Photo Credit: Elizabeth Newman
This is one of those great pasta dishes that comes together so quickly on a weeknight, but it doesn’t taste like a rush situation at all. This pasta is simple, but has loads of flavor from a few key ingredients.
Calabrian chili paste is one of my favorite Italian products. It’s quite spicy, but it does a lot more than bring on the heat – it has a lovely warm and slightly sweet flavor as well, and it can really wake any ordinary dish up.
Pomodorini tomatoes, which are essentially canned peeled cherry tomatoes, are my favorite type to use in this dish. They’re a lot sweeter than regular canned tomatoes, and they have a chance to really stand out here. However, San Marzano style (as long as they get cut up or crushed) or even crushed tomatoes will work as well.
Lemon juice adds a beautiful brightness to the dish as well! It’s one of my secret moves to really make a tomato sauce taste vibrant and fresh.
Calabrian Chili Pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 14 oz can pomodorini tomatoes, such as Corbara
- 2 tablespoons Calabrian chili paste*
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, from 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 pound short pasta, such as capricci, penne, or rigatoni
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- *For more spice, up the amount of Calabrian chili paste to 3 tablespoons. For less spice, reduce to 1 tablespoon. If you don’t have Calabrian chili pasta on hand, you can substitute with a small sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and gradually increase as desired.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan and heat another 30 seconds. Add the pomodorini tomatoes to the skillet, then fill the can up with 1/4 cup of water to release the extra tomato sauce in the can, and add to the pan as well. Either crush with the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon, or gently cut them with kitchen scissors. Add the Calabrian chili paste, dried oregano, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tablespoon of butter and gently stir until melted. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season generously with salt. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than package directions, about 10 minutes, or until not quite al dente. Using a spider, spoon the pasta directly from the water into the sauce over medium heat. Sprinkle the Parmesan directly over the pasta, and toss to coat. If needed, add pasta water a few tablespoons at a time to loosen up the sauce.
- Top with more cheese before serving if desired.