Val likes to clean out the fridge when I’m gone. So it was not really surprising that when I arrived home hungry after my long trip to Italy, I found only a few tidbits in the kitchen–just a cup of slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, a little bread, a chunk of cheese, a bit of wilted parsley and some imported spaghettini. Fortunately, in my suitcase I had packed a bottle of newly pressed extra virgin olive oil from a farm in Umbria, a bottle of “Colatura di Alici” ( a subtle almost buttery tasting anchovy extract) and a bottle of Sicilian capers from a specialty food store I visited in Rome. I was going to save these expensive treats for a special occasion, but I realized there was no time like the present. I was already missing Rome and feeling as tired as the parsley. And so I did what any good Italian would do. I made do. And I prepared everything with care. Frankly, I was a little shocked the pasta dish that I made up as I went along turned out so well. I loved it so much that I wanted to write it down and share it with you. Sometimes a humble meal made with the right attitude and just a few excellent ingredients is all you need to satisfy your soul.
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil,
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup Reggiano Parmesan
- 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 cup of slow roasted cherry tomatoes in olive oil
- 2 teaspoons "Colatura di Alici" (anchovy extract)
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Kosher salt for pasta water
- 1/2 pound of spaghettini
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (The water should taste like the sea).
- Meanwhile, add the oil to a 12 inch skillet, add the slivered garlic and turn the heat up to medium low. When the garlic is golden brown, remove the garlic to a paper towel to drain. Turn up the heat to medium and add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes. Stir until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden brown. Remove breadcrumbs with a slotted spoon and place in a medium bowl.
- Wipe out the skillet and make sure there are no burnt crumbs left in the pan. Rewarm the clean pan and add the capers, slow roasted cherry tomatoes and accompanying olive oil. When tomatoes have warmed through, remove from heat.
- Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of salted starchy pasta water and drain the pasta. Immediately return the pasta to the pan of warm tomatoes and capers, turn on the heat to medium, add 3-4 tablespoons of salted pasta water and finish cooking the pasta. When pasta is done, remove from heat. Add breadcrumbs, toasted garlic, grated parmesan and a drizzle of anchovy extract. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
- You can use fresh cherry tomatoes for this dish, but it's better with slow roasted tomatoes. To roast cherry tomatoes, slice 10-12 of them in half, place on pan lined with tinfoil. Sprinkle tomatoes with a little sugar, salt, and olive oil. Roast in a 250 degree oven for 60 -75 minutes. Scrape roasted tomatoes into a small condiment jar and barely cover with extra virgin olive oil.
- If you don't have anchovy extract, you can leave it out or add an anchovy filet to the skillet and dissolve before you add the roasted tomatoes.