Pasta, chorizo, breadcrumbs and garlic

A Portuguese delicacy with penne

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When it comes to pasta there’s a whole new world beyond the comforting expectations of spaghetti bolognaise and macaroni and cheese. Fine as these classics are, let me take you on a new voyage in the general direction of penne, a shape specially designed by the culinary geniuses of Italy to hold a sauce, accept a coating and simultaneously look good on a plate. Why should this matter, I hear you ask. It’s simple, once you get beyond burning bits of dead sheep on an open fire, the appearance of food adds considerably to its enjoyment.

To make penne chorizo for four, you will need:

  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 300g Portuguese chorizo sausage 
  • 2 cans of white beans 
  • 2 slices of fresh bread 
  • 300g penne pasta 
  • Cape extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 spring onion 
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh parsley

The big deal here is the chorizo sausage. If you live in Durban, Mr Mozzie’s Butchery produces a fine chorizo. But if you don’t, since chorizo is a Portuguese delicacy, make your way to the nearest Portuguese butchery and place your order. To call a chorizo a sausage requires you radically reform your idea of this food type. Forget the pallid things you may elect to eat with fried eggs in the morning. What we’ve got in chorizo are two astonishing qualities – a robust, spicy flavour and second, texture. Instead of the smooth paste associated with most versions of the sausage genre, chorizo is extremely coarse, even coarser than salami.

As a result the components of the chorizo maintain some sort of taste identity in the mouth which in my opinion, not to mention that of the entire Portuguese-speaking world, is a very good thing indeed. Once you’ve found the chorizo sausages, cut them into 10mm thick slices and then cut each slice in half. Crush the garlic with the flat of a heavy knife, discard the peel and finely chop the garlic. The next task is to produce breadcrumbs. The quickest way to do this is to drop two slices of fresh bread into a food processor and rev to the red line. B ring a 2â„“ pasta pot of lightly-salted water to a rolling boil. Add the penne pasta and cook until nearly done, then remove from the boiling water and drain. Select a heavy-bottomed frying pan, pour in two tablespoons of Cape extra-virgin olive oil and bring this up to a medium heat. Add the chorizo sausage and let the meat fry until nicely brown. Remove from the pan and reserve in a covered bowl. A dd another two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the finely chopped garlic. Stir fry for 60 seconds or so, taking great care not to let the garlic burn. If this happens, dump the lot and start again. Burnt garlic is a taste contaminant from hell. dd the breadcrumbs to the garlic and olive oil in the pan.

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Over a low to medium heat, let the breadcrumbs firm up in the hot, garlicky oil. After 10 minutes or so remove them from the pan and let them cool to room temperature in a covered bowl. Pour the contents of both tins of white beans and their liquid into the frying pan, taking care not to get spattered by hot oil. Stir vigorously for a minute or so and then add the drained, nearly cooked penne to the frying pan. Continue to cook until the pasta is to your liking. dd the chorizo and adjust the flavour with a little salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Serve this unusual collection of tastes, sprinkling a couple of tablespoons of garlic-flavoured toasted breadcrumbs over each serving. Using either finely chopped spring onion or, more traditionally, freshly chopped parsley, complete the garnishing of the plate. This meal deserves a truly heavy red such as a Shiraz or a Tinta Barocca. – David Basckin |fw