whole wheat pasta with anchovy, garlic, chili, capers, kale

I’d been waiting for an opportunity to revisit one of my favorite darker artisanal pastas, but the weather hadn’t been cooperating. I had bought the package in the spring, when the weather was much cooler. I think of wholewheat pasta, and the kind of accoutrements it suggests, as just a little too earthy for a hot summer meal, even though that notion is almost certainly just inside my head.

Last night, while our air conditioning was separating us from the August heat and humidity, I thought of it again when I realized I had a small bunch of light kale I had bought for the meal the evening before, but ended up not using. I thought it would be an excellent match for its special appeal, and it certainly was. Still, I did leave off the shaved cheese topping suggested as an option by Melissa Clark, the author of the recipe. After all, it was still summer.

[note to the file – and to Clark’s editors: I’m pretty certain there’s a mistake in the published recipe where it says: “Add chiles and a pinch of salt and toast until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.”, since the chiles are very red, very dry, in any event wouldn’t normally require toasting, and definitely not for 1 to 2 minutes; she may have meant that the garlic should be added at that pont, ahead of the capers and anchovies, but that seems unlikely]

  • a bit of crushed dried Itria-Sirissi chili, pepperoncino di Sardegna intero from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market added to roughly 3 tablespoons of olive oil inside a large antique copper pot and briefly heated over a medium flame, followed by 4 fat ‘Nootka rose’ garlic cloves from TransGenerational Farm that had been crushed and skinned, 2 tablespoons of thoroughly rinsed and drained Sicilian capers, “patted dry with a paper towel to encourage browning”, writes Clark, although I’ve never been able to do this with capers, and couldn’t this time, and 4 well-rinsed, drained, and filleted salted Sicilian anchovies, all cooked until everything was softened, the capers, ideally, looking crisp around the edges, and the anchovies dissolved into the oil, or for about 3 to 4 minutes, at which point one small bunch of young, trimmed, washed, drained, and chopped Redbor kale from TransGenerational Farm was stirred into the pot, and 9 ounces of Afeltra ‘Vesuvio’ whole wheat Italian Pastaio di Gragnano from Eataly Flatiron, cooked al dente, tossed in, followed by at least 3 quarters of a cup of reserved cooking water, and everything stirred with my ancient #1 wooden spoon over high heat until the liquid had emulsified, when plenty of freshly ground black pepper was added and a bit of organic Mexican lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market squeezed over the top, the pasta tossed one more time, then served in 2 shallow bowls
  • the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) white, Chris Baker Willamette Pinot Gris 2018, from Naked Wines
  • and speaking of the seasons, the music was Haydn’s own interpretation, ‘Die Schöpfung’, Bernard Haitink conducting the Choir and Orchestra of the Bayerischen Rundfunks