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Linguine, spaghetti (Recipe: linguine with tomato-olive sauce) {vegetarian}

Nothing says "pantry" like dried pasta, and the shelves of The Perfect Pantry hold every imaginable shape and size. Welcome to Italian Pasta Week, Day One, Long and Stringy.


One noodle, two noodles, red noodles, blue noodles.

Red sun-dried tomato ravioli. Blue curacao linguine from Giacomo Rizzo, our favorite pasta shop in Venice. Pasta shaped like sombreros, ear lobes, wagon wheels, stars, and corkscrews.

Dittalini. Cappellini. Rotini. Fettucine.

Roll the names around on your tongue, and you can almost taste the pasta.

You don't have to be Italian to love pasta, but you have to love pasta that's made in the Italian way, from durum semolina, semola di grano duro, the coarsely ground hard wheat, high in gluten, golden in color. The real thing.

Linguine, capellini, fedelini, vermicelli, spaghetti, spaghettini and spaghettoni — these pastas fall into what I call the Long and Stringy category, as do long, hollow shapes like bucatini and pici. With pasta, shape matters. There are, according to Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating, something like 500 shapes of pasta. Each has a perfect mate, a sauce that clings but isn't clingy, that enhances and celebrates the pasta.

For these long and stringy pastas, choose a sauce that matches the thickness of the strands. For heavier shapes like spaghetti and linguine, go for something substantial, a basic marinara, meat, or cheese sauce, or olive oil/garlic/bread crumbs. Thinner pastas, like capellini (angel hair), can take more delicate sauces, often with seafood. Bucatini likes a bit of spice in a sauce that gets trapped inside the hollow tubes, surprising you with every bite.

To cook pasta properly (and there is a proper way), give it space, give it salt, give it heat, and give it a taste. First, bring many quarts of water to a full boil, at least one quart per quarter pound of pasta. No matter how much or how little pasta you're cooking, give the pasta — and its starch — plenty of room to swim. When the water boils, add a couple of tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) of sea salt. Add your pasta, give it a stir to make sure it's not sticking together or to the bottom of the pot, and bring it back to the boil. Stir every now and then.

Two minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time on the package, start tasting the pasta. (If you're going to serve your pasta hot, with a sauce, it's best to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce.) It should be just shy of al dente, tender outside and firm (but not raw) on the inside. Never, ever rinse the pasta unless you are planning to serve it cold; you'll wash away all of the lovely starch.

Linguine with tomato-olive sauce

A medium-weight sauce that can be thickened with a dollop of tomato paste, if you wish. I like it a bit lighter, so the taste of the fennel comes through. Serves 6.


4 lb Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into quarters
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 can pitted large black olives (not Greek olives — too salty), sliced
Lots of fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 lbs long and stringy pasta of your choice: linguine, spaghetti, etc.
2 Tbsp sea salt
Fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In a stock pot, cook the tomatoes in olive oil over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add onion, fennel, garlic, bay leaf, oregano and wine, and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes, until the tomatoes break down. Add the olives and black pepper, and continue cooking for 15-30 minutes more until the sauce has reduced to desired thickness. At the same time as you add the olives, bring 6-8 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large stockpot. Add 2 Tbsp sea salt, and the pasta. Cook for 7-8 minutes, and taste. When the pasta is almost al dente, drain and add to the tomato sauce along with any water that clings to the pasta. Stir, add a scant 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, and cook until the pasta and sauce have married, 2-3 minutes. Serve hot, with grated cheese.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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Oh this promises to be a great week, truly!

You finally found my favorite "food group"!!
And the recipe has fresh fennel which I seldom cook with to pique my taste buds. I'm on my way to get the ingredients and will let you know how I make out.

Hooray, one of my favorite pastas is in your photo. Can't wait to see all the pasta variations and recipes. I agree, pasta is a wonderful "food group!"

A whole week? Oh, yeah! You are so right about giving the pasta room and salting the water--it makes such a difference in the flavor and texture. You've just made this pasta-lovin' girl quite happy!

I love linguine! But actually I love all pasta! It's "late home from work and I'm starving" food but it can also be a real showpiece.

Pasta is the old standby. I could eat it every night! I'd love to try the blue pasta you mention. Did you see the piece in Martha Stewart this month on making colorful homemade pasta?

Let's see, 500 pastas, a perfect mate for each.... That would keep me busy for awhile, and very happy, I might add.
Sounds like a good week coming up!

Alanna, stay tuned for more pasta fun!

Pauline, pasta is definitely a food group (isn't it?)! Fennel is something I've been adding to my cooking for the past couple of years, and I'm absolutely in love with it.

Kalyn, I have you to thank for turning me on to Dreamfields. It's just now showing up in my local Rhode Island supermarket.

Susan, all Rhode Islanders love pasta, don't they?

Freya, that's the fun thing about pasta. You can dress it up or rely on it for a quick weeknight dinner.

TW, I wish I could tell you that the blue tastes like real curacao, but it doesn't. However, it's a turquoise blue unlike anything you've ever seen! I didn't see the Martha segment, but I'll bet it was fun.

Katie, hope you enjoy the rest of Italian Pasta Week.

Blue Curacao linguini? Wow!

This recipe is lovely. I love the long and stringy pastas, even bucatini, though it makes me feel foolish when I try to slurp it and only get air through the hollow tubes. How do you eat that stuff, anyway? :)

Christine, isn't bucatini the slipperiest?! I like it with garlic, oil and breadcrumbs.

Link, the sight of turquoise blue pasta is really something to see! Giacomo Rizzo also sells a beautiful assorted bag of all of their pastas, in all colors of the rainbow. Lucky you, to have an asparagus patch -- this tart will be a winner for you.

Lydia, I'm off to the kitchen right now to make dinner - I wasn't sure about what I was going to cook, but you just gave me a sign. :)

I love that one can feel like they speak Italian simply by uttering the names of pasta! Bucatini rocks and rolls inspite of hollow slurping noises...or maybe because? Can't wait to see what is next.

The Imperfect Pantry here in Wisconsin has plenty of pasta, too, and I am always devising new ways to top it. This recipe would work at my house.

Patricia, hope you found some wonderful pasta in your pantry! I've always got 8 or 10 different shapes on hand.

Callipygia, that hollow slurping noise is music to my ears.

Mimi, what are some of your favorite pasta variations? Mine always include garlic, and I can't deny that red pepper flakes make frequent appearances!

I so love linguine! I prefer it to spaghetti because it's slightly thinner.
This recipe has got my favourite ingredients: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheesse, fresh herbs, & tomatoes!
I should alternate my pasta dishes with pesto & your tomato-olive sauce:)

Valentina, this tomato-olive sauce, especially with the fennel, is a light alternative to pesto -- but why not combine them? Wouldn't that be fun?!

The cool thing about food blogs is all the great tips you pick up about places to eat and stores to buy great food items. The bad thing is that I was in Venice a few months ago and didn't know about Giacomo Rizzo. I would have loved to see the Blue Curacao linguine and the wagon wheels-haven't thought about that shape pasta since I was a kid.

Ronnie, you always need a reason to return to Venice! Giacomo Rizzo is a 100-plus year old business that makes the most amazing pasta. The shop is near the Coin Department Store.

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