A couple of weeks ago I was in NYC and ate at Positano's in Little Italy. I had a wonderful plate of penne with arrabiata sauce and I put it in my mental folder to try at home. Tonight was the perfect night since it is relatively light and packed with flavor plus heat. I would love to say that I remembered all of the flavors distinctly and just conjured up the recipe on the fly using nothing but my incredible taste recall. The truth is, I remembered it tasting like a lightly seasoned tomato sauce with hot stuff in it, but had no earthly idea how they created it. Una Mamma Italiana came to the rescue with what they bill as the best arrabiata sauce ever. I have no idea if it is the best ever, but it is pretty darn good.
Before you even begin to think about starting this recipe bring the salted water for your pasta to a boil and have every single sauce ingredient prepped and ready to go because once you start you have no time to do anything but cook. (until you reach the simmer state and by then everything is already in the pan cooking nicely)
1 tablespoon olive oil ( original recipe called for 1 teaspoon but that is not enough)
1 cup chopped onion
5 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 small can tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Saute the onion until it wilts. Add the garlic and cook until it is wilted. Quickly add the wine and tomato paste. Stir well then add the brown sugar, basil, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Combine then mix in the crushed tomatoes and bring the whole thing to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes.
Toss the pasta in the boiling water and cook to al dente. Drain and serve. I like the pasta topped with the sauce though the original recipe suggested mixing it all together. She mentions using penne rigate, which I used only because I had it in the pantry. Otherwise I would have used any dense pasta like rotini, fusilli, conchiglie or even macaroni. Don't rinse the pasta after draining and the sauce will stick better. Top with chopped parsley ( which I had in the garden but it was storming so no dice!) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Son2 was giving me a little grief because there was no protein with the meal, just the pasta and sauce with a side salad and either wine or tea. It was a simple meal, bursting with flavor. After he tasted one bite he agreed it needed nothing but a dusting of cheese. I halved the recipe and there was enough for the three of us for dinner with a tad left for lunch one day. If you are cooking for four or more you need the entire recipe. I used slightly less than half of the hot peppers ( I used a combination of standard red pepper flakes and schezuan peppers which probably bumped up the heat level a bit) because some of us don't like as much heat as the others do. It is easier for me to add a bit more to my own plate than to make their eating uncomfortable.
I will add this to our rotation and next time I will make the entire recipe and freeze half. Yum! Try it if you are looking for a quick, easy spicy meal!