Project Food Blog #4: From Vine to Table – Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce

  • Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce
  • Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce
  • Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce
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Recipe Description

Voting for Round 4 of Project Food Blog is now open!  Your votes and support have helped me get to this point, and I’d truly appreciate it if you could help me go one step further to Round 5!  I have a fabulous pizza idea to share with all of you for that challenge.  🙂  Please cast your vote today using this link or the widget on the left sidebar.  Thank you so much!  – Kimberly
Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce

After a solid week of the hearing, “Sorry, we’re not hiring right now,” I was beyond stoked to find out I had made it through to the fourth round of this competition (thanks so much to all of you who have helped me get this far!).  It was just the news I needed to perk up my wilted spirits.  But the news also left me beyond stumped when it came to deciding what to do for this next round because it is way outside my comfort zone.  This week’s challenge is called “Picture Perfect”.  Well, I like taking pictures of food, so that seems easy enough.  Then they hit me with this: create a step-by-step instructional photo tutorial.

*gulp*

Sure, it might seem easy to some so my panic may appear to be a bit ridiculous. But I’m one of those “writing-centric” bloggers who paints pictures with her words and uses photos to accent those words, not the other way around.  I am a natural story-teller and I love that my writing engages my readers and keeps them coming back for more.  That and the fact that I live alone with two cats whose paws don’t sport those ever-so-handy opposable thumbs to help with the in-progress shots made this challenge even more intimidating to me.  For days, I stewed, I fretted, I tossed and I turned, trying to decide what exactly to post for this particular round of the competition.

tomatoes

I was just about to launch into a daunting step-by-step tutorial on the intricacies of Doro wat when the giant pile of heirloom tomatoes I’d just scored from my choir mate Milt’s farm caught my eye.  Of course!  I could make an incredible pasta sauce completely from scratch, using real tomatoes instead of those inferior canned ones.  Not everyone has access to some of the spices needed to make that Ethiopian delight, and I wanted to post something that anyone, regardless of cooking skill, could try at home.  Since I’d already had my heart set on something spicy and had a couple of perfectly hot little peppers growing in my own little garden, I decided to make a fiery arrabbiata sauce to go with some freshly cooked penne.  Once again my berbere spices were put away and I set about making a completely different, but equally delicious spicy dish that featured what I consider to be one of the most perfect foods on the planet: tomatoes.

tomatoes

I love tomatoes like a little kid loves cake and I can never, ever seem to get enough.  Legend has it that when I was a wee tot just out of my first day of pre-school, my two biggest complaints were: A) there were no swings in the playground, and B) there were no tomatoes in my salad at lunchtime.  I still consider both of these to be capital offenses and I actually suffer through tomato withdrawals whenever they’re not in season.  You know, when those waxy, bland, pink excuses start invading the produce department at local stores and you’re left wondering if what you just ate was even a distant second cousin to the tomato.  And there actually used to be times when I’d ask coworkers if I could bum and/or buy a tomato off them if I happened to be faced with tomato-less lunch fare (Oh, dear God, I can’t believe I just admitted that).

So a day at the Whaley Farm was pretty much like a day at Disneyland for me.  There, I helped Milt pick, process, and pack a veritable rainbow of different tomatoes, from Lemon Boys to Green Zebras to Purple Russians.  After a full day of working behind-the-scenes at a tomato farm and enjoying a lovely dinner with Milt and his family, I was sent home with my own large bundle of fine heirloom tomatoes.  I had every intention of just eating them on their own or throwing them in salads, but a thick, rich arrabbiata seemed like a much better idea.

tomatoes

Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian, and the sauce was dubbed with this name because of the fiery addition of hot peppers.  There are a ton of recipes out there for making this with canned tomatoes, but that almost seems sacrilegious to me; why do that to a pasta sauce when you can make one the right way?  Sure, processing your own fresh tomatoes takes a bit more time and you get to make a glorious mess in the kitchen while doing so; but the end result is completely worth the effort.

So without further ado in the “words” department, let’s check out how to make a delicious arrabbiata sauce step-by-step, from vine to table.

Details Recipe Information

  • Prepare: 10 Mins
  • Cook: 15 Mins
  • Difficult: Easy
  • Serving: 4 people
  • Cost per serving: $1.95
  • Nutrition: for each serving
  • Calories: 302.8
  • Fat: 11g
  • Cholesterol: 14.3mg
  • Sodium: 419.1mg
  • Potassium: 463.7mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33.7g
  • Protein: 11.1g

Ingredients

  • 6-8 lbs ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 small hot red chiles, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp crushed red chile flakes
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3 cup cooked penne pasta (preferably whole wheat, but white will also do in a pinch)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Method

First, pick your produce...

Lovely ripe tomatoes from the Whaley Family Farm...
Lovely ripe tomatoes from the Whaley Family Farm...
Ridiculously cute - and hot - peppers from Poor Girl's urban garden...
Ridiculously cute - and hot - peppers from Poor Girl's urban garden...
The last of my sweet summer basil...
The last of my sweet summer basil...
Heirloom tomato heaven!
Heirloom tomato heaven!

Next, start preparing your mise en place...

Chop 3 large cloves of garlic...
Chop 3 large cloves of garlic...
... and about 1 cup of onions (preferably yellow)...
... and about 1 cup of onions (preferably yellow)...
... and, of course, those fiery little peppers.
... and, of course, those fiery little peppers.

Then, blanch the tomatoes...

Start boiling water in a large pot or soup tureen...
Start boiling water in a large pot or soup tureen...
Prepare a large bowl or other receptacles with ice water (the more ice, the better!)...
Prepare a large bowl or other receptacles with ice water (the more ice, the better!)...
tomatoes
Score the bottoms of each tomato with an "x" shaped cut (this allows the boiling water to penetrate the tomato more easily, facilitating the separation of the skin for easier peeling)...
spoil tomatoes
Using a slotted spoon, gently add the tomatoes into the rapidly boiling water and blanch for no more than 60 seconds...
tomatoes
After 60 seconds, or when the tomato skins begin to separate from the flesh, remove the tomatoes using your slotted spoon and dunk them in the bowl with ice water.
tomatoes
Allow the tomatoes to cool in the ice water for about a minute or so, then move to a separate bowl for the next step.

Peel & seed tomatoes...

Tomatoes are kind little fruits: they will start doing the peeling for you...
Tomatoes are kind little fruits: they will start doing the peeling for you...
(Peeled tomatoes awaiting seeding & chopping)
(Peeled tomatoes awaiting seeding & chopping)
Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds, and make a glorious, tomato-y mess...
Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds, and make a glorious, tomato-y mess...

Proudly survey your mise en place...

Chopped tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, dried oregano, salt, crushed chile flakes, and, of course, red wine.
Chopped tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, dried oregano, salt, crushed chile flakes, and, of course, red wine.
You’re ready to start cooking!

Begin cooking the sauce...

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, and onions...
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, and onions...
...followed by the fresh chiles, crushed chile flakes, salt, sugar, and oregano...
...followed by the fresh chiles, crushed chile flakes, salt, sugar, and oregano...
Next, add the wine...
Next, add the wine...
... and, of course, the tomatoes!
... and, of course, the tomatoes!
Stir until well combined...
Stir until well combined...
... and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until you have a thick, chunky sauce.
... and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until you have a thick, chunky sauce.

About 10 minutes in, start to cook the penne...

The sauce is pretty awesome on its own, but it's best when paired with some penne pasta...
The sauce is pretty awesome on its own, but it's best when paired with some penne pasta...
When pasta is cooked, drain and drizzle generously with olive oil for extra flavor and to prevent it from sticking together.
When pasta is cooked, drain and drizzle generously with olive oil for extra flavor and to prevent it from sticking together.

Finish the sauce...

During the last 5-7 minutes of cooking, add the fresh chopped basil and stir together; check for flavor, and adjust accordingly with salt & freshly ground pepper...
During the last 5-7 minutes of cooking, add the fresh chopped basil and stir together; check for flavor, and adjust accordingly with salt & freshly ground pepper...
Soon afterward your arrabbiata sauce is done! Thick, rich, spicy, tomato-y perfection!
Soon afterward your arrabbiata sauce is done! Thick, rich, spicy, tomato-y perfection!

Serve...

Remove from heat and place in a separate, pretty bowl and stare at the remarkable fruits of your labor...
Remove from heat and place in a separate, pretty bowl and stare at the remarkable fruits of your labor...
Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce
Serve a generous amount of sauce on a heaping plate of freshly cooked penne and garnish with extra sprigs of fresh basil...
Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce
'Nuff said.

...and enjoy it!

Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce
'Nuff said.

Whew!  Mission accomplished!  As you can see, I stayed true to my regular PGEW style and pretty much deconstructed my usual recipe method by adding pictures.  Though the lighting in my kitchen is rather horrendous and the batteries in my “good” camera died right before I set about working on this post, I still think I was able to clearly convey the process of making a homemade pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes.  Like I said before, it’s one thing to make a pasta sauce “from scratch” using canned goods; it’s quite another to make it from scratch.

And even if it took me a few hours to do all of this by myself, working as both chef and photographer (cooking with your non-dominant hand while trying to properly engage the shutter button with the other as cats wind between your legs trying to trip you because you’ve ignored them all day is definitely what I’d call a “challenge”), I must say I’m proud of the fact that I was able to do it all by myself with my own two hands.  From the picking to the processing to the photographing, everything in this post is 100% me; no special equipment or anything.  Just Poor Girl doing the best that she can with what she has on hand.

And you know what?  That’s what my blog has always been about: making the most of a potentially scary situation.  I hope it inspires you to do the same in your own endeavors!  Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this recipe post, please take the time to cast your vote for PGEW starting at 6 am Pacific time on October 11th.  As always, I will provide a special post with a link to the voting page, but you can also vote for me by using the widget on the left sidebar.  Thanks in advance!  – Kimberly

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