This pasta from Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos' new cookbook, Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love From Our Tuscan Kitchen, has their trademark stamp: rustic, accessible, affordable, and delicious. The sauce is just silly easy, and I wanted to see how the couple handled something so simple.
It's pretty spot-on, I have to say. The whole garlic cloves infuse the sauce with mellow piquancy, and then punch you in the mouth—in a good way—when you bite into one. I love the slight heat from the chili and the otherwise unadulterated tomato flavor. It is evocative of Italy in the best, most primal way. I, who never say "when" to someone holding a cheese grater, passed on Pecorino altogether, though I had a nice, big chunk at the ready. As with anything so minimalist, the quality of the ingredients here is key: buy top-shelf pasta and canned tomatoes for this one.
Why I chose this recipe: I wanted to put my mouth where their money is, so to speak. This is a pasta that you can throw together when you don't have time to go shopping, but need to impress, celebrate, or soothe. And that's what Mazar and Corcos are all about.
What worked: I thought that I would want a greater sauce-to-pasta ratio, and I definitely thought I'd want cheese, but it really didn't need a thing.
What didn't: The instructions say to cook the garlic and chili in hot oil until fragrant, for three to five minutes. After not quite two minutes, though, mine were verging on burning, so go by color and aroma, not specified times. This particular tip will come up again in recipes later this week.
Suggested tweaks: I'm sure the pici (hand-rolled pasta often referred to as "fat spaghetti") would be lovely, but I used linguine, and it worked perfectly well with the sauce. Though pasta purists may disagree, I really think nearly any pasta shape would be fine, so use your favorite.
As usual, we have 5 copies of Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen to give away this week.