In my early 20s, Sister Angèle, a famous nun, cooking guru and television personality in Quebec, asked me along to work with her at the Milan-Expo food show. I had never been to Europe and was so excited. The only problem was that I had just met this incredible girl. We’d only been out on two dates, but I was scared somebody would steal her from me if I left. On the way to the airport, I dropped my first ever love letter into her mailbox.
In Italy, Sister Angèle took me to a different trattoria every night, where we would talk about everything, but mostly about this girl, Brigitte. Sister Angèle was the one who had introduced us and she would listen to me as I shared (and ate) my feelings. I literally put on a pound a day — it didn’t help that every single thing I ate was so delicious: pasta, vitello tonnato, more pasta. I returned home, heavier and heavy-hearted, knowing I was in love. The rest of this story is history: like marrying the right pasta with the right sauce, Brigitte and I will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary in August.
Between us, pasta recipes never need a sales pitch. It’s a guaranteed winner because everybody loves pasta. And there are never, ever enough recipes.
For this new batch of pasta recipes, I gathered all of the staff with Italian heritage and asked them to go back to their families and ask for tips, traditions and secrets. From village to village and town to town in Italy, the ingredients change and the regional differences are so creative. Italians pair sauce with pasta in the same way we pair food with wine: it’s all about texture, taste, the way the noodle holds the sauce. If you make a carbonara with macaroni, it’s just not the same.
We were inspired by new flavours, unexpected pairings and fail-proof classics: busiate (a spiral-shaped Sicilian pasta) with swordfish and eggplant that’s a revelation; garganelli (cylindrical egg-shaped noodles) smothered in gorgonzola, fennel and speck; and rigatoni with meat sauce you’ll want to make again and again whether it’s for a family dinner or a date night. Prepare to fall in love.
Rigatoni with Meat Sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 whole raw duck leg
1 lb. (450 g) ground beef
1 Italian sausage, spicy or mild, casing removed
1/2 cup (125 mL) red wine
1 can (28 oz./796 mL) whole plum tomatoes, coarsely crushed with your hands
1/2 cup (125 mL) beef or chicken broth
4 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
3/4 lb. (340 g) mezze rigatoni, garganelli or other short pasta with a large opening
1/2 cup (35 g) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
In a large skillet over high heat, cook the onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes in 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Set the vegetables aside in a bowl.
In the same skillet over medium-high heat, brown the duck on both sides in the remaining oil. Set aside with the vegetables, leaving any fat in the skillet.
Add the beef and sausage meat. Cook, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, until golden. Deglaze with the wine and let reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, broth, thyme and bay leaf. Return the reserved vegetables and duck to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the duck and let cool. Remove any fat and bones. Compost the skin and bones. Chop the meat and return to the sauce. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning.
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until very al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring well to coat the pasta in the sauce. Add the reserved cooking water to thin out the sauce, as needed. Remove the bay leaf. Garnish with the Parmesan.
NOTE: Sauce freezes well.
Busiate Pasta with Swordfish and Eggplant
3 tbsp sliced almonds, coarsely crushed
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp panko bread crumbs
1 eggplant, about 1 lb. (450 g), cut into large dice
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
1/2 lb. (225 g) swordfish, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups (420 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 lb. (340 g) busiate, fusilli, trecce or another spiral pasta
Basil leaves, to taste
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In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, brown the almonds and garlic in the oil. Add the panko and cook until starting to brown. Set aside in a bowl.
In the same skillet over medium-high heat, brown the eggplant in 3 tbsp (45 mL) of the oil until it starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside on a plate lined with paper towel.
In the same skillet over medium-high heat, brown the swordfish and garlic in the remaining oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or until they start to break down. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the skillet with sauce and toss to combine. Add the reserved cooking water to thin out the sauce, as needed. Adjust the seasoning.
Transfer the pasta to a serving dish. Top with the eggplant, basil leaves and almond topping.
Bucatini All’amatriciana with Tomatoes and Pancetta
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
1 can (28 oz./796 mL) whole plum tomatoes
1/2 lb. (225 g) pancetta or guanciale (see note), cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm.) dice
3/4 lb. (340 g) bucatini, spaghettoni or rigatoni pasta
1 cup (250 mL) (70 g) Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
In a pot over medium-high heat, soften the garlic in the oil without letting it brown. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes or until they begin to burst. With a potato masher, crush the tomatoes until smooth. Cook for 5 more minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the pancetta for 5 minutes. Season with pepper. Drain on a plate lined with paper towel.
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until very al dente. Reserve 1 cup (250 mL) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water to the tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring to coat the pasta in the sauce. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Top with the pancetta.
NOTE: Guanciale is a cured (not smoked) meat product made from pork jowl or cheek.
Garganelli Pasta with gorgonzola, Fennel and Speck
¼ lb. (115 g) thin slices speck (smoked prosciutto), each cut into 4 pieces
3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved for serving
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 lb. (340 g) garganelli, farfalle or penne rigate pasta
6 oz. (170 g) gorgonzola cheese, cubed (see note)
1/4 cup (25 g) roasted walnuts, crushed
In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, brown the speck in 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil. Set aside on a plate lined with paper towel. Clean the skillet.
In the same skillet over medium heat, soften the fennel and green onions in the remaining oil. Cover the skillet in order for the vegetables to soften quickly.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta.
Add the pasta, reserved cooking water and cheese to the skillet with fennel, and stir well to combine. Top with the speck, walnuts and fennel fronds.
NOTE: gorgonzola is a mild blue cheese. Its smooth and creamy texture is perfect for making a quick and tasty pasta sauce. It is difficult to replace gorgonzola in this recipe because a stronger, more crumbly blue cheese would not achieve the desired result.
Source: Thanks https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/recipes/2020/03/17/four-recipes-for-the-pasta-lovers.html