The night included tasting some of the dishes from the book prepared by the Executive Chef Nicholas Stefanelli, sipping on wine, and listening to Domenica describe the origins and the stories behind some of her favorite dishes from the book.
Surprisingly, I wasn't completely immobile after multiple courses of pasta. Instead, I left the restaurant feeling happy to have been able to support such a lovely, talented and humble woman, taste amazing ways of preparing pasta other than spaghetti and meatballs, and just a little bit tipsy because of the wine.
I also received Domenica's cookbook as part of the dinner. Sitting on the Metro, I paged through the book, admired the stunning photos, and was determined to make something from the book very soon.
But then life happened. It wasn't till several weeks later that I got a chance to make one of the recipes from the book. Domenica invited me to a cookbook party thrown for her by one of her good friends and asked me to make one of the recipes from the book.
Let me tell you this: I was intimidated. My dish would be sitting on the same table with the dishes prepared by Joe Yonan and Bonnie Benwick of Washington Post Food section. I felt pressure.
But I had nothing to worry about. The recipe Domenica chose for me was simple to make and did not require making pasta from scratch. It was Gemelli with fresh herbs and chopped olives.
Check out this definition of gemelli from Wikipedia:
Gemelli is a type of pasta. The name derives from the Italian for twins.You know what's so cool about this? I have a twin! So the dish seemed oh so very fitting for me.
Gemelli are not twin tubes twisted around one another, as they may appear to be, but rather a single s-shaped strand twisted into a spiral.
The dish was such a success at the party, that I decided to make it at home, but with a twist. Instead of making the tomato sauce with herbs, garlic and olives and serving it with pasta, I decided to use it as a base for one of my favorite dishes: Shakshuka.
Here's the recipe for the sauce from The Glorious Pasta of Italy
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
3 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme)--> I used thyme in bouquet garni, to make it easier on myself instead of removing all the leaves from the stems and chopping them
1 cup chopped kalamata olives + 2 tablespoons brine from olives
28 oz good quality canned tomatoes in their juices, crushed
ground black pepper
1. Warm oil in a heavy bottomed pot
2. Add garlic
3. Heat oil with garlic on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes
4. Add herbs, olives and brine. Raise the temp to medium. Stir and cook for 1 minute
5. Add tomatoes, salt & pepper. Raise heat to medium-high, simmer for 15-20 min
6. For pasta, serve with 1 pound gemelli, fusilli or other short, sturdy pasta.
I skipped the last step. Instead, I removed the bouquet garni, lowered the heat till the sauce was just simmering, and carefully dropped in 4 eggs into the sauce. Covered and cooked till the whites were opaque and the yolks were still runny.
This was a delicious take on one of my favorite quick dinner meals.
I think that's what good cookbooks do: they inspire you to make new dishes and give you a different way of looking at some of the dishes you've been making for a while. It gives you a chance to spruce up your cooking repertoire and step just a little bit outside of your comfort zone.
I can't wait to make other dishes from the book.