Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

Funny isn’t it.

You can get spaghetti  in the shops for next to nothing in the UK; as little as 50p for a supermarket own brand – but you get what you pay for of course.  A decent brand like De Cecco costs around £1.50.

Start delving into the stranger shapes and you could be paying twice that. Same ingredients, there or thereabouts, just a different form. I know, I know it’s all about economies of scale, but go with me on this.

I confess I’m a sucker for the more obscure pasta shapes, especially if it comes in rustic paper packaging and with nothing but Italian written on it. I’m a food importer’s dream. I must say decent pasta does make a difference – it has better bite – but I think there is a bit of a plateau, once you get to a certain price point. A bit like wine really.

Walking around town the other day I spied this bucatini: paper packaging. Check. English instructions? No. Check. Funky shape? Close enough. Check. Cost £4.95. Jeez…

Bucatini pastaAs you can see they’re thick hollow tubes, about the same thickness as Pici.bucatini pasta

I bought it anyway of course but now what to do with it? l had a recipe for bigoli in salsa from my prized Polpo recipe book that suggests bucatini as a nice alternative. The ‘salsa’ in question is mainly anchovy fillet though, so I wasn’t sure Helen would have shared my enthusiasm.

This recipes was the obvious answer in the end of course. It’s the Romanised and therefore more widely recognised version of the Amatrice dish that authentically calls for spaghetti, pecorino Amatriciano and cured pork jowl called Guanciale *closes Google tab* Pancetta is a worthy alternative it seems though thankfully. I’ll try and get the ‘original’ ingredients in the future but trying to emulate super-regional dishes in a different country will test even the best stocked delis.

If you can get a nice block of pancetta like this, it’s so much better than the ready cubed supermarket version. It’s no more expensive generally either.

One thing I did find is that the sauce, being made with dry white wine and tomatoes, turns out very sharp in flavour. Unpleasantly so for my personal taste. Maybe using the type of sweet fresh tomato you get in sun bathed Italy the results are different, but here in the UK? So, as much as it pains me with current clamp down on excessive  sugar, I had to add a teaspoon in. It’s still a tenth of what you’d find in a can of Coke though and it makes enough sauce for 4 so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep.

Oh and a word of warning: bucatini, being pretty thick, has a certain ‘spring’ to it. After eating the left overs for work in the office, I ended up looking like an extra in Reservoir Dogs.

Thankfully I had no meetings that day.

Serves 4

  • 300-400g bucatini pasta
  • Olive oil for frying. Not extra virgin, it’s a waste.
  • 1 can of plum tomatoes.
  • 1 Glass white wine
  • 1 red chilli
  • 200g pancetta
  • 1 onion
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar (or as you need it).
  • Pecorino (or parmesan) and extra virgin olive oil to serve.

Slice the pancetta into thick cubes and finely dice the onion.

Brown the pancetta in a medium sized frying pan. When crisp, turn the heat down and add the onion and chilli. Cook gently until softened but don’t colour it..

Pancetta onion chilli

Add the wine to the onion and pancetta and reduce to almost gone.

Finally, pour in the tomatoes and reduce.

While this is happening, start the pasta. 1l/35 fl oz salted water per 100g. It will take about 12 minutes. Better to have the sauce ready before the pasta.

The pasta sauce should be fairly thick when done. Season to taste with the sugar, salt and pepper.

If you can, drain the pasta just before it’s done and return to the pot –  keeping a few tbsp of water back. Add the sauce and reserved water and finish it off with the lid on. It’ll take on a bit more of flavour of the sauce.

Serve it with pecorino, or parmesan if not, black pepper and a quick drizzle of  extra virgin olive oil.

Pecorino cheese

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

 

 

 

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Chargrilled Sardines with Orange and Fennel Salad

Chargrilled sardines orange and fennel salad

I know many of you have been just dying to know what my favourite fish is. Well, thanks for asking and the answer is sardines.

And by sardines I mean the proper ones, caught fresh from the sea, filleted and cooked on a chargrill or over hot coals with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt. There is nothing better in my view, but then I do have a habit of changing my mind depending on how much I enjoyed the LAST fish dish I ate.

But no, I stand firm. It’s sardines and by extension (literally) pilchards*.

Sardine fillets

*Oh, and maybe mackerel.

I managed to get hold of some the other week and being such a lovely evening, we got the charcoal going and put this together. I’m determined to get my wife to enjoy fennel (I’ve given up with lamb and I’m onto the next project) so keep buying it and introducing it bit by bit to dinners.

I think I really did push the boat out here though by serving the sardines with and orange and fennel salad but thankfully it went down a storm.

Orange, fennel and oily fish is such a good combination and perfect for a summers evening with a chilled white wine, or even an ice cold beer straight from the fridge.  It’s what summer is all about for me. This, and despairing at sporting events of course.

Serves 2:

  • 4-6 Fresh-as-you-can-get sardines. Filleted or un-filleted, its up to you
  • Salt
  • Oil to brush

For the salad:

  • 1 Large orange
  • 1  fennel bulb
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 sweet pointed red pepper, roasted or not.
  • 1/2 a large red onion
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Good balsamic vinegar
  • Salt

Start by lighting your barbecue and getting the coals nice and ashy. I use one of those chimney starters – a Godsend.

Meanwhile, get the salad ready:

You can roast the red peppers, to make them even sweeter, but I left them as they were for a bit of extra crunch.

Slice all the ingredients horizontally so that they separate into rings.

IMG_7529-imp

Slice the orange peel away, removing the white pith as you do so.

Arrange it neatly on a plate and do the fish…..

Brush the fish skin with oil but make sure the griddle of the barbecue is very hot – the sardines will be far less likely to stick. Grill skin side down directly over the coals. Sprinkle the top with sea salt.

Put the lid on the barbecue if you have one, to cook the fish through, it will take just a couple of minutes. Oily fish is a a bit more forgiving to being left on the heat a little too long but don’t push it. I don’t bother to flip them as it often ends in tears.

Grilled sardines

Gently lift them off the grill with a large spatula and keep warm; either on the cooler side of the barbecue or in a warm oven.

Dress the salad with the olive oil and balsamic and season with a little salt. Lay the fillets on top and sprinkle with parsley.

Now where’s that beer…..

Chargrilled sardines orange and fennel salad

Salmon, Roast Peppers, Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Oil

 Salmon, chickpeas, basil oil, roast peppers

We recently went over to Barcelona for a long weekend with friends and loved it, as does everyone that visits it seems. It’s really is a great city. I’ll be writing a little more about it later, but like most of you, I do tend to get that temporary post-holiday pining and food seems to most immediate and accessible ‘fix’.

So, dinner in the Food Frankly household started to develop a distinct Catalan accent last week. This dish started out as a typical fridge raiding midweek dinner but I actually realised that, once I’d finished, this one might be worth sharing. My camera was  sat in the office throughout so I only got a couple of ‘after’ shots, but still…

The salmon and prawns were fresh but the chickpeas were canned. I prefer cooking dried ones, but by roasting them in spices and seasoning for a few minutes, as I did here, they lose some of the water than makes them a little too soft. Anyway, normally I’m not nearly organised enough to have them soaking the day before so this is a good alternative. I baked them gently in some salt, pepper, smoked paprika (only a little) and ground chilli.

Roasting the peppers (another Spanish influence) apart from being delicious, is a great way to use up old produce that’s started to wrinkle a bit. I do however, apologise for the Chorizo, I know it’s an obvious one, but it’s always in the fridge. Anyway, the garlic/paprika oil it releases is a great way to flavour fish and seafood. So there… 😉

The basil oil finish was influenced by a dish we had in a great little tapas bar in the city. It worked really well with this.

Serves 2

  • 2 Salmon fillets
  • 8 prawns
  • 400g/14oz Chickpeas (canned), or half the amount if dried.
  • A red, yellow and green pepper.
  • Chorizo, about the length of your thumb, sliced into 6
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of chilli power (I ground dried chili)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Salt – make sure it’s very fine
  • Black pepper
  • A handful of basil leaves

If you’re cooking dried chickpeas, soak them overnight beforehand and boil for around 40 minutes in slightly salted water until just done. If canned, just crack on below…

Set the oven to 200°C/390°F.

Brush the peppers with oil and roast on a baking tray until burn marks appear and they start to wilt. The should be very soft when done. Dunk them straight into cold water to loosen the skins and peel them off. Bloody fiddly, but occasionally you get lucky and it comes off in one piece. Cut  them into finger-width slices and cover. You can warm them up later in the oven.

Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Mix them with the paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, then spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Turn the oven off (if the peppers are done) and bake them gently in the residual  heat. 10 minutes or so, but check often to make sure they don’t dry out. This won’t take long if they were cooked from dry. Add the finished peppers toward the end to heat through.

If using coarse sea salt, you might want to grind it to a fine powder.

In a pan, fry the chorizo until cooked through to release that lovely oil. Remove it and keep warm but leave the oil in the pan. Add a little more oil and fry the salmon (seasoned with salt & pepper) on a high heat skin side down (if it has skin) for most of the cooking time. Add the prawns for the last couple of minutes. The salmon is done when at 60-62°C/145°F, so use a thermometer to make sure you don’t over cook it. The prawns only take a minute or two,

Meanwhile quickly blitz the about 10 tbsp of good extra virgin oil with the basil leaves and season to taste with coarse salt.

Serve the dish on warmed plates and spoon over the basil oil.Salmon, chickpeas, basil oil roast peppers