Sometimes a pasta sauce comes along that absolutely captivates me. That's exactly what happened on my recent trip to the French and Italian Riviera. Today's pasta sauce is so pure, so simple and yet so different from anything I've ever eaten. I wonder how I've missed it this long.
Italian restaurants (even in France) that dot the coast are as abundant as the tourists. And just like here in the United States, some are bad, some are good and some are amazing. But we did our duty -- trying out as many restaurants as we could.
Without fail, every menu featured Penne all'Arrabbiata (also spelled Penne Arrabiatta and Penne al'Arabbiata). After the third Italian restaurant, we decided to see what this staple was all about. We were hooked. No matter the number of l's, r's, b's or t's, the sauce was the same spicy, garlic-laden treat we just couldn't get enough of.
As soon as I returned home, I flew into the test kitchen to try my hand at the sauce. Cloves of garlic and bottles of hot pepper flakes later, I hit the perfect blend of spicy hot peppers and tangy sweet tomatoes that I remember. Because it is so easy to find a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, my sauce makes 4 cups. At one-third cup of sauce per serving, it serves 12. But it won't go to waste! The sauce freezes beautifully. Just thaw and toss with future batches of pasta for a really quick, delicious dinner.
I'm still working on finding my way back to the salty ocean breezes that accompanied each meal along the Riviera. Until then, I've got a freezer full of a simple, classic pasta sauce that pleases all the same and in just 20 minutes.
Suggested menu: Penne all'Arrabbiata with fresh baby spinach and Italian rolls with butter.
• Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" Write them at Desperation Dinners, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or firstname.lastname@example.org. More at the Desperation Dinners website, kitchenscoop.com.