My love for pasta started at a young age, but spending a week in May touring Italy with Italian canned tomato producer, Cirio gave me a new appreciation of what real Italian food looks and tastes like, and reignited my passion for pasta. If you haven’t already, please do read about my stops in Venice, Tuscany, Rome and Naples.
One evening, at the Agriturismo Poggio al Tufo farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside, we ate Pici all’agliata, a thick, hand-rolled pasta with a wonderfully spicy chilli and garlic tomato sauce.
This week, I attempted to recreate the dish using a smooth, flavoured passata and plenty of fresh garlic and chilli.
Aiming to stay true to the Italian methods of cooking, this dish uses few ingredients and the sauce coats rather than drowns the firm-to-the-bite pasta.
Sadly, pici is all but impossible to pick up here in the UK, but Spaghetti Alla Chitarra is more readily available and with its thick, square shape, makes for a great alternative.
Here’s what to do – feeds four.
- 500g square ‘guitar’ spaghetti, we used Garofalo Spaghetti Alla Chitarra
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 1 red chilli, desseded
- 540g flavoured passata (I used Cirio La Napoletana Flavoured Passata, but you could use a plain passata and just add herbs to taste)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Put the pasta on to boil in plenty of salted boiling water
- Warm the oil in a large pan over a medium heat
- Finely chop the chilli and garlic and fry until the garlic is opaque but not browned
- Add the passata and heat until it thickens by about a third
- Drain the al dente pasta and stir into the sauce
- Season to taste and serve
Of course, I used Cirio’s brand of La Napoletana Flavoured Passata, not only because I’m working with them, but also because it really is a great product, made from a base of smooth, silky passata and gently flavoured with celery, onion, salt, sugar, bay leaf and paprika for a delicious, distinctively italian sauce. Pick a bottle up from Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Ocado.
I toured Italy with Cirio as part of a sponsored campaign to discover ‘True Italian’. All words, thoughts and images are my own.