I often get ask the questions “why are there so many different pasta type? Isn’t pasta all the same?”. The answer is, unsurprisingly, that each pasta shape is cleverly designed to serve a specific purpose, and, no, it is not all the same. You try talk a roman into matching amatriciana sauce with farfalle? You are likely to get cursed at! How can you not know that only bucatini and rigatoni will do? By the same token, ask a genovese to replace spaghetti or trofie with orecchiette, to be lavishly coated in emerald green pesto sauce and he will tell you he’d rather set his own hair on fire than commit such blasphemy. Indeed, we do take the matter of pasta seriously in Italy. Each shape is suited for a particular type of sauce. Shellfish love spaghetti and linguine, penne is heavenly with a simple fresh tomato sauce and fusilli, the famous spiral-shaped pasta, is a perfect vehicle for chunky and rustic sauces, such as this one: oven roasted vegetables, rendered sweet by the addition of a little vincotto and the irresistible piquancy of extra-virgin olive oil.
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 celery sticks, chopped,
1 green pepper (capsicum) cut into small chunks
3/4 shallots cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves, skin off, bashed with the back of a knife
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of vincotto (replace with balsamic vinegar if hard to find)
salt to taste
1 lb of uncooked pasta (fusilli or rigatoni work well with this sauce)
percorino cheese (omit for a vegan, dairy-free option)
1. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl, add the oil, vicotto (or vinegar) and a little salt. Toss to combine and place the vegetables onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.
2. Bake in a preheated 180C (350 F) oven for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly blistered. Set aside to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate if not using straight away. The vegetables will keep well in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Drop in your pasta and cook al dente, according to instructions.
4. Drain the pasta, but reserve 2-3 tablespoons of pasta cooking water.
5. Toss the pasta in the tray with the vegetables until well coated, add a little pasta cooking water if too dry. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.
6. Top with freshly grated pecorino cheese and a few basil leaves. Serve hot, or at room temperature as a summer pasta salad.