Dinner with Mussolini – part II

8.04.2016 Posted in Red Cooking, Red Writing No Comments

Those who have been following my blog know that I have a book coming out about Angelica Balabanoff at McFarland Publishers in April, TheDinner with Mussolini - Pastasciutta Ingredients

Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. To celebrate the book launch, for the time being I will dedicate my blog to various themes about Angelica and amongst others her favorite recipes. In point of fact, Angelica did not cook. She was not even interested in food. For the majority of her life she was a vegetarian. Nonetheless, food played an important role in her existence. She used food to fight bourgeois traditions, which was the main battle of her life. My first blog post about Angelica’s recipes was devoted to her favorite food – cheese sandwiches. This one is about the only dish she could make – an omelet.

This article is devoted to Angelica dinner with Mussolini, and the dish they ordered “Pastasciutta”. In her book “The Traitor” Angelica described their dinner “… delicious macaroni with cheese, past’asciutta, house wine [for Mussolini] and water” for Angelica. Trying to put myself in Angelica’s shoes, even though I did not have anyone in front of me to act as Mussolini, I decided make both dishes. I have already cooked in one of the previous articles, Dinner with Mussolini – Part I – the first dish “Macaroni with Cheese”. Here is Pastasciutta. First of all – what is it?

Pastasciutta (pastashoota) is the Italian word for any pasta and sauce dishe in Italy. If you are going to cook a nice bowl of pastasciutta there a few basic, but imortant, rules to preparing it:
Choose Quality Pasta and cook it in a large pot of water.  As soon as it boils add the salt, add pasta and stir it. As all Italians I like it al dente (With a little give to the tooth) which tastes better and requires more energy to digest.

Drain the pasta, and add the sauce tossing to coat. You can add the pasta with sauce back to the pot to cook together for about 1 minute.

The recipe for this dish is very simple.

1 pound Italian thick spaghetti or fat tubular pasta: ziti, rigatoni, penne, etc…
2-28 ounce (800gr) cans Crushed Italian Tomatoes
1/2 cup (120 gr) dry red wine or dry white wine
1/2 cup (120fr) of Fresh Basil  (1/2 reserved)
1 handful fresh parsley chopped
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
salt & pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small/medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon butter reserved to add at the very end
Parmigiana Reggiano

Mince the garlic and chop the onion finely.
Heat up the pan to medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom.Dinner with Mussolini - Pastasciutta
Saute the onion with a large pinch of salt until soft and translucent. You want a low slow cooking as to not brown the onion.
Add garlic and stir it so it does not burn or brown while sauteing it until soft and tender.
Add the oregano rubbing it between your hands to release the oils. Stir allowing it to heat up and release more oils.
Pour in wine, turn up heat and cook out alcohol for a few minutes.
Add tomatoes, pepper, half the basil-torn into smaller pieces, and parsley, stir, taste for salt, and bring to a bubble. Lower heat to allow for a slow bubbly simmer and allow it to simmer without a lid.
Cook stirring here and there until it reduces and becomes a thick sauce, about 11/2-2 hoursor more.
Serve right away or once it is thick enough turn to low, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for as long as you desire. The longer the richer the taste the less the fresher tomatoey the taste.
Just before serving add the other half of basil and the butter to the sauce and stir.
Cook the pasta in plenty of well salted water until Al Dente and drain but do not rinse.
In a large serving bowl place half  the sauce with the steaming pasta and toss until well coated. 
Serve with more sauce on the side and freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano!*

The pasta is excellent. Not only it states good, but it is surprising how simple were the tastes of one of the greatest disctators of the 20th century.

*Recipe from the web-site http://labuonacucina70.blogspot.fr/2010/08/pasta-w-red-sauce.html

To know more about Angelica go to page About Angelica

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