Viva Italia! Italian Dinner Night At Home

Italian dinner at homeThe following is my first official post. I wrote it about 6 months ago hoping that I would have put my blog up shortly after but obviously I didn’t.  So here it is now! 

Tonight I was in the mood for Italian dinner. Italian food is always a hit at my house and generally pretty easy to make. I had made a trip to Trader Joe’s earlier today.  It always feels like a treat when I go to Trader Joe’s good fine quality products at a great price.  So in addition to what I had in my pantry and fridge I thought I’d add a few quality products from TJ’s to enhance my meal.  The menu for tonight was:

  • Baby Arugula Salad with shaved Parmesan, red & yellow baby tomatoes with lemon & extra virgin oil dressing
  • Rotini Puttanesca / Arrabiata ‘a la Me’ with spicy italian sausage
  • Fresh Fruit– sliced pears and white grapes

Baby Arugula Salad  serves 4-6
The inspiration for this salad came from a little tiny Italian resturant in the back bay area of Boston on Newbury Street called Piattini.  My family and I went there this summer and the meal was abosuletly fabulous but it was the salad that sang to me.  So here’s my take on it. Enjoy.

1 bag baby arugula from Trader Joe’s
10 red & yellow baby tomatoes halved
2 oz. Shaved Grana Padano Parmesan from Trader Joes’s–crumble 1/3 of the cheese (Parmesan reggiano would be my first choice but for a Thursday night meal the Grana Padano Pramesan is a good alternative)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de Sel to taste (remember that the parmesan is salty too so keep that in mind when seasoning)
Tri-color (pink, green, black) freshly ground pepper to taste

Mixed the olive oil, lemon juice, the crumbled parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Set asside. In a salad bowl put the baby arugula top with baby tomatoes and the remainder of the shaved parmesan. Keep the dressing and the salad separate until just before serving.  Toss well.

Rotini Puttanesca / Arrabiata ‘a la Me’ serves 4-6
I was tired today and didn’t want to make the whole deal from scratch so I opted for the semi-homemade quick tasty and easy version. Turned out great!

Note:  Some foodie’s might shun this idea of ‘semi-homemade’ (honestly if they do then they really aren’t foodies anyway) but my philosophy on this especially with tomato sauce is  the longer it cooks the better it tastes.  If you use a good quality pre-made sauce (check the ingredients) and if they use good ingredients…that are similar to what you would use if making it from scratch then why re-invent the wheel. The store bought one has cooked for hours already…just doctor it up.

6 Italian sausages (hot or mild)
1 12-16 oz box Rotini pasta  (I like to use the Ronzoni ‘Smart Taste’ it tastes great and has 2.5x the fiber)
1 jar of Arrabiata Sauce from Trader Joe’s
6 cloves of garlic sliced length wise
1 can of flat anchovies chopped fine (keep the oil–you’ll use that too!)
2-3 tablespoons capers finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
1/2 of a small or 1/4 of a large yellow onion sliced length wise very thin and then rough chop
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 oz shaved parmesan cheese to garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Hot chili flakes if desired can be served on the side.

Put the italian sausages on a baking sheet and place in the broiler on low turning once halfway until they are fully cooked and nicely browned. (No need to put oil on the the baking sheet since the sausages will secreet oil on their own while cooking)

While the Sausages are cooking bring a large pot of water on the stove top to boil with a couple of tablespoons of salt.  Once the water boils cook the pasta as directed on the box.

For the sauce:
Put the Extra Virgin olive oil and the reserved anchovy oil in a sauce pan on medium high heat.
Add the onions, garlic and anchovies and saute until nice and brown with a bit of carmelization going on.
Then add the Arrabiata sauce, capers, and the parsley (reserve a couple of pinches of parsley for garnish) stir and lower the heat to medium low and cover.  Cook for about 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally.

All three steps of the pasta dish kind of goes simultaneously so you need to keep an eye on the sauce, the pasta and the sausages and time them accordingly.

Once all three are cooked and ready to go it’s time to assemble.  Mix the sauce in with the drained pasta and toss well pour into a nice pasta serving bowl and garnish with the shaved parmesan cheese and parsley and finally arrange the italian sausages in a ring around the bowl for a nice presentation.  Serve immediately.  This dish would go fabulous with a nice medium to heavy body red wine–like a nice argentinian malbec.

This meal was a hit as I suspected it would be.  My daughter said she couldn’t decide which she enjoyed more the salad or the pasta but she was leaning towards the salad.

Ciao for today!

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