Perciatelli, Bigger and Better Than Spaghetti

Cooking, Recipes By Feb 15, 2012

Perciatelli or spaghetti? I vote for perciatelli. It’s thicker than spaghetti, and the stands are hollow.

(Perciatelli, above, spaghetti below.)

A close cousin of bucatini, I love the texture and flavor that this pasta brings. Sauce seeps into the hollow portion of the pasta.

Long tubes filled with yum-oh-lah.  Delicious.

Especially when I team it with my mother’s 1955-style meaty sauce teeming with loads of chopped celery and fresh mushrooms, weighted down with more than a pound of ground meat. (Mom used beef, I use turkey.)

Italiano? Not so much. But her more-meat-than-pasta Americanized sauce is irresistible.

The dog cries pathetically as we slurp it up. Dogs have pleasure meters; they know when their people are treasuring a treat.
Authentic four-hour Bolognese sauce doesn’t transition well into my schedule on most days.

Make mom’s sauce, it’s much quicker to prepare. Open the perciatelli (I buy it at Albertson’s).   Lock up the dog.

Here’s the way Mom made it in my childhood home in Van Nuys, California.

Perciatelli al Van Nuys
Yield: 4-5 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cups diced celery
1 large onion, chopped
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
Optional: 1 medium carrot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 1 1/4 pounds ground beef OR ground turkey
1 (25- to 28-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce, spicy preferred
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme OR 2 teaspoons dried “Italian blend” herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
Optional: Pinch dried red pepper flakes
8 ounces perciatelli, cooked al dente according to package directions, drained; see cook’s notes
For passing: Freshly grated
Parmesan cheese
Cook’s notes: If desired, increase amount of pasta to 12 to 16 ounces. It will increase serving size and folks who like lots of pasta will approve.
1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil on medium-high heat. (I like to use a deep 8-quart pot because it’s deep enough to prevent tomato sauce from splattering on stovetop.) Add celery and onion; cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, carrot (if using) and garlic; cook 3-4 minutes or until any liquid released from vegetables has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Add beef or turkey. Cook, breaking up meat with spatula, until meat is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Drain fat if necessary.
2. Add sauce and stir to combine. Fill empty sauce jar 1/3 full with water; screw on lid and shake to incorporate any remaining sauce into water. Stir now-red water mixture into sauce. Add herbs. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add parsley to sauce. Stir and taste again. If it tastes bland, add a small pinch of dried red pepper flakes and adjust salt and/or pepper. Toss in drained, cooked perciatelli. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Nutritional information (per serving using total of 8 ounces pasta): Calories 200 (20 percent from fat); fat 3 g (sat 2.3 g); protein 18.6 g; carbohydrates 39 g; fiber 1.2 g; cholesterol 40 g; sodium 300 mg; calcium 34 mg.

Source: Harriett Young’s 1955 kitchen, in the then “country-in-the-suburbs” of Van Nuys, California

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