30 Days – Day #21: A recipie

3 pepper pasta with chorizo. Serves 4. This is something I cook quite a lot – it’s easy to vary the ingredients a bit, depending on what I have in the cupboard and who I’m cooking for. I suspect this will make a lot of the more serious cooks on my friends list cringe, as it’s really not a lot more than “throw everything in the pot, and warm it up”, and I’m probably committing some basic culinary crimes in here, but it tends to come out both tasty and filling, so I’m happy enough with it.

500g Tagliatelle Pasta
700g jar of passatta
250g pomodorino tomatoes
125g chestnut mushrooms
450g chorizo.
1 large onion.
3 cloves garlic.
1 red bell pepper
2 romano peppers
1 (or more, depending on taste) small red chilli
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs.

Chop the onion – not too finely, but you’re not looking for massive chunks, either. Chuck in a pan (I use a heavy iron frying pan with high sides) on a low heat with a generous slug of olive oil (there’s a lot of veg going to fry in this, so I tend not to bother measuring it, and just trust that the veg will take a fair bit). While that’s sweating and softening, finely dice the bell pepper, and then throw that in as well. Take a moment to enjoy the smell of slowly frying onion, then finely chop the romano peppers as well, and add them. Give everything a good stir.

Chop the chorizo into small cubes. This can be a bit of a pain in the arse – I tend to slice it into 1-2cm rings, then quarter them. Don’t add it yet – you’re just doing it now because the peppers can take bloody ages to soften. Stir the peppers and onions every so often while you’re doing this, and remember to stop and enjoy the smell.

Chop and add the small chilli(s) – I use one for people who don’t like spicy food, two if I’m just cooking for myself, and three when I’m cooking for total spice monsters, but personally I don’t enjoy the three chilli version. I don’t de-seed them, or scrap out the pith, because I want the capascin bite along with the flavour, but I guess that depends on how you like your chilli.

Halve and add the tomatoes. A tip I picked up from watching Heston Blumenthal – when chopping the tomatoes don’t slice them top to bottom, slice them horizontally through middle – it results in a more intense taste. Apparently this is because quite a lot of of the flavour of tomatoes comes from the interaction od some chemicals in their skin with chemicals in the liquid pulp, and slicing them horizontally drags more of the skin chemicals through the pulp.

Chop and add the mushrooms and throw them in. Then finely chop the garlic and add that, along with the diced chorizo. And yes, stir everything again. Leave it all going on the low heat, stirring every so often until the mushrooms look cooked, and the chorizo has released a decent amount of oil – it’ll start colouring the mushrooms, which I personally find very pleasing, for no reason I can adequately explain. At that point, you want to add the passata, and leave it all to simmer gently. After about ten minutes, add the paprika and dried herbs, and stir them in.

At the point you add the passata, put a (very) large pan of water on to boil for the pasta. Don’t cover the pan – the time it takes uncovered water to boil is useful to give all the flavours in the sauce time to infuse, and you’re keeping the sauce on a low-medium heat, anyway, so as long as your stir it ever so often, it’s not likely to burn – I don’t recall ever burning this, and I’m fully capable of burning water.

Once the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta – cook it like you usually would – some people salt the water, some people add a bit of olive oil – whichever your prefer. The timings for this kind of assume you’re using a fresh pasta that should cook in about 5 minutes, but I don’t imagine anything that takes less than 10-15 minutes is going to change things very much.

Obviously, taste the sauce as you go, to check you’re getting a flavour you like. Things I often wind up doing: adding a bit of salt, or a generous quantity of ground black pepper, or a bit of chilli/tabasco sauce for bite. This isn’t meant to be a fully-on spicy sauce exactly, but still, people should know there’s chilli in it, you know?

Serve with freshly grated parmesan. Goes well with a light-medium bodied red wine, or a peroni-type lager.

Substitutions you can make easily: Swap some or all of the chorizo for chunks of chicken, or for extra mushrooms – you may find your want to add more chilli with less chorizo. There’s a Lloyd Grossman brand pasta sauce base that’s made with peppers rather than tomatoes which makes a really great substitution for the passata, it’s just a bit hard to find sometimes, which is why I most often cook this with passata. And obviously, you can throw out the shop bought passata and make you own tomato sauce base if you’re so inclined, but I’m not.