Although I’m always delighted by spontaneous dinners with friends, sometimes spontaneity alone doesn’t quite cut it. Arranging a little cooking get-together with a handful of people with -by Murphys’ law- very contrasting work schedules, requires a few weeks lead time. For this hot event, all up-front planning was well worth it!
That day I met fellow foodie friends Hande, Theo and Sebastian at the Suppenküche to kick-off our little shopping tour. After the first few stops the general consensus was to escape the heat, said and done, we quickly settled for the nearest shadowy place we spotted to get some rest and quench our thirsts. Fully loaded with oversized shopping bags and all sweaty we finally arrived in our apartment, just to discover that the temperature inside was pretty much the same as the temperature outside. Quite dehydrated we were dying for even more cold drinks. Happily, Coco and Sabine had just arrived as well, generously providing us with chilled aperitifs.
While getting our act together and ready to cook in our little kitchen, I made several mental notes a long the lines of “include – more – working – space – in – future – kitchens” and “need – to- move – soon“. A moment later, a packed kitchen and an oven running at full steam ahead (Oliver had made our latest bread discovery again) turned the room into a veritable sauna, casualties included a decommissioned fan and a fridge on life support.
Thankfully the food we prepared wasn’t affected by the heat at all – every dish turned out very well! For starters we enjoyed Focaccia, olives, oven-dried tomatoes, Mozzarella di Buffala and Pesto before getting serious with the main acts:
Sebastian had chosen a recipe from the famous Sacher Cookbook: PAPRIKA CHICKEN PASTA WITH SOUR CREAM, which allowed all of us to watch him bone an entire bird professionally – after sharing with us historical details about the dish’s origin.
Hande, who herself has lived in Italy for quite a while, prepared a refreshing SICILIAN FISH PASTA with swordfish, eggplant and a herb blend consisting of basil, mint and parsley.
I was the least adventurous of the three pasta cooks that day and opted for my favorite recipe: Spicy PENNE ALL’ARRABBIATA – as if we were in need for some extra heat (recipe below).
Every now and then we’d cool down with Coco’s new aperitif discovery (white wine, Limetto, fresh lime juice, sparkling water), a glass of rose with an inconspicuously slipped in ice cube (ssh don’t tell anyone!) or some fine white wine. As for dessert and in line with the motto, I couldn’t help but dish out my all-time favs: Panna Cotta and Tiramisu.
There was more on the agenda but the planned comparison between different pasta brands (Barilla, De Cecco and Latini) we had to drop, all due to poor time management on my side – time tends to fly by when you’re having fun… Anyway, a new theme for the next cooking event is already pinned down!
Our lunch event ended around the time I usually start preparing dinner. Taking a last glance at the kitchen, Oliver and I decided that successful cooking events must result in messy kitchens! He turned up the music and we started to clean up the evidence of a happy pasta happening…
Penne all’arrabbiata is the one pasta dish, that is probably the most frequently served one in our household. The ingredients are always in stock and our version is literally prepared in no time. The only variation to this recipe includes a spice mix (containing dried herbs, garlic, chili, sea salt, mushrooms and carrots) I sometimes buy at my favorite herb stand (Rottler) at the Viktualienmarkt, then I omit the garlic, salt and chili. Anyway, if you’re up for some quick and spicy pasta, this is the way to go:
Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil, then add salt. Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the chopped onion, garlic and chili and sauté until the onions become translucent. Add the tomato paste and be careful to not let the onion gain color.
Now add the chopped tomatoes, their juice, a shot of heavy cream and a pinch of sugar (to balance the tomatoes’ acidity) and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes until it has reduced a bit. Stir occasionally.
Finally season with salt, pepper and some more ground dried chilies in case you’d like to give it the extra kick. You may also want to add some fresh herbs like thyme or parsley, but that’s optional.
When the pasta is cooked al dente: Pour the sauce over the drained pasta, blend well and serve with grated Parmesan or – for the adventurous souls – with some hard goat cheese (grated).
Recipe source: my own adaptation
Prep time: 20min.
Ingredients (serves 2):
250g penne rigate or lisce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 fresh chili, finely chopped (& seeded if desired)
2 tbsp tomato paste
about 300g canned tomatoes, chopped (including juice)
a pinch of sugar
50-100ml heavy cream
coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
(optionally: fresh thyme, parsley, ground chilies)
top generously with freshly grated Parmesan cheese