Greek pastas are so seductive, especially the ones done with tomato sauces. I think of them as another world to plunder. Cinnamon always scents the tomatoes, along with garlic, oregano, and wine. This sauce was inspired by the work of Greek culinary authority Aglaia Kremezi.
It began as hers, but over the years of cooking, the mix of seasonings became my own, along with the occasional additions of lamb or chicken; and I have substituted goat cheese for her feta. It turns to cream in the sauce.
Cook to Cook: You will love the unruliness of this hollow pasta. It fights the fork but picks up all the goodness of the sauce. This recipe is one of the few that call for you to break the pasta before dropping it into the pot.
The sauce can be made several days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.
- 5 quarts salted water in a 6-quart pot
- Good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/3 tighty-packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1-1/4 teaspoons dried oregano (Greek oregano preferred)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper or other medium-hot chile; or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup dry white or red wine
- 2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes; or one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with their juice
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups diced cooked chicken or lamb (organic if possible; optional)
- 1 pound imported long hollow pasta like perciatelli, maccheroncelli, or ziti, broken into more or less 2-inch pieces, or short hollow pasta
- 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Bring the salted water to a boil.
Generously film the bottom of a straight-sided 12-inch saute pan with olive oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions, parsley, and generous sprinklings of salt and pepper. Saute the onions to golden brown. Then stir in the tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, sugar, and Aleppo pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
If using fresh tomatoes, grate them on a grater over a bowl, and add the pulp with its juices to the pan. For canned tomatoes, crush them as they go into the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce for 8 minutes, or until thick. Taste for seasoning, remove the pan from the heat, and if using the chicken or lamb, stir it in. Cover the pan.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Boil, stirring often, for 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but still has a little bite. As the pasta cooks, reheat the sauce over medium-high heat. Once the pasta is done, drain it in a colander and add it to the sauce. Toss over the heat for a minute or more to help the sauce permeate the noodles. Turn half of it into a serving bowl and dot with half of the cheese. Add the rest of the pasta and top with the remaining cheese.