Although there’s not a whole lot that goes into this pasta, I’ve gotten a lot out of it over the years. It sounds soft and mushy (blah, blah), but I really do make this penne for the people I love the most. I FIRST cooked this pasta when I lived in Florence for my four Dutch roommates. It was one of our first home-cooked meals together and I was nervous to feed them for the first time. But I figured it’s simple, spicy, and very sicilian. Kinda like me I guess ;) Long story short they really liked it! Not long after moving back to Kansas I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from one of the girls asking exactly how it is made. It made me so happy to think that those that I love and adore so much were sharing part of me with the people they love, too! Occasionally I get a message from one of them letting me know they made my pasta again. Very heart warming!
Last time we talked about infusing olive oil with garlic. Same thing here but with garlic AND red pepper flakes. If I had to describe Sicilian food in two ingredients it’d be garlic and red peppers, no doubt!
Another ingredient that pops up a lot in southern Italian cooking is bread crumbs. There’s no sense in letting day-old bread go to waste, so why not use it to make something better! If you have stale bread, put it in a bag and push a rolling pin over it until it’s really fine. If not, you can always buy a can of plain bread crumbs at the store.
For this pasta the bread crumbs need to be toasted. If they aren’t they will get too soft once you mix them with the oil and that’s just no buono! Like infusing oil, this process requires patience. Low heat for a long time rather than high heat and burnt bread crumbs! Also, it’s easy to see the bread crumbs start to get a little brown and think they are done, so make sure to let them get really dark before taking them off the heat.
I always have a jar of toasted bread crumbs in the fridge (they last longer if they’re a little cold). My dad puts them on almost every kind of pasta :)
Once the penne is boiled all that’s left is to mix everything together and that’s it.
Pour the infused olive oil over the pasta and mix it up first, then put in the toasted bread crumbs <— this order is very necessary! The bread crumbs soak up the yummy oil and make it stick to the pasta. If you do it visa vera it’s not the saaaame ;) **Another fun fact: the little ridges in the penne (and the whole through the center) create more surface area, thus more room for the oil/breadcrumb mix to stick**