Michael spent most of the day in New York, and the thought of me dropping him off at the train station and then, later, him coming home on the Metro North had images from Mad Men dancing in my head. I was fortunate enough to be able to leave work early and get home with more than enough time to get everything ready to dazzle him with a simple-yet-delicious dinner, though my initial idea of being all Joan-like was dashed after sitting in a hot car in I-95 traffic.
At least the dinner was unaffected. Inspired by Mark Bittman’s 101 easy summer ideas, in particular his Roman dish of garlic, olive oil and anchovy (number 99 on the list, if memory serves), I concocted a more sophisticated version of aglio e olio and making a little more pan-Italia by adding white vermouth, shallots and grated Sicilian table cheese in lieu of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I was worried that Michael wouldn’t like it (he can be fussy on pasta dishes, small wonder) but we both ended up inhaling our portions.
Mezze Penne con Acciuga, Aglio, Pepperocini, e Vermut Bianco
serves 4, or two with leftovers
- 1 lb pasta, preferably small pasta (we used mini penne, but any small to medium sized pasta will work)
- 4-6 cloves garlic (depending on taste), sliced
- 1 shallot, diced
- At least 8-9 anchovy fillets
- 1-2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup vermouth
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Boil pasta according to package directions, but undercook by at least one minute so that pasta will cook in sauce afterwards. Drain; reserve one cup of the pasta water (if needed).
Meanwhile, in a skillet on medium high, heat oil and shallots, add salt, red pepper (and black if preferred) and when bubbly and hot, add sardines and garlic. Keep an eye on the sauce to make sure the garlic doesn’t brown, and after about 30 seconds of the garlic sauteeing, pour the vermouth over the whole mess and cook until the alcohol has mostly burned off. Toss with pasta, add pasta water if necessary, and serve with freshly grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano are always good choices, but we have a great source for Sicilian table cheese which is just divine, so I went with that for this dish–after all, the quality of the ingredients really count).
Mangia! And happy Independence Day to all! May you all be safe, happy, and well-fed, and try to take the time to salute those brave men and women who had the courage to speak up for themselves, the citizens they represented, and subsequently for all of us.