Part of the everlasting and enduring appeal of Italian food is its simplicity, sometimes taking just a handful of ingredients and maximising the potential from these few. Arrabiata is one such dish essentially consisting of fresh or dried chillies, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. Loosely translated as “angry” it refers to the heat or piquant flavour from the chillies and this is an undemanding sauce that yet packs a punch for a quick and fresh midweek meal. The Irish tomato season is just starting and there are some wonderfully flavourful varieties such as the sweet cherry tomato piccolo readily available. You can use either fresh or tinned tomatoes and as with many Italian dishes there are slight variations everywhere but I’m keeping it simple and using both tinned and fresh enabling the best of both worlds. Remember with chillies it tends to be the smaller the chilli to more intense heat that should be expected. Follow your own palate here, add more chillies if you want it spicier, less of course if the opposite is desired. Traditionally served with penne it’s good with any tubular pasta such as rigatoni that I serve with it here.
Pangrattato, the Italian for breadcrumbs or “grated bread” is a fantastic topping that is a great way to use up stale bread and adds a wonderful texture element to pasta dishes and risotto. Simply blitz up stale bread in a food processor or, as I do, keep a bag of breadcrumbs in a ziplock bag in the freezer for use at any time. Toast on a frying pan with some olive oil and some chopped garlic if you wish. Another item I always have in my freezer is roasted garlic butter so slice of a knob of this and add to the breadcrumbs instead of chopped garlic. It’s incredibly versatile and you can add a multitude of flavours such as anchovies, chillies, lemon zest, parsley etc. Any leftovers will keep for up to a week in an airtight plastic container.
The chicken here is an optional extra but a superb way of cooking chicken quickly with tonnes of flavour. Put free range chicken breasts, 2 tbsp olive oil, a few crushed garlic cloves, a couple of lemon peels, and 2 sprigs of rosemary into a plastic container and marinate in the fridge for a few hours but if tight on time even 20 minutes will do. When ready to cook, place each chicken breast one at a time between two sheets of baking paper. Bash with a rolling pin until flattened and about 1cm thick. Heat a griddle pan to high. Add a little more olive oil to the chicken if needed and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 3 ½ minutes each side or until cooked through and make sure to rest the chicken for a few minutes after too. Ideal with some baby new potatoes and greens, sliced up and added to a salad, or indeed as in this case served with a pasta dish. Great also cold in something like a bean and quinoa salad the following day for a healthy working lunch.