This is a really good first-course pasta which has a richness of flavour without being heavy. Use a good quality, aged balsamic vinegar (if you don’t you might need to use a bit extra).
Penne with Tomato & Balsamic Vinegar – to serve 6
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced finely
- a handful of fresh basil
- 2 x 400g tins of peeled plum tomatoes (Italian brands are usually the best quality)
- 250g penne rigate
- 75g butter, cut into pieces
- 4 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
- 120g Pecorino cheese, grated
Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the garlic until light brown. Add a few basil leaves and then the tomatoes. Stir and cook gently for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and thick. Season with salt and pepper and add the rest of the basil.
Cook the penne in lots of salted boiling water , drain thoroughly and return to the saucepan with the butter. When this has melted, add the balsamic vinegar and toss over a gentle heat for a few seconds until the penne are brown. Throw in a handful of the Pecorino, then stir in the tomato sauce. Serve with more Pecorino.
Wine Suggestion: Pairing a wine with this dish is not as straight forward as it may seem as you need a wine to balance the rich flavours, acidic tomatoes and sweet and sour vinegar. One option is something from the Marche with a combination of Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Alternately look for a very good Valpolicella or Ripasso, but make sure it is one with a bit of freshness, tannins and elegance. Another option, which we tried to good effect, is Barbera where the fresh acidity and softer tannins complemented the dish excellently.
(Original recipe from the River Café by Ruth Rogers & Rose Gray, Ebury House, 1995.)