Eastside Road, October 6, 2013—THE PENNE ARE whole-wheat, as usual; the photo's blurry, sorry; the recipe's from Patricia Wells.
I found her book Patricia Wells at Home in Provence on the second-hand shelf at my favorite local independent bookstore, Levin and Company, and opened it a random to find a recipe for penne, a pasta you may have read about earlier on this site. We have penne probably three times a month, usually with what I call red sauce (olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato, salt, pepper), maybe with a bit of sausage, often with a sprinkling of grated cheese.
But I'm a sucker for Provençal cuisine, and this recipe was called Provençal Penne. So I bought the book and as soon as possible — today — cooked the dish, following the recipe almost exactly. I sweated minced onion and garlic with a couple of small crushed dried red peppers and a bay leaf in a stainless-steel skillet, adding a small fennel bulb slivered into matchsticks after the onion had taken a bit of color.
When the fennel was tender I added a big can of tomatoes, putting them through the food mill on the way to the skillet, then added the zest of a couple of oranges, also cut into slivers. (The oranges came from a tree near the Healdsburg Museum: last week I walked past it just as a gardener was pruning the tree, and he let me help myself.)
After cooking and draining the pasta I added it to the skillet, tossing it to coat it with sauce. And here's where I departed from la Wells: I forgot to add a good-sized helping of snipped Italian parsley as a garnish. Oh well, we'll do this again: it's a lovely dish. Green salad after, then fruit…
"Guadagni Red," Preston of Dry Creek, 2012; an excellent pairing with the pasta sauce• Patricia Wells at Home in Provence: New York: Scribner, 1996
• Levin and Company, 306 Center St
Healdsburg, CA 95448