Sunday, 18 March 2012

Recipe XLIX (1st Anniversary Edition) - Grated Cheddar (with Penne al Tonno)

To celebrate one whole year of RRotW, I would like to do something extra special - to dedicate this edition to the greatest, tastiest and most versatile of all the world's cheeses, Cheddar. Real Cheddar that is, not that revolting stuff they stick on top of burgers in some plastic-and-white-tile fast food joint. There are many foodstuffs that have been "copyrighted" through the EU's Protected Geographical Status scheme, like Gorgonzola, Brie, Feta, etc... Cheddar has not. It is seen as a generic name. For that reason, it is much maligned and many cheap imitations have arisen, particularly in the US, New Zealand and even China. Not so much in continental Europe, where there are some other hardened cheeses, like Pecorino, Manchego, Maasdamer and Emmental, all with distinct flavours. What marks Cheddar out from all the others, is it doesn't try to be cool or quirky, pretentious or arrogant. It is what it is - Cheddar, and I for one am so glad my local supermarket here in Germany stocks it.

250g Cheddar
A grater

Put one of the longer edges of your cheese against the grater on the side where the smallest holes face upwards. With short pressing movements, grate the cheese until you have enough to put over your pasta dish, details below.

To go with your Cheddar, there are many possibilities from a cheese & tomato sandwich (with fresh ground pepper and mayo), to a topping for your dauphinois. I have chosen an Italian number, a variant on the Puttanesca recipe. Puttanesca is a sauce made by the prostitutes of Sicily to serve their customers after they'd... well... exerted themselves somewhat, and needed a pick-me-up. Lots of Italian recipes come out of cans and packages, which is why the ingredients photo is a bit odd this week...

500g penne rigate
1 can of tuna
1 onion, sliced into large-ish pieces
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
250ml tomato passata
Some olives (usually black, but I'd eaten them all, so green will do)
Some ground black pepper (10 peppercorns or so)
Half a teaspoonful of chili powder
Some oregano (preferably fresh, but out of season, dried will have to do)

Heat up a saucepan with salted water. Once boiling, put in the pasta. Take a deep-sided frying pan and put in some olive oil. Once hot, sweat the onions for a couple of minutes. Add the tuna, olives, pepper and the chili powder, then just a minute before the passata, add the garlic. The garlic releases its aroma very quickly, but putting it in in the beginning burns it, ruining the flavour and consistency.

Add the passata (and if you like, some red wine), and put on a low heat for ten to thirty minutes, depending how much you would like your sauce reduced. Mine was only 10 minutes, because I like my pasta moist.

Once the pasta has cooked (TIP: don't believe boiling times on pasta packs - if you like it al dente, try a piece of it a couple of minutes before recommended cooking time) drain the water and pour the pasta into the sauce. Stir all the ingredients into each other.

Add it to the Cheddar by putting it into a bowl, carefully placing the cheese where it should be: on top, in pride of place.

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