there, check out their website, DiPalo Selects.

Marie DiPalo with balsamic vinegar and farro

Penne with Balsamic Vinegar and Tomatoes

Adapted from Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan

Serves 4

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 or 4 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
2 springs fresh rosemary, about 4 to 6 inches long, or 2-1/2 teaspoons dried leaves, chopped
2 14-ounce cans of Italian peeled plum tomatoes or 1 cup of plain homemade tomato sauce
Black pepper
1 pound penne, cooked in boiling, salted water until very firm to the bite
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Put 2 cups of whole tomatoes, exclusive of their juice, in a bowl. Using your hands, break up the tomatoes. Some juice will come out of the tomatoes. You want to use that juice (as opposed to the juice left behind in the can).

Put the olive oil and garlic into a saute pan or saucier large enough to hold the sauce and the pound of cooked penne. If you're using fresh rosemary, add it now.

Turn the heat under the pan to medium. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, add the ingredients from the bowl of tomatoes, and salt to taste. If you are using dried rosemary, which you have chopped, add it now.

Cook the sauce until the oil separates from the tomatoes. This usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on the liquidity of the tomatoes you start with. Turn off the heat.

While you are making the sauce, you want to cook the penne in lots of boiling salted water timing it so it is al dente - very firm to the bite - at the same time the sauce is done. Drain the penne, and transfer it immediately to the pan containing the sauce.

Turn the heat back on to very low, and toss the pasta with the sauce for about 1 minute.

Turn off the heat again, and make a well in the middle of the pasta. Pour the vinegar into the well, draw the pasta through the sauce, and mix for a few seconds until it's well coated. Add some black pepper and mix again.

Serve at once.

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