Late Dinner of Penne with Parslied Olive Oil & Garlic (serves 4)

After we got home from our momentous visit to Pisa and Lucca in the province of Tuscany, it was late, and I was tired. I was also hungry, so dinner had to be made despite my lack of enthusiasm.

The cathedral at Pisa (along with a strange leaning tower in the background?)

As I struggled to figure out what I could make in lightening speed, my man Dave (who had lingering in town to grab a bottle of wine), walked in followed by two buddies, Chris and Shawn. Hmmm….judging by the bags and bottles of wine under their arms I sensed an Aperitivo was imminent.

The earth on each side of this beautiful marble path (which joins the two buildings which house the graves of affluent and important Pisa citizens) contains 5 shiploads of soil from the Holy Land, making this some of the most holy ground in Italy.

For those of you that don’t know; an Aperitivo is a little party before dinner with drinks and appetizers. The drinks traditionally served in Italy are Campari, Aperol, Negroni, and sparkling drinks like prosecco. They are often mixed to make aperitif cocktails (see my post on Aperol Spritz).

The beginning of our impromptu Aperitivo

We made some spritz-y drinks, had a couple of bottles of great red wine (which Chris splurged on!), and an array of cheeses and cured meats.

By the time I got dinner started it was very late indeed. I managed to cook something that can be ready in about 12 minutes (if you are not distracted by friends, chatting, and alcohol). It was the perfect dinner to soak up all of those lovely drinks, and I wouldn’t hesitate doing it all over again.

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You will need: 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp sea salt (I used Maldon), 2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, (use 1 tsp if you are shy of heat), 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, 4 eggs (optional), more seal salt, black pepper & hot pepper flakes to taste, 1lb Penne (I used Barilla brand).

1 – Put pot of water on for pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook according to instructions. Before draining scoop out a 1/2 cup of pasta water, and reserve.

2 – While pasta is cooking, quickly get the rest of your dish together. (The object is to have this done by the time the pasta is ready). Put a big saute pan on low/ medium heat and add the oil. When it warms, add the oil and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the parsley and cayenne pepper flakes.

Pasta with strong flavors

3 – When pasta is cooked and drained, immediately toss into the oily pan, along with the salt and several grinds of black pepper. Swirl together, and toss in a little of the pasta water to loosen everything up.

* If you want a softly fried egg with this (I did!), fry it in a little olive oil just before the pasta is cooked.

It is great topped with a softly fried egg and some cayenne pepper flakes

Divide between shallow bowls and dress with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, some more pepper flakes, black pepper, AND a fried egg.

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