Roasted Pork Shoulder

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I recently read Nigella Lawson’s last cookbook, published in 2017, called At My Table.

It didn’t seem to grab me like her previous 87 books, or however many she’s churned out over the years, but then, after I was done, I realized how many recipes I bookmarked.

The recipes weren’t terribly fancy, but that’s not her style in the first place. And it seemed like half of the dishes were sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, like she’d been studying Ottolenghi’s cookbooks at the time of writing hers.

But again, I did bookmark a lot of recipes. And the first I wanted to make was her roasted pork shoulder. Why you may ask? It’s because when I cook with pork shoulder or butt, I’m usually making chile verde or pulled pork in the slow cooker. This pork shoulder is roasted in the oven.

To quote Ms. Lawson about her recipe: “As far as I’m concerned this is the easiest route to a lazy weekend feast.”

What I didn’t realize, was how challenging it would be to find a boneless, skin-on pork shoulder. I even called D’Artagnan and Lobel’s in New York City.

So I bought a de-boned pork shoulder (I even got resistance from the butcher for that request) and covered it on one wide with pork rind that I purchased from a different butcher.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
With caramelized garlic and ginger

2 heads garlic
5.5 pounds boneless and skin-on pork shoulder
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon raw unfiltered apple cider

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut off the tops of the 2 heads of garlic, so that you can just see the cloves peeking through, and sit each scalped head of garlic, cut-side up, on a piece of foil large enough for you to be able to pull up the ends and scrunch them together to form a parcel.

Put both parcels in the hot oven and roast for 45 minutes, by which time the cloves will be soft and caramelized, then remove from the oven and leave to cool, still wrapped in their foil parcels – this could take up to 3 hours.

Then, 7 1/2 hours before you want to eat, take the pork out of the fridge for about an hour to get the chill off it, and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.


While you wait, unwrap the two parcels of garlic, and squeeze the bulbs to push the sticky caramelized cloves out into a bowl. Add the ginger, soy, and vinegar and mix together.

Sit the pork, skin-side up, and spread the garlic and ginger paste into the pocket where the bone was. If there’s any residue left in the bowl, you can smear this gently around the sides, but make sure you don’t let any get on the skin.

I cut some of the pork skin I purchased to fit the top of the shoulder. You can see it under the pork. I used a few ties of string to secure it once the paste was inside the pork.

Pour some freshly-boiled water into the bottom of a roasting pan, just to cover the base by about 1/4 inch. Flip over the pork so that the skin is on top and roast in the oven for 5 hours. I brushed a little peanut oil over the pork skin.


After these 5 hours, gently baste the sides of the pork with the juices that have collected in the pan, then leave to roast for another hour.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and turn the oven up to 425 degrees F. Patiently spoon the juices into a wide-necked heatproof pitcher and return the pork to the hot oven for 30 minutes until the skin has turned crunchy.

Transfer the pork to a board. Spoon off the fat from top of the intense meaty juices in the pitcher; this should leave you with about 1 cup of the gingery and garlicky gravy. Check to see whether you need to reheat these juices and if you do, just warm them in a saucepan.


Remove the crisp skin and break into pieces. I cut a quite creative triangle for artistic plating.

Then carve, shred, or pull apart the meat, as wished. I sliced, and in this photo you can see the roasted garlic-ginger paste. There was a slight pinkishness to the roasted pork that didn’t show up in my other photos.

Transfer to a warmed dish and pour the meat juices over it, to serve.

The sauce is absolutely delicious. I wish there were more of it.

I was quite impressed with this slow roasted pork – tender and delicious. The next time, I won’t worry about skin, and the last 30 minutes at 425 degrees F won’t be necessary.


I also didn’t realize how much pork rind/skin shrinks, so I should have trimmed it much larger than I did, but it was still a fun experiment.

Trottole Trapanese

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This is a pasta post, based on my discovering the cutest twirly pasta ever, called Trottole. I purchased the spinach variety, for color.

As is my pattern, apparently, I purchase a unique pasta, then figure out what sauce to put on it. For the trottole, I decided to again make a Sicilian pasta sauce I wrote about five years ago. It got some attention, but not enough.

This sauce is so crazy wonderful and different than anything I’ve ever come across on other food blogs, that you folks need to discover it, too. So here it is again.

The sauce, called Pesto Trapenese, is an uncooked, Tunisian-influenced tomato sauce, that originated in Trapani, Sicily. The sauce is ready before the pasta has finished cooking. I discovered it in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook called Nigellissima.

Ms. Lawson uses fusilli lunghi when she makes Pesto Trapanese, otherwise called telephone cords, but I think these trottole will be a perfect substitute.

Trottole with Pesto Trapanese
Or, Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Almonds, and Garlic

1 pound fusilli lunghi (or other pasta of your choice)
salt for pasta water (to taste)
9 ounces cherry tomatoes
6 anchovy fillets
1 ounce golden sultanas
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
2 tablespoons capers (drained)
2 ounces blanched almonds
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan
1 small bunch fresh basil (approx. 20g / 1 cup, to serve)
Cayenne pepper flakes

Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to the boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions, though start checking it a good 2 minutes before it’s meant to be ready.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all of the 7 ingredients through the olive oil into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.

Tip the drained pasta into your warmed serving bowl. Pour and scrape the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it).


Serve immediately and strew with basil leaves.

Grated Parmesan and cayenne pepper flakes are optional.

I’m so in love with the trottole. And they hold their shape beautifully.

And you can bet I’ll keep making pesto Trapanese. At first you taste the bite from the garlic, then the saltiness from the anchovies, then the tang from the capers, and then some raisin sweetness, and finally, the texture from the almonds. The tomatoes are hardly noticeable, yet provide a good base for the goodies.

Try this sauce!!!

 

 

Chicken Teriyaki

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My husband, thanks to me, has quite a developed palate, considering how he was cooked for growing up. He loves Indian food, he loves Ethiopian food, he loves most Mediterranean cuisines, minus the olives and capers, and he absolutely loves dim sum.

However, there’s no dim sum or Indian restaurant where we live. So when we go out, it’s more for me to get out of the kitchen, and much less about either of us having a great food experience. (Sometimes our experiences are downright comical.)

But I admit he seriously sacrifices himself when we go to this local Japanese restaurant.

The restaurant has the most beautiful salad, called the avocado ball salad with a crabmeat filling. It’s divine; I could have it every day. It’s really the main reason I ever want to have lunch at this specific restaurant, although their sushi and sashimi are also outstanding.

However, all my husband orders off of their menu is chicken teriyaki, and it’s not good.

One day I received a Nigella.com email, sharing her Chicken Teriyaki recipe, and it dawned on me that I’d never made it at home before. Chicken Teriyaki was something I learned early on, was grossly over-sweet. I think I figured that out when I purchased a bottle of teriyaki sauce. Horrible stuff.

So I decided to test out Nigella’s recipe, even though she made it abundantly clear that there is sugar in it.

From Nigella: “I know the world is full of good parents who never give their children food with salt or sugar, and this recipe proves conclusively that I am not one of them and, on top of these dietary failings, the following also contains alcohol!”

Here’s her recipe:

Chicken Teriyaki
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons sake
4 tablespoons mirin
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
Splash of sesame oil
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Sushi rice

In a glass baking dish, combine the sake, mirin, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and sesame oil. Stir well.

Add the chicken pieces and let them marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a braiser. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the chicken out of the marinade, and let it cook until browned on all sides.

Pour in the marinade, and cook the chicken for five minutes longer. Remove the chicken with the slotted spoon to a serving bowl, loosely covered with foil to keep the chicken warm.

Lower the heat and reduce the marinade until thick and syrupy. Pour over the chicken, toss gently, and serve, with cooked sushi rice.

It’s a wonderful recipe, and of course my husband thought it was a thousand times better than what he orders locally.

I served the teriyaki with some chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

I looked at my Japanese cookbook just to see what an authentic chicken teriyaki recipe included, and I discovered something unexpected.

Teriyaki sauce is made up of mirin, soy sauce, and chicken stock. To turn it into a teriyaki glaze, sugar is added – 1 tablespoon of sugar for every 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce.

That’s actually pretty sweet, which is why, obviously, teriyaki becomes such a syrupy glaze. Also, to serve the chicken, the recipe says to “spoon a little of the glaze over each serving.”

So maybe it’s not just the sweetness that can be overpowering, but also the volume of teriyaki glaze on the chicken in Americanized Japanese restaurants.

But in any case, if you dislike chicken teriyaki at your local Japanese-American restaurant, do try this recipe. My husband said, “It’s wonderful.”

And now I’ll probably never get him back to the Japanese restaurant so I can have my avocado ball salad…

 

Avocado on Grilled Bread

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In 2012, my husband and I were visiting my daughter in London and we went out for breakfast. This is what my daughter ordered.

I took a photo of it because that’s always what I’ve done, even before blogging. It was just so pretty: mashed avocado spread on grilled bread, topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. My introduction to avocado toast.

So although slow to embrace food trends, like zoodles and cauliflower rice, I decided to (FINALLY) make avocado toast. It’s not like I knew it wouldn’t be wonderful! Avocados are one of my favorite foods.

Too bad I’m not super artistic, or I could jump on another trend and create art from avocados…

Here’s how I made mine.

Avocado on Grilled Bread

4 tablespoons oil, I used walnut oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Few sprigs of thyme
6 slices good bread, like Ciabatta
2 ripe but not over-ripe avocados
Fresh tomato slices
Salt
Pepper
Goat cheese
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Warm the olive oil in a butter warmer with the garlic and thyme. Do not let the garlic brown or burn.

Heat a large, flat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the slices of bread with the garlic oil, and grill the bread face-down until browned. Place them on a serving plate and set aside.

Peel and de-pit the avocados. Scoop out the flesh and place in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Only prepare the avocado right before serving.

To prepare the “toasts,” spread some of the mashed avocado on the grilled breads and smooth the tops.

Add sliced tomatoes, followed by a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese.

Drizzle the remaining garlic and thyme oil over the avocado toasts and serve immediately.

These are not only for breakfast or a snack or lunch. I can see these served as an hors d’oeuvres with some champagne or rosé!

Alternatively, oven roast small tomatoes in a gratin pan.

Or, use sun-dried tomatoes. It’s all wonderful!

If more protein is desired, one can always add an egg, or some smoked salmon. But I like the simplicity of this preparation.

Do not use inferior bread for these toasts. Use a ciabatta, sourdough, or a hearty multigrain.

These avocado toasts were honestly outstanding. If you love avocado, tomatoes, and feta, then you’ll love these too. Of course, you’ve probably made them already because you’re not stubborn! But I have to say that the garlic and thyme-infused walnut oil was a fantastic addition.

Nigella Kitchen

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I happen to be a fan of Nigella Lawson. She’s so prolific in the cookbook department, but each of her books manages to be different.

My favorite is Nigella Christmas, but probably because I’m a Christmas freak. Feast is also fabulous. But maybe in my top five is Nigella Kitchen, published in 2010.

Nigella describes this book as a comfort chronicle – “the story of my love affair with the kitchen,” which she refers to as the “heart of the home.”

That’s probably one major thing that all food bloggers have in common, that we’re at home in our kitchens. It’s where we’re the most comfortable, where we dish up love in the form of food.

In her introduction, she stresses the fact that she is not a chef. Nigella writes, “I understand why cooking can hold so much terror and the kitchen seem a place of stress, not solace. I’m sure this is partly to do with the contemporary cult of the chef…”.

Well I’ve been saying this for years. If anyone was ever hesitant about getting into the kitchen, I think the intimidating chefs on tv put an end to any attempts at cooking. This is especially sad when home cooking has nothing to do with what chefs do in their restaurant kitchens.

Furthermore, she adds, “I say and can never seem to say enough: if we needed qualifications and expertise before we stepped into the kitchen, human beings would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long time ago.”

I love her approach, probably because it was always my goal, especially when I taught cooking classes, and now with this blog, to show how simple home cooking is, and how easy it is to be creative and not stick to an exact recipe.

In another part of the book she writes about having a girlfriend over for supper:

“We were chatting, moaning, jabbering away and generally passing the time, as one does. I was at the stove, pontificating and pottering occasionally pushing and prodding what was in front of me with a pair of tongs; she was facing me, at the kitchen table. After about ten minutes, if that I presented her with her plate and she looked surprised, as she was sure she hadn’t seen me actually cooking. In a way, I can see her point: this wasn’t Cooking-with-a-capital-C, but the lower-case way which is always my starting point, and on busy days, I wouldn’t think of going beyond. You put something on the heat, you take it off the heat.”

Nigella’s writing is so impressive to me (her first career was journalism), and she’s also damn funny. And even though she’s gorgeous model-pretty, she seems so down to earth and shall I say normal?

I also love the passion she has not just for cooking but also eating; the way she embraces her love of indulging is respectable to me. I’d rather live like Nigella and eat chocolate cake in the middle of the night, than doom myself to eat egg white omelets the rest of my life like rail-thin Gwyneth Paltrow.

So what recipe from Nigella Kitchen to pick for this post? I have many recipes bookmarked, some of which are quite simple, but manage also to be unique. One really spoke to me – it was a salmon over sushi rice topped with a spicy Asian sauce. Simple? Definitely. Yet fabulous.

I’ve always mentioned that I use brown rice, or actually when I use any grain I purchase the unprocessed variety for more nutrition, but Nigella’s use of sushi rice in this recipe – with its beautiful white elegance – made me actually go out and buy some.

Plus I finally get to use some sake that I’ve had on hand forever!

Salmon and Sushi Rice
with hot, sweet, and sour Asian Sauce

2 1/2 cups sushi rice
1 – 1 pound slab salmon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red or green chile peppers, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced gingerroot
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water (used used only 1)

Cook the rice following the package instructions.

Sear the salmon on a flat griddle for 4-5 minutes. Turn it over and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side. The salmon should be just opaque and cooked in the center. Set aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients together, and put in a bowl to serve alongside the salmon and the cooked rice.


Flake the salmon and serve it over the rice, and generously add the sauce.

This would be a fantastic sauce for any leftover salmon you might have. This recipe, as it turns out, is only about the cooked rice, the cooked salmon, and the sauce!

I originally assumed that the salmon was marinated, but no, it’s just a matter of making this fabulous sauce!

Besides reducing the water in the recipe(I didn’t want a watery sauce), I also added chile paste (sambal oelek) to the sauce.

Part of the reason is that I used jalapeños, but I could only find sweet red chile peppers.

I wanted the sauce more spicy!!!

Make sure and serve the sauce with the salmon. You’ll want more of it!

note: You can probably tell that I cooked 2 small salmon fillets, plus I only cooked 1 cup of sushi rice; my husband doesn’t eat salmon. But I made the full recipe of the sauce and will use it up on something else soon. Grilled chicken? Eggs? The next morning after I’d made this dish, I ate the second salmon and rice serving of it cold, for breakfast. It was fantastic.

Chicken and Sausage

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When I read cookbooks, I am not turned off by long lists of ingredients. Nor do I look for the words “quick” or “easy” in the recipe names. I never have, even though I probably should have taken quick and easy more seriously when I was cooking for our growing family and busy as the dickens. I just prefer real recipes with real ingredients, whether simple or more involved.

I own all of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks and love all of them. I love a lot of things about her. She’s hysterically funny, an impressie writer, she embraces her love of food and eating, and she doesn’t bother with super fiddly recipes (translation from British – fussy/sophisticated).

Even her cakes are often rustic, mis-shapen layers of chocolate goodness. You don’t make them for fair judging, you make them because they’re fabulous.

So once I came across a Nigella recipe for chicken and sausages that were roasted simply with Dijon mustard and oil. In the old days I might have turned up my nose at such a recipe, especially if it was called “Quick and Easy Chicken and Sausage.” But fortunately I didn’t. It is just a good recipe that happens to take little time, and the results are wonderful. And I’ve made this dish more than once, which is a rarity in my kitchen.

It came from the cookbook, “Feast” which might be my favorite of Ms. Lawson’s – aside from “Nigella Christmas.” Doesn’t she just look like she could be my best friend?!! I mean, that’s what I look like in the kitchen when I’m kneading bread!
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Nigella’s original recipe For chicken and sausage has a few more ingredients, but this is how I’ve adapted her recipe.
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Dijon-Roasted Chicken and Sausage

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 chicken breasts
5-6 Italian sausages
Small red potatoes, scrubbed
1 large purple onion, cut into wedges
Coarsely ground black pepper
Chopped rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or 375 degrees if you have a roast setting.

Combine the olive oil and mustard in a decent-sized roasting pan. Whisk until smooth.


Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, creating uniform pieces. Place the breasts in the pan, coating them with the mustardy oil. Then add the sausages to the pan, rolling them around to get coated.
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Sprinkle the potatoes around the meat; halve them if they’re too large. Then add the wedges of onion around the meat.

Season well with coarse black pepper, if desired. Then add some sprigs of rosemary, or chopped rosemary.


I am in love with my Mauviel roasting pan, which has endured a lot of oven use over the years.

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Roast for approximately 30-35 minutes, turning the chicken pieces and sausages half way through.
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Serve immediately.

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This dish is wonderful with steamed green beans.
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As you can see, this dish is definitely quick and easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good!
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Thank you Nigella!

Christmas Rocky Road

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I happen to really admire and idolize Nigella Lawson. And if you do, too, you know she loves Christmas.

This rocky road recipe is a Nigella recipe that she adapted for her Christmas cookbook, in order to make it more Christmassy! I’ve made it a few times now, and it’s become a holiday favorite for my family.

My favorite Nigella cookbooks are Nigella Kitchen, Feast, and Nigella Christmas. I can’t narrow those down any further. They’re all so unique and wonderfully entertaining, and packed full of hearty and satisfying recipes. Nothing too fancy and fussy. Or fiddly, in British speak.

Nigella had a tv show in the U.S. at one time that I loved to watch. She’s extremely funny, irreverent, and quite a hoot. Nigella embraces just about all food and drink, loves her children, and loves parties. We should really be friends.

So I’m not sure why I made this rocky road recipe the first time, actually. I don’t love candied fruit, marshmallows are strange, I don’t like rocky road ice cream, and we’re not really a sweets family. But am I glad I took a chance on this recipe.

In the past I’ve followed it almost exactly, except for the fact that I’ve always substituted other cookies for the Amaretti, because I could never find them. I used shortbread once, and gingersnaps another time; both turned out fabulous.

But this year I ordered Amaretti in the fall, so I was prepared! Plus I made a few changes to enhance the Christmas theme of these fudgey bars. I used pistachios for their green color, and I added some dried cranberries for their scarlet color. So here’s this year’s version of Nigella’s Christmas Rocky Road:

Christmas Rocky Road

1 bag Amaretti cookies, 7 ounces
1 cup whole pistachios
1 cup whole candied cherries, plus a few extra
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
15 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup Lyle’s golden syrup
Powdered sugar

In a food processor, pulse the amaretti cookies until they are a coarse crumble. Place them in a large bowl.

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Add the pistachios, candied cherries, dried cranberries, and mini marshmallows, and set aside.

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To the top pan of a double boiler, place the chocolate, butter, and golden syrup. Heat about 2” of water in the pot below until it is gently simmering; the water should not boil, and should not touch the pan on top. We are melting the chocolate, not cooking it. Then, place the pan with the chocolate mixture on top. Using a spatula, occasionally stir the mixture as it melts. This should take about 10 minutes.

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Have a 9 x 13” pan ready.

When the chocolate and butter have melted, pour this into the cookie mixture in the large bowl. Using the spatula, fold everything together until completely incorporated. Then pour this mixture into the pan, using the spatula. Push it all around so it fills the corners, and is relative smooth on top. Using any extra cherries, if you wish, push them into the bars in random locations.

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Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When you are ready to serve the bars, slice them into big squares and remove them from the pan. If you wish to cut them smaller, it’s easier to do on a cutting board. If desired, sprinkle the Christmas Rocky Road with sifted powdered sugar.

Forgotten Pudding

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This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, but not from a cookbook that I know of… I printed it, so perhaps it’s from her blog?

The reason I wanted to make it again, and also post on it, because it’s so unique.

Here’s a quote:

“There is a wonderful poetry to the name of this dessert which, thankfully, once eaten could never be forgotten. It’s an old, old recipe popularly exhumed – I believe by the late, great Richard Sax. Think of it as a kind of marshmallow-based pavlova. That’s to say, you whip the egg whites as if making meringue, spread on a jelly roll pan, and put in an oven which you immediately switch off, leaving the pudding to cook overnight – hence, “forgotten.”

So that pretty much explains it. I own one book by Richard Sax; if I were more of a baker, I’d own more. His book is an incredible reference.

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I had ten egg whites leftover from when I made creme fraiche ice cream, which used only yolks. So I knew I couldn’t waste them.

Typically meringues or a pavlova come to mind when one has leftover egg whites, but I’m so glad I remembered this recipe, and you will be too, if you’ve never made it before!

Forgotten Pudding
adapted from Nigella Lawson

6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
Berries
White sugar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Generously butter a jelly roll pan.
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Place the egg whites in a large bowl, and have your electric mixer handy, as well as the sugar and vanilla.
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Begin whipping the egg whites. Once they’re foamy, begin gradually adding the sugar. There are no pictures of me doing this, or adding the vanilla, as I don’t have three hands.
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The egg white will become more foamy.
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Then they will become more thick and opaque.
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Keep whipping on high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy.
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Pour the meringue into the jelly roll pan, and immediately spread it out evenly, filling the corners, and smoothing the top as best you can.

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Place the pan in the oven.
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Close the oven door, then immediately turn off the oven. Do not open the oven door until the next day. I prepared my forgotten pudding approximately 10 hours after putting it in the oven.
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Toss your choice of berries with a little sugar and let them macerate for a bit. I used superfine sugar.
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Right before serving, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Place the cake on a serving platter, and cover the cake with the whipped cream. I did mine individually.
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Then top with the berries. Slice the cake into 12 servings.

The forgotten pudding ends up like a meringue that you left out at room temperature for a few days. It’s sticky but soft. There’s no real crunch to it.

In the original recipe, Nigella also used passion fruit, but I couldn’t get my hands on any.
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By the way, I looked at Nigella’s blog, and there was the recipe. So here is the link for the original forgotten pudding!

Nigella and Pasta

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Nigella Lawson is my favorite TV chef. Not just because she is pretty and has a cool accent, but because she’s hysterically funny and loves eating and sharing food.

When I think of Nigella, I immediately think of cake, because it’s obvious she loves cake if you’ve read any of her cookbooks. But after cake, I think pasta. This is a woman who doesn’t worry about carbs or maintaining a gluten-free diet. She eats pasta with gusto.

So I found a unique pasta on her website, Nigella.com, to celebrate pasta and Ms. Nigella Lawson. It was a pasta I’ve never come across before.

This pasta recipe, called Pesto Trapanese, originates from the Italian city of Trapani, on Sicily’s westernmost tip. Geographically, Trapani is closer to the country of Tunisia so its local food has been defined by both Italian and Tunisian ingredients.

As a result, this pesto bears no resemblance to the popular basil pesto with which we’re familiar from Liguria. Instead, it is a savory-sweet combination of tomatoes, raisins, and almonds with the addition of anchovies and capers. Intrigued? I was!

Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic and Almonds

1 pound pasta of your choice, I chose pappardelle
9 ounces cherry tomatoes*
6 anchovy fillets
1 ounce golden sultanas
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons capers, well drained
2 ounces blanched almonds
2 ounces olive oil
Cayenne pepper flakes to taste
Grated Parmesan
Chiffonade of basil leaves, optional

Pappardelle are a beautiful pasta.

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Cook your pasta according to package directions in salted water.

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Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, anchovies, sultanas, garlic, capers and almonds in the jar of your food processor. Add the 2 ounces of oil and process until smooth.

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Ms. Lawson also recommends using about 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water in the pesto sauce.

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Without pasta water, mine looked like this, so I didn’t add any water.

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Drain the pasta, then put in a large serving bowl. Immediately add the tomato mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. I added cayenne pepper flakes. Serve with some grated Parmesan and a few basil leaves, if desired.

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verdict: At first bite, I wasn’t really sure what I thought. Then, it was immediately addicting. You first taste the anchovies, capers, and garlic, then you feel the texture from the almonds, and then there’s the occasional sweetness from the raisins. What an unbelievable pasta sauce. I can see why Nigella eats it cold…

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From Nigella:

“I have come across more than one version of “pesto Trapanese”, the Sicilian pasta sauce from Trapani that differs from the more popularly known Genoese variety in a number of ways. Chief of these is that almonds, not pine nuts, are ground into the mix – a divergence whose origins (in common with a lot of Sicilian food) owe much to Arabic cooking.

I like to use fusilli lunghi, which are like long golden ringlets (or, less poetically, telephone cords) but, if you can’t find them, simply substitute regulation-size fusilli (or indeed any pasta of your choice).

Since the sauce is unheated, it would be wise to warm the serving bowl first but, having said that, I absolutely adore eating this Sicilian pasta cold, should any be left over. It is so easy to make and, being both simple and spectacular, is first on my list for a pasta dish to serve when you have people round.”