Italy, a nation of 58 million people, is a patchwork quilt of 20 distinct regions. All Italian cooking relies on olive oil, grains and fresh, seasonal produce, but each region has its own preferences and specialties. California and Italy have much in common, which explains why many simple Italian dishes featuring fresh ingredients are popular in the USA.
While red sauce is the most familiar match for Italian pasta, as you move into Northern Italy the tomatoes and olive oil give way to creamy butter as a popular pasta topping. Northern Italy is a major dairy region, much like California. Hearty enough to serve as a main course with a green salad on the side, California pasta is also a perfect accompaniment to any type of meat or chicken dish. It also goes well with fish because its rich yet subtle flavors do not overwhelm even the most delicate fish. This recipe works best with slightly wider forms of pasta, such as linguini or fettuccini, which provide a nice balance between the pasta and butter coating.
Californian pasta ingredients: 1 pound (16 ounces) dried or fresh linguini 2 tablespoons salt 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter 1 cup (4 ounces) Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs Freshly ground black pepper
Preparation: In a large (6-8 quart) pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta. While pasta is cooking, cut butter into 1-inch pieces and set aside to soften. When pasta is cooked to desired doneness, drain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Return drained pasta to the cooking pot and add butter, half the grated cheese and half the bread crumbs. Add the reserved pasta water to moisten. Put it t to a serving bowl or portion into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle remaining cheese and bread crumbs on top. Serve immediately.
Italian pasta ingredients: 12 large ripe plum tomatoes 1/2 cup olive oil 3 large cloves garlic 1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced into thin strips 3 tbsp minced fresh basil 1/4 cup minced Italian parsley leaves Salt 1/2 tsp freshly milled black pepper 1 lb fusilli (twists) Freshly grated Romano cheese
Preparation: Blanch fresh tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water. Peel skins with a small paring knife. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise. Squeeze each half and discard all of the seeds. Slice into 1/4-inch strips, place in strainer set over a bowl and reserve juice. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, olives, basil, parsley, 1 tsp salt and pepper; mix well with wooden spoon. Transfer to a 1 1/2 quart jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate sauce for at least 6 hours or overnight, turning jar 3 to 4 times so that tomatoes will be well coated with marinade. Remove sauce and reserved juice from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours before serving. Discard garlic from sauce just before tossing with pasta. Cook pasta in 6 quarts boiling water with 1 tbsp salt. Drain pasta in a colander, transfer to a bowl containing 1 tbsp olive oil and toss quickly. Toss pasta with 3/4 of the sauce.