Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rigatoni Alla Norma

I realized the other day that I have gone longer than usual without eating pasta. I love pasta and I tend to eat it at once a week which some may argue is too much but hey, it’s cheap, versatile, and easy. We have been eating extremely French food for the past week which is perfectly normal given our setting but every now and then it is fun to mix it up with some Italian. My father presented me with a recipe for something called “pasta alla Norma” that came shockingly from French Elle. Elle features a cooking section in France and my dad regularly cooks from it much to my chagrin. As a matter of fact the tagine that he is making for dinner tonight comes from its pages. Pasta alla Norma has more of a poetic name that it deserves, basically a pomodoro sauce with the addition of eggplant which I took as the base of my pasta dish. I started out by sautéing some shallots and garlic in olive oil then added strips of eggplant and a splash of red wine. After the liquid evaporated I threw in a couple of cans of whole tomatoes, a teaspoon of dried oregano, and a handful of chopped basil. I cooked the whole thing over low heat for about 40 minutes before mixing in al dente rigatoni. The funny thing was that my father boiled way too much rigatoni so we had about four cups of cooked noodles leftover to work with at lunch the next day. I grated some Parmesan and threw another handful of fresh basil on top before serving the heady pasta packed with succulent eggplant pieces.

Valerie was in charge of dessert which is a recent development in her cooking career. She has recently been baking up a storm making cookies, tarts, pies, as well as ice creams and sorbets much to my delight. She had a large box of absolutely gorgeous long stem strawberries from the local farmer’s market to work with and set about doing so. These were no ordinary strawberries however. Not only were they organic and cultivated by a local farmer, they were Mara des bois, an exceptional Mediterranean variety valued for its amazing taste reminiscent of fraise de bois. This particular variety along with Garriguet are the two kings of French strawberries therefore it is best to serve them with as little manipulation as possible. Valerie arranged each plate with a generous handful of strawberries and dressed them with Chantilly, a thick whipped cream sweetened with vanilla sugar. It was an excellent dessert that really highlighted the summer fruit and seemed rather light despite the cream. Overall it was a tasty meal that showcased two of my favorite things, pasta and strawberries. Way to go team. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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