(Bloomberg) – Editor’s Note: As we leave our home kitchens to dine more, the weekly Lunch Break column has evolved to highlight dishes from a variety of sources: a new or reopened restaurant; a person, a place or a recipe that makes the news; or, of course, a great cookbook.
Nowadays, when a luxury food like caviar is almost as ubiquitous as pasta, where is the pasta?
If the spaghetti and linguine strands are in Missy Robbins’ hands, they are in an enviable position. Robbins has been the queen of pasta in New York City and across the country since 2016, when she opened Lilia in Williamsburg and made her one of the city’s mighty dining halls.
While so many Americans continue to work from home, it’s hard to say “electric dining” with a straight face. Robbins therefore offers the alternative to the pandemic: the cookbook of power.
Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy’s Greatest Food, with Recipes, by Robbins and Talia Baiocchi (Ten Speed Press; Oct 26; $ 40) is a major volume on one of the world’s most beloved foods. The photo-studded book takes you along the Ligurian coastline to the ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites, then to sleepy and sunny Puglia before returning to the kitchen.
Robbins and Baiocchi come up with 100 recipes for pasta dishes from their travels, including recipes as obscure as culurgiones, the Sardinian potato-stuffed shapes that Robbins calls “Italy’s answer to pierogi” and the more familiar pasta. with Genoese pesto, which she prepares with fio e sardo, a lightly smoked pecorino. “There are a lot of recipes, and some are commitment, like agnoletti, but some are simple recipes. And there are so many subtle and important techniques hidden in there, ”says Baiocchi.
One of the simplest recipes in the book is bucatini with the traditional spicy tomato sauce, all’amatriciana. Oddly enough, this is a new recipe for Robbins. “As someone who’s been cooking Italian food for a while, I’ve never put a real version on a menu,” she says. “I felt like it was done.” (She also didn’t want to compete with the exceptional version of Lupa, which made it one of the most popular dishes in town in the 2000s.) For his recipe, Robbins made the controversial decision not to add d ‘onion or garlic in sauce, ingredients that invariably improve the taste of things.
“I kept coming back to this idea of simplicity. This is the philosophy of my cuisine; I’ve been going through things since I opened Lilia, ”explains the chef. When she tested the recipe, “I took it all out. I only left the guanciale and the pecorino. She tasted it and decided that “this is the essence of what amatriciana should be”.
Robbins’ recipe reminds you of just how satisfying a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce can be for the soul. The four ingredients that go into his amatriciana bring their big personality to the party, especially the guanciale, or dried pork jowl, which adds a meaty, powerful and funky touch to the sauce. Instead of cutting the guanciale into cubes, Robbins slices it so that the fatty meat melts into the sauce and infuses the flavor even more. With the warmth provided by the chili flakes, it’s a pasta that weaves its way past other pasta with tomato sauce and becomes your new favorite, and all within the 20 minutes it takes to make it.
The following recipe is adapted from Pasta, by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi.
Note from testers: Tomato passata is a filtered Italian tomato puree, available at stores such as Whole Foods. Do not try to substitute for ordinary canned tomato puree; it is not as uniformly smooth in texture and taste.
For 4 to 6 people
2 tablespoons olive oil 5½ oz guanciale, thinly sliced 2 cups tomato passata ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 1 lb to 1 lb, 6 oz bucatini⅓ cup pecorino romano, plus ¼ cup for the garnish
Heat a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and the guanciale and cook until the fat is melted and the pieces begin to brown but are not golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer a quarter of the slices to a paper towel-lined plate.
Reduce heat to low, add the tomato passata and chili flakes, and cook until the tomato rawness is cooked through and the flavors have melted, 8 to 10 minutes. You are not trying to reduce the sauce.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water. Add the bucatini and cook until just al dente, about 10 minutes. Using tongs or a pasta basket, transfer the pasta to the sauté pan. Add a drizzle of the pasta cooking water and mix 1 to 2 minutes to combine the pasta and the sauce.
Remove from heat and stir in cup of pecorino. If necessary, add a little pasta cooking water to loosen them. When the sauce is well incorporated, it will cling to the pasta and show a brilliant shine. Garnish with the remaining pecorino and the reserved guanciale, and serve.
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