I have a total cookbook crush on The Silver Spoon: Pasta. It’s a $40 cookbook, translated from the original Italian, in which every recipe involves pasta. Because it is $40, I love it from afar, often stopping to pet it or memorize recipes from it when I’m at the bookstore, and to whisper, “Someday, mi amor! Someday!” into its slick, picture-laden pages.
Il ragazzo and I have been trying a few of the shortest, easiest to remember recipes recently. They haven’t disappointed, though they have reminded me of the stark difference between how Americans see pasta and how Italians see pasta. Americans see it as a meal in and of itself, and therefore stack ingredients into our dishes accordingly. In Italy, pasta was always il primo piatto, the thing that came first. Sure, it packed a good, filling punch, but it wasn’t the centerpiece of the meal — that was reserved for the fish or meat that came in the second course. Beyond that, the American concept of Italian food is wildly over spiced — please, U.S.A., put down the oregano. Tomatoes are fine on their own.
The recipes in this book are mostly composed of simple pasta recipes — pasta, a vegetable, a dash of cream. Italian first course pasta. Not the Garlic Apricot Chicken with Pesto that the Americanized palate is used to. (I include myself here).
Anyway, Monday night after work I made Bucatini Con Salsa Ai Peperoni — Bucatini with Bell Pepper Sauce. I haven’t actually seen bucatini since I was in Italy — it’s a long pasta, like spaghetti except twice as thick, because it’s also hollow. I substituted thin spaghetti, because that was what I had on hand.
Easy, right? Only I hit some snags. First: the store had only the lamest looking bell peppers imaginable, and one I brought home had mold inside. So we were down 1/3 of our peppers. Second, my tiny food processor made what I’d call pepper confetti, not really a pepper puree. I’d imagine the actual sauce is supposed to be a bit creamier, and to have a little more liquid to it that the bucatini can drink up. Instead, there were clumps of pepper-mix hanging to one side and pasta leering at them from across the bowl, like 80s movie stars at a fake high school dance.
It was still good. I mean, it had heavy cream. Which brings me to an important quiz:
Do you consider cream:
- A luxury — only to be used on special occasions
- A death sentence — to be avoided at all costs!
- A condiment
Let me know in the comments. There’s no wrong answer, but some folks just won’t be invited to dinner.