Sometimes there’s more than one cooktale for a recipe. If it’s good, you’re going to make it again and again with more stories to follow the first one. This is one of those recipes. I’ll start with the tale of the first time I made it.
There’s nothing like cooking when you’re out of town – particularly in a different country. You’re completely out of your element at the grocery store and quite frankly clueless of what half the ingredients are that you lay eyes on when you walk in the place – or so I discovered. However, it’s a great time to experiment with your culinary skills. The first time I created this dish it was completely by accident. It was my 30th birthday and New Year’s trip in Costa Rica with my best gal friends Ginger, Tracy, and Amy Claire, as well as my husband, Tres and Ginger’s husband, James. We rented a spectacular house in the mountains with an ocean view and the plan was to cook, cook, cook it up the entire trip. I had my recipe ideas written down and a grocery list ready to go, but as soon as we walked in the grocery store I realized no “planned” recipe was going to happen, as the store had none of the ingredients I needed. So, with help from the guys and gals, I just started grabbing whatever looked familiar that could potentially be put together and become meals. When we got back to the house, it was time for me to play Food Network’s “Chopped,” as our shopping trip ingredients had turned into one of those mystery baskets. That’s where this recipe came from, and I’m quite happy about it because it turned out G-O-O-D! Most of the meals we had that trip were a success, and I have to say it’s the first I ever played the game “use up everything in the fridge before we go home” and actually won at it!
I’ve made this pasta dish twice since Costa Rica. I made it for a group of 15 people when Tres and I were in Destin last month. We stayed in a condo on the beach, complete with a kitchen. Knowing it would be the biggest group I had ever cooked for, I thought what better to cook than pasta? It was a hit again, so I made it for Mother’s Day this past weekend. Surprise ingredients from a grocery store in Costa Rica became a staple, go-to meal for travel cooking and at home, and it’s now the first post on my blog.
1 package of large pepperoni slices
1 package of large salami slices
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion – chopped
3 garlic cloves – minced
2 tsp fresh thyme – chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup red wine
1 (24 oz) jar marinara sauce
8 oz container mascarpone
1 lb package spaghetti
1 ½ tsp salt and more to taste (for sauce) and a palmful of salt (to boil the pasta)
¼ cup fresh basil – chopped or torn
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and spread the salami slices on one and pepperoni slices on the other. Bake until crisp for about 8-10 minutes.
Watch meat carefully when it’s in the oven… Ehh umm, this is a picture of what NOT to do. Yep, it happens.
When salami and peperoni are crisp (not burned), take out of the oven, let cool, and crumble into a bowl. Set aside with the basil and parmesan
2. While the meat is baking away in the oven, start the sauce. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add onion and a dash of salt (dashes of salt help soften veggies and increase flavor along the way). Let cook down and get slightly brown for 5-7 minutes.
Turn down heat to medium-low and add garlic, thyme, oregano, and pepper flake.
Stir and cook for two minutes. Add wine, scrape any brown bits created on the bottom of the pan, and let wine reduce by half.
3. Add marinara and let heat 2-3 minutes. Stir in mascarpone until sauce becomes light in color and cheese is dissolved. Add 1 ½ tsp of salt or more (to taste… this is a preference thing. I cannot emphasize this enough. If I am ever vague in my salt measurements on any of these recipes it’s because I am a strong believer in tasting your food before you serve it. Salt can make or break a recipe – it’s very possible for it to have too little or too much. Add with caution and taste before you add more. You’ll know if it needs more. A dish is at its fullest of flavor when it has enough salt).
4. Boil pasta. Heat a pot over high heat with a palm full of salt. When it comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook for 8-9 minutes or until al dente (cooked well but firm to bite). Drain pasta but leave a little pasta water (about ¼ cup) in your noodles (this helps the sauce stick to the noodles and gives the dish a hint of that starchy pasta flavor). Combine the noodles and sauce or put sauce on top of the noodles.
Top with salami and pepperoni crunches, basil, and parmesan.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!