This is my favorite warm-weather-prepare-in-advance-to-be-free-for-talking-to-guests-and-still-serve-an-elegant-pasta dish, and it happens to be even more delicious than it looks or the list of ingredients might suggest. It’s also pretty fool-proof, and in fact, except for the boiling of the pasta, requires no real cooking skill. [One, at his request, I emailed the recipe to a friend who had enjoyed it at our home; he likes to entertain, but, by his own admission, has no interest in or talent for things ‘kitchen’; he told me it was a great success.]
It’s a great summer meal, and although it’s a pasta dish, and technically a salad, it easily stars as an entrée, balanced before and after with an antipasto, also room-temperature, and a cheese or fruit course. It should serve at least 6 under those circumstances, but since it really is just as good as a leftover, and this time we were only 4 (and had seconds), the two of us were able to enjoy it again three days later.
[After that introduction, I can admit that the picture of the pasta dish was taken just as we sat down when we were having the leftovers (I had forgotten to snap the entrée on the first night, when we had two guests); the picture of the antipasto, was taken the first night.]
The dish is ‘Fusilli Mediterranei’, the recipe I use is included in Anna Tasca Lanza‘s treasure, ‘The Flavors of Sicily: Stories, Traditions, and Recipes for Warm-Weather Cooking’, one of my favorite Italian food sources. Tasca prescribes over two pounds of ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cubed, but the first time I used the recipe it wasn’t yet tomato season, so I substituted some excellent ripe grape tomatoes, halved each of them, and used a tiny spoon to press out the seeds and juice. It’s the way I prepare the dish each time.
You should have a large bowl on hand, and allow about three hours time to prepare the dish. Only one hour involves actual work (mostly dealing with the tomatoes and pitting the olives); the remaining two are for letting the ingredients rest at room temperature at two points during the preparation.
- we began the meal with an antipasto of DOK Dall’Ava prosciutto di San Daniele D.O.P. from Eatlay; served with ‘wild arugula’ from S. & S.O. Produce, the greens drizzled with good olive oil and drops of lemon; and slices of ‘Rustic Classic’ bread from Eataly
- when the tomatoes [this time, somewhat more than 3 baskets of grape tomatoes from Kernan Farms] have been prepared as described above, put them in a colander, sprinkle with salt, a bit of sugar, hot pepper flakes, and turn to coat; add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 4 salted anchovies, rinsed, filleted, and chopped, 1 1/2 cups of basil [from Gotham Greens], torn; a cup of good black olives pitted and cut in half, and half a cup of salted capers, rinsed; toss all to mix and let stand at room temperature for an hour; start to boil the pasta [I used ‘Fusilli con Buco’ from Il Pastaio di Gragnano] about half of the way through that time (so it will be ready when the tomato mix is) until almost al dente, run cold water over the pasta to cool it down, and after transferring the tomato mixture to a large serving bowl and stirring in 1/2 cup of olive oil, add the drained pasta to it, toss everything together and let stand at room temperature, again for one hour; when ready to serve, sprinkle the serving bowls with sturdy (ideally, homemade) breadcrumbs which have meanwhile been toasted with a little olive oil until lightly browned and set aside to cool
- the wine was an excellent California rosé, Akiyoshi Sangiovese Rosé 2013
- the music was Leonard Bernstein performing Charles Ive’s Symphony No. 2