Spaghetti in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe

I'm not a professional cook and I always appreciate learning something new. Recently, I posted a recipe for cacio e pepe, and one of the readers, Julio, told me I wasn't making it the right way. I decided to follow Julio's instructions on how to cook the spaghetti. The preparation was very simple: the pasta was cooked al dente and grated cheese and pasta water were added. I sprinkled a little freshly cracked pepper. To add a little twist, this time I topped the pasta with a spicy tomato and eggplant sauce.

The results were spectacular. Thank you so much, Julio for your much needed piece of advice! The sauce is optional but I think it makes a complete meal, and adds a little heat that lingers plus a kick just at the end. Perfecto!

Ingredients

Yields: 6 servings

1 (16-ounce) package fresh spaghetti pasta, store-bought
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, cut into thirds
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 large eggplant
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1-½ teaspoons red chili flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon sweet Mesquite seasoning, store-bought
1-½ cups Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
2 teaspoons blend of pink, green and black peppercorns, freshly cracked
3 tablespoons basil, chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped


Directions

Prepping the eggplants:

Trim the eggplant. Cut it in half lengthwise and then into ½-inch-thick slices. Layer a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet (to collect the excess moisture). Sprinkle with Kosher salt and let sit for about 20 minutes. Pat dry using paper towels and dice.

Making the spicy tomato sauce:

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Transfer to a plate. Add the shallots and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the shallot from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Transfer to a plate.

Add more oil if necessary. Add the eggplant first, cook for about 5 minutes until softened, then add the diced tomatoes. Season with salt, sweet Mesquite seasoning and red chili flakes. Add the shallots, garlic and tomato sauce. Lower the heat and let the flavors blend, stirring frequently. Add basil and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Cover and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Boiling the pasta:

Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way it's cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 3-4 minutes total until the pasta floats to the surface. Salt the water half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and it will be more tender) and keep gently stirring every now and then so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom. When the pasta is cooked (but still in shape and firm), reserve about 1-½ cups of pasta water and drain the pasta (do NOT rinse). Transfer to a large bowl.

Assembly time:

Immediately add Pecorino cheese to the hot pasta. Add 1 cup to 1-½ cups of pasta water and toss well until the pasta is creamy. Sprinkle with freshly cracked pepper. Transfer to a platter.

Top with the warm spicy tomato-eggplant sauce.

Serve immediately.

Sprinkle with more Pecorino cheese and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Bon appétit!


Tips

I finely chop a chunk of Pecorino and place the pieces in a mini food processor to obtain Pecorino powder.

You can find fresh pasta at the Pasta Market. The address is 4546 El Camino Real, Los Altos, California. Or you could simply use dry pasta.

I used a store-bought sweet Mesquite seasoning from Costco. You could add any blend of seasonings such as paprika or more red chili powder.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on February 17, 2011.


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