Let’s Talk Food: Red noodles — our grandson’s favorite

Photo courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Quentin’s red noodles spaghetti with red sauce.

Our grandson, Quentin, just celebrated his third birthday, and his favorite dish is what he calls red noodles, or spaghetti, with tomato sauce.

I love this recipe because the addition of a carrot adds some sweetness to the sauce and it is a great way to sneak in a vegetable. I serve this to my cooking classes when I teach manners because I show them an old photo of an Italian with a large handful of spaghetti, much more than he could possibly put in his mouth. I ask the class whether it is proper to eat with your fingers, and whether stuffing your mouth is correct, hoping they all answer with “No!”

There’s a painting by Domenico Gargiulo from the 17th century called “Iazzaroni” of three Neopolitan beggars eating macaroni with their hands in the middle of the street. With the rising prices of meat, pasta became an affordable staple.

Tomato sauce

In a saucepan, heat until shimmering:

1/4 cup olive or avocado oil

Add and cook over moderate heat, stirring until softened and just started to brown, about 10 minutes:

1 large onion, finely minced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Add and cook, stirring until softened, 5 minutes:

1 large carrot, finely shredded

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

Cook until carrots are tender, add:

2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Bring to boil, lower heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and is reduced to 5 cups.

Season with:

Kosher salt to taste

• • •

When traveling throughout Italy, some of the best pasta dishes are simple such as cacio e pepe, or pasta with cheese and black pepper, a classic in Rome.

Cacio e pepe

Serves: 4

In a large pasta pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, whisk until smooth:

1 1/2 cups cold water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Add:

1 1/2 cups pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated

(The cornstarch slurry will help the cheese from clumping)

Stir until evenly moistened. Set pan on medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the cheese melts and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In boiling water, add:

2 tablespoons kosher salt

12 ounces spaghetti or linguini

Cook until al dente, as per instructions on package. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta very well. Return pasta to the pot and let cool for 1 minute.

Pour the pecorino mixture over the pasta and toss with tongs until combined, then toss in:

2 teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more to serve. Let stand, tossing two or three more times, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Pasta should be creamy but not loose. If needed, add reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time to adjust the consistency. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve with more cheese and pepper on the side.

• • •

An even easier sauce is aglio e olio, or garlic and oil sauce. If you have some flat leaf parsley in your garden or even in a pot, the rest of the ingredients should be readily available in your pantry.

Aglio e olio, or garlic and oil pasta sauce

Serves: 4-6

In a pasta pot, boil 4 quarts of water, add:

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 pound spaghetti

Cook until al dente, as per instructions on package. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, drain spaghetti.

In a non-stick skillet, heat over low heat:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir constantly until garlic foams and is sticky and straw-colored, about 8-10 minutes. Turn off heat, add:

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons reserved pasta water

4 garlic cloves, minced

Toss pasta into sauce, add:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Toss well to coat. Add more pasta water, if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt, serve immediately, serving with Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese.

• • •

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is translated to “spaghetti in the style of a whore” and was invented in the mid-20th century. The components are tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers and garlic. Because of the translation, the story that the whores made this pasta dish for their clients sounds like a great story, but in a 2005 newspaper article from Il Golfo, it states that puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot.

Near closing one evening, Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables.

He was low of ingredients. The customers explained that is was late and they were very hungry. “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi” they said, “Make any kind of garbage.”

With only four tomatoes, two olives, some capers and garlic, it is said he created spaghetti alla puttanesca.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Serves: 4-6

In a pasta pot, boil 4 quarts of water, add:

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 pound spaghetti

Cook until al dente, as per package instructions. In a large skillet, heat:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Cook, stirring often, and stir in:

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

Cook until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.

Stir in:

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped coarse

1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley

3 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Add sauce to pasta, toss well to coat. Drizzle with more extra virgin-olive oil, serve immediately.

Foodie bites

Hawaii Community College’s Culinary Program is open through Friday, The Cafeteria is open, with specials daily, and the Bamboo Hale is featuring the Asian standard menu and the foods of the Philippines. You can call 934-2591 for reservations from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.