Saturday, November 7, 2009

Manhattan Chowder into Spaghetti Marinara

Ah, the beauty of leftovers!

You may recall that last Wednesday I made chicken stock to which I added leek and potato, crab meat and shrimp, creating white chowder.

The following day, I took the leftover chowder, leftover raw shrimp and crab meat, and added a tin of tomatoes (and other goodies), creating red or Manhattan chowder.

Last night, I took the leftover red chowder, added a couple more ingredients and made spaghetti marinara (pic above).

In the U.S., I've noticed that marinara sauce is typically a tomato sauce, yet in Melbourne, Australia, where I spent my young adult years, our first and second generation family-owned Italian restaurants always include seafood in their marinara sauce.

The word marinara is derived from the Italian "marinaro" which means "of the sea." Because Melbourne is on the ocean and fresh seafood is therefore abundant it could be that our Italian restaurateurs add seafood to their marinara tomato sauce because, well, why not!

Certainly there's more flavor in a marinara sauce when seafood is added, and more interest too, plus you can easily whip up seafood marinara from Manhattan Chowder.

You'll note in the pic above that my bowl of pasta is liberally doused in olive oil. This is another trick I learned eating at family-owned Italian restaurants in Melbourne: olive oil is never under-used; rather it's the basis of the Mediterranean diet and cooking.

Olive oil moistens pasta that would otherwise be dry and it ensures succulence. When living in London, I was introduced to late-night suppers of luscious spaghetti olio by an Italian-couple friend.

Natzarrio didn't cook much, according to his girlfriend, Donatello, but he was quite adept with a packet of spaghetti, a couple cloves of garlic, and copious glugs of olive oil, which is about all there is to a bowl of spaghetti olio or oiled spaghetti.

My mother would add melted butter to cooked pasta, and to her bolognese sauce. A huge mistake because the butter would add a fatty coating and make her pasta and bolognese sauce dishes unnecessarily heavy.

Because olive oil is not a saturated fat like butter, it reacts differently on the palate -- it's not cloying. And it's not as rich as butter therefore it's easier to digest.

I love butter, but olive oil is better, and on pasta it's the best.

Manhattan Chowder into Spaghetti Marinara
1) Pour leftover chowder into a pot. Turn heat to low. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tinned tomato paste to the chowder, stirring gently. The tomato paste will enrich the chowder and thicken it too.
2) Add a handful of de-pipped and chopped Kalamata olives.
3) Meanwhile, boil a pot of water. Add spaghetti and a good glug of olive oil (this keeps the spaghetti strands from sticking). Boil pasta till it's al dente -- firm but not hard.
4) Drain spaghetti in a colander. Run it under the hot water tap and flush out the starch water.
5) Return spaghetti to the pot and hot stove, stir over heat until water has evaporated. Turn heat off and pour olive oil over pasta, coating it well; season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve: Portion spaghetti into bowls, pour extra olive oil over spaghetti, now spoon marinara sauce over spaghetti. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano (optional) and serve with chunks of crusty bread and a side salad or a side of something green like wilted spinach.

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