It’s probably pretty standard to have several favorite cuisines that are regularly re-ranked. When I’m in Mexico, Mexican is hands down my fave. Over at Lauriol Plaza, perhaps it slips. Japanese, French, Italian, and Austrian/German also jockey for my favor.
But after last night, I must acknowledge a compelling pitch from Italian. I was picking up my CSA box already knowing that a rustic pasta sauce was ahead. The box was incredibly complicit in this plan. Pasta sauce is very much like soup in its flexibility and room for innovation–the same recipe is never the same.
This dish comes together fast; while one item cooks, you are chopping the next. Fry up some diced bacon while the pasta water warms. Once crispy, add some olive oil and toss in chopped onion. Saute for several minutes and then add chopped garlic. Saute for a minute and then dump in as many chopped tomatoes as you can manage. Here’s where you improvise: My box had one small eggplant, which I chopped and added to the mix, but an interesting green could also be fun or a can of artichoke hearts–whatever you hope to use up!
The sauce is simmering and juicy. I add a splash of balsamic vinegar, but some red wine would also do nicely. It’s time to season. My box came with fresh basil, which I ripped up and added. Also, red pepper flakes, dry or fresh oregano, salt, and pepper.
And as if sensing its moment has arrived, the water gives a boiling roll. Salt, pasta, and 12 minutes later…strain the pasta and return it hot to the pot. Crack in an egg and give it a stir. The egg cooks, coating the pasta. Put the hot salty eggy pasta in bowls, cover with a layer of smoked mozzarella, and then smother it in the sauce. (We opted for some grated parmesan here too–decadent!)
The cheese melts and the pasta takes a long, low bow. I think we have a winner.