Monday, May 2, 2011

Cook the Cover: Bon Appetit May 2010

This month's issue of Bon Appetit magazine is The Italy Issue claiming to teach you how to "Cook Like A (Real) Italian." Well, ok then. The hubs is 1/2 Italian (so he claims) so then shouldn't I learn to cook my pasta better? The cover shows a thick, unctuous looking bowl of spaghetti pomodoro and had me craving it immediately. 
Bon Appetit: Photo by Romulo Yanes
I like to make my own tomato sauce and rare eating out of the jar except for Paul Newman's Marinara in a pinch. I'm not trying to be a sauce snob, I grew up on Prego and Ragu after all. I just like the tartness of canned tomatoes with tons of garlic. Bon Appetit's version doesn't have any abnormal ingredients but focuses more on technique. You can find the full recipe here. How did I fare using their instructions?
First I was flabbergasted that it took me almost 1.5 hours to complete the dish start to finish. I'm really slow at cooking prep and I think I could have done some steps simultaneously like boiling water for pasta. But besides that, I would cook this recipe again.

Some key tips most of which I may have already known from watching hours of Food Network but not always employed:
  • Make the sauce in a large skillet (about 12" diameter and 2" deep) and finish cooking the pasta there
  • Reserve enough pasta water and know how to use it
  • Undercook the pasta by 2-3 minutes (they say 2 but I move slow so 3 to be safe)
  • Use tongs to toss the pasta in sauce
  • Add butter and cheese at the end (butter, really? What are we, french? Paula Deen?)
Onto the recipe. Serves 4.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced (what's medium? I guessed 1 cup minced onion)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
Kosher salt
3 large fresh basil sprigs (unfortunately I didn't have any so I skipped this)
12 oz. bucatini or spaghetti
2 tbsp. cubed unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino

Heat 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in 12" skillet over medium low heat. Add minced onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. I didn't cook mine for 12 minutes but it was soft and almost burned actually. Gotta keep an eye on the heat level! Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
Increase heat to medium. Pour pureed tomatoes into pan. Season lightly with kosher salt (don't forget you'll be adding salted pasta, cheese, and butter later). Cook sauce for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing flavors to meld together. Remove pan from heat. Stir in basil sprigs, set aside. (Again, I skipped the basil but basil would have been nice).

Boil water for pasta. Season water with salt. Add spaghetti, stirring occasionally until 2 minutes before tender. Barilla says al dente in 9-10 min so I set my timer for 7. When you have about 30 seconds left, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water, you may need extra). Don't forget to wear an oven mitt if the steam is too hot.  Drain pasta.
Discard basil and bring sauce in skillet back onto medium heat. Stir in some pasta water to loosen sauce, add more if necessary. Bring sauce to boil. Add pasta and cook another 2 minutes until pasta is al dente, tossing pasta until coated with sauce.
Remove pan from heat. Add butter and cheese. Toss until cheese is melted. Serve in warm bowls and with more cheese if desired. Use tongs to twirl-lift-plate-retwirl to plate the pasta into a bird's nest.
I did not use warm bowls because that sounded like a lot of work. I survived. Did I desire more cheese? Usually I do but after tasting the pasta, I didn't think it needed it (except for photos)...maybe I was heavy handed the first time around. My bad.

My pasta bowl didn't look quite like the cover - the sauce did not turn out as smooth and evenly coated. Maybe I needed to puree the tomatoes longer? Mince the onions more? Did I use too much pasta water? It was still pretty tasty and perfectly cooked if I do say so myself. Did the butter add anything but fat? Not sure. I had 2 servings. I didn't have lunch so get off your high horsey.

Pasta cooked the right way - yum. Try it out and check out BA's pasta tips here.


Cathleya said...

I spend a lot of money on a really really great plate of pasta and simple sauce but have never tried to do it at home (I'm a jar fan, even though I know homemade could be better!). I am going to try this one!!!

BigAppleNosh said...

I much prefer your addition of polka dots to the photo vs the stark whiteness of the original ;)

Annie said...

Oh I recognize that paper. ;) Looks yummy like always!

lavenderpug said...

that looks divine. nothing like a simple yet richly flavored tomato sauce. i like that you doubt the hubs is half italian.

Alice said...

I'm a fan of jar-ed tomato sauce, but mostly due to its convenience. Homemade doesn't seem to add too much more time so I'll have to try this one day!

kelsey said...

Yummy!! I need to try this, it looks simple enough but delicious!

Tiffany said...

Yum! That looks delicious!