German Jazz Guitarist Pasta

Reading Mark Bittman's article about pasta in the Times today, I couldn't help but be reminded of a German jazz guitarist I knew years ago. This was no ordinary German jazz guitarist, but a half Italian German jazz guitarist and who made a mean penne arrabiata chock full of vegetables. He and his cousin Fabio, also a jazz guitarist, lived in Dumbo in an old gun factory that had been (illegally) converted into loft apartments.

Pasta was one of their favorite things to make, particularly since the gun factory was only heated from 9-5 on weekdays, and eating hot pasta was one way to stay warm. It was the German jazz guitarist who taught me that you must put an entire handful of salt into the pasta water. He also insisted on Pomi tomatoes, since they contain none of citric acid that can make canned tomatoes sour. Like the recent immigrants mentioned in Bittman's article, they too were overjoyed by the bounty of food available in America. They bought lots of cheap vegetables at the local Korean deli and shoplifted the expensive Parmesan.

The resulting pasta dish was just as filling as it was nutritious. And the cheese on top? For us, it was worth the risk.

German Jazz Guitarist Pasta

1 clove garlic
1 zucchini
½ yellow onion
5 oz. white mushrooms
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste (look for the kind in the tube)
1 tsp drained capers
Red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
1/4 lb. penne
Parmesan cheese

Put a handful of kosher salt in an 8-quart pot of water and bring it to boil.

While waiting for water to boil, mince the garlic. Cut zucchini on a diagonal. Slice onion in wedges lengthwise. Slice mushrooms. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add garlic, stir a few times, then add the rest of the vegetables. Saute, stirring constantly, until the zucchini just begins to get transparent in the center. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, capers, two dashes of oregano, one dash of red pepper flakes. Heat on high until it bubbles, then keep on a low simmer, uncovered. By now the pasta water should be boiling; add penne and cook.

Reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Drain penne while still al dente. Check the sauce’s seasonings and salt to taste. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if sauce is too thick. Finish cooking the penne in the sauce. Raise the heat and stir constantly until some of the sauce is absorbed.

Serve topped with a generous amount of freshly grated, legally acquired Parmesan.

Serves 2 jazz guitarists.


Marie Fromage said...

Oh yes, there's nothing like a hot bowl of pasta with a dash of larceny!