Last week, I spoke in great length about my family’s Friday barbecue tradion, and shared the recipe for the lamb ribs – the main star of that meal – with you after recreating it for a group of new friends here in Sydney. It is a meal that was a constant part of our lives for two long decades, one that means the absolute world to me.
I also promised that I will be sharing the rest of the recipes with you guys, and you probably know by now that I am not one to take food promises lightly! The dish I am about to share with you today is another massive part of the tradition, and it is my mama’s delicious Penne Arabiatta.
I do not claim authenticity in any way with this reipe; I am sure it is probably extremely different than the classic Italian pasta by the same name…but I do, however, claim originality. It is a recipe that my mother came up with once, and it just instantly became a family favourite, recurring every single week on our Friday BBQ menu at our beloved countryside weekend home in rural Cairo.
It’s quite a simple pasta recipe, and I have only changed a couple of tiny details, one out of convenience and ease, and the other preference. My mother always used fresh peeled and chopped tomatoes for the sauce, but I honestly find that a) it is quite tedious to peel tomatoes, even with the blanching method, and b) the tomatoes I get from using canned peeled tomatoes are of MUCH better quality than most fresh tomatoes available, not to mention way cheaper and non-dependant on season.
The other ingredient, one that I have added to the recipe, is fresh chillies. I LOVE spicy food, and even though my mother does too, I know she avoided using chilli in her cooking so as to appeal to our young palettes. It is an optional, but strongly recommended ingredient.
- • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
- • 6 garlic cloves, minced
- • 2 red chillies, finely chopped (optional)
- • 2 green capsicums (sweet peppers), cut into 1-2cm pieces
- • ¼ cup tomato paste
- • 1 large (800g) can of peeled, chopped tomatoes*
- • 1.5 tsp. sugar
- • salt & pepper to taste
- • 1 500g packet of dried penne pasta (I used wholewheat)
- Place a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil, garlic and chillies. Sauté for 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant, then add the green capsicum and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the can of tomatoes and stir well. Fill the empty can with water till about two thirds full, swish the water around to collect any residual tomato, then add that to the pot. Add the sugar and season with salt & pepper, bring to a low simmer and cook, partially covered for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened substantially.
- Have a taste and adjust seasoning. At this point, you can cool and store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- When ready to serve, boil the penne till al dente, then toss with the (hot!) sauce in the pot for a minute or two until all the pasta is nicely coated, If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta’s cooking water to loosen it up to desired consistency. Serve immediately.
• I often double this recipe and either freeze half for later, or combine it with double the amount of pasta to feed a large crowd.