Those folks at America's Test Kitchen are pretty smart, and they have a lot of time to get things right. Trial and error correction at its best. The idea for this recipe is a one pot meal, less cleanup, less fuss, and quick results. Unfortunately we hardly ever are in front of the TV when they broadcast their show, but this year with the financial collapse and the Big Pharma downsizing and the tanking of the economy, not even we were immune to the structural reformatting of our routine, including weekday afternoon TV time that was never before possible. Ms_ani caught this by chance and immediately saw its potential and we went into action soon after.
The first time we did this, we followed the instructions more literally for a half recipe roughly (since we were only two stomachs for this trial), using about half our half kilo De Cecco candele spezzate ("broken candles") that we hand carried back to Philly from Pescara, Italy from the company store at the nearby De Cecco headquarters, gifted to us by Fede's mom Luisa from a friend who works there. For some time we had no idea what we would do with these large pasta tubes, "supersized ziti," a sort of size compromise between ziti and cannelloni, especially since we had some foot long candele in the cupboard for years awaiting a dream of the Napolitano pasta dish "la Genovese" that never got realized. Maybe they are still there, in which case we will have to dig them out and break them up for the next time we do this dish.
The second time we did this we realized that the remaining "half" of the candele spezzate was a bit too little for this dish, so we pulled out some Trader Giotto "trottole" (spinning tops) made by a family business in Vinci near Florence which a web search showed had recently been bought out by a large American dry pasta company, unimaginatively called American Italian Pasta Company, the largest dry pasta company in the USA, one we had never heard of even though it's listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Trottole look like long macaroni tied in a weirdly shaped knot. Perfectionists might note that mixing pasta shapes in the same boiling pot is generally not a good idea in principle because of different cooking times, but limp noodle quality for the candele/supersized ziti goes well with this recipe so no problem. Large diameter rigatoni would also work here, even cannelloni, say cut in half width-wise (too bad they don't cut well). Paccheri are a better fit if they are available: much wider diameter than rigatoni, sort of already shortened cannelloni.
Since we find it difficult not to mess with recipes once we have tried them, on our second run through we decided to do a slight amatriciana variation with some of the pancetta we had on hand. The original thought was to do an eggplant tomato sauce with the pancetta merged into the skillet recipe, but the eggplant was discolored when we opened it up so that idea got shelved and the eggplant tossed. Amatriciana sauce goes with smaller tube pasta (bucatini), and has red pepper flakes and onion, and tomatoes, and grated cheese, usually pecorino romano. So detouring a bit in that direction seemed natural.
No matter how you do the dish, this is serious comfort food. Check out the mouth watering photos. Look for the usual "Illustrations available" link at the end of the notes. Of course illustrations are available, we photograph just about every food item we make these days. Digital photography is one of the great civilization changing inventions. Okay, maybe not.
|original recipe||our amatriciana variation|
|1 T olive oil||1 T olive oil|
|6 garlic cloves, minced||2oz pancetta (one 1/4 inch slab), chopped finely|
|1 onion, chopped finely|
|6 garlic cloves, minced|
|1/4 t red pepper flakes||1/4 t red pepper flakes|
|1/2 t salt and freshly ground black pepper||freshly ground black pepper|
|1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes||1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or plum tomatoes food milled|
|1/2 t salt||1/2 t salt|
|3 c water||3 c water|
|12 oz ziti (3.75 c)||12 oz ziti (3.75 c) or short candele or rigatoni|
|1/2 c heavy cream||1/2 c half and half|
|1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano||1/3 c freshly grated parmigiano|
|1/3 c freshly ground pecorino romano|
|1/4 c minced fresh basil leaves||1/4 c minced fresh basil leaves|
|1 c shredded mozzarella cheese||1 c shredded mozzarella cheese (low fat, cheap)|