All of these pasta dishes can be made within the hour. They don’t have a long list of ingredients, and you might even have everything you need already.
One of the great things about Italian food is the regionality of it: you’ll find lots of fish served in Venice, and also in Sicily, which has a Moorish influence and the addition of plenty of vegetables. In the mountains, in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, there’s much more meat and cheese.
The spiced aubergine and tomato penne here is typically Sicilian, based on pasta alla norma – a summer favourite, and a dish grandmothers would often make to use up aubergine during the glut.
Pepperoncini gives it a kick, and you can get it in most Italian delicatessens. In London, Camisa & Sons on Soho’s Old Compton Street is a great one that’s been around for ages. It was even in a film: A Touch of Class with Glenda Jackson. The ricotta I’d use here would be a hard, smoked ricotta for grating – I wouldn’t use a fresh ricotta for this dish.
My sardine spaghetti with pine nuts and raisins is also Sicilian-inspired (you’ll tend to find pasta con le sarde in Palermo). It can be fishy in aroma but the secret is to cook down the sardines so they start to form a sauce.
You get the classic Italian sweet and sour “agro dolce” combination, with elements of sweetness from the raisins, umami and a touch of sourness from the sardines. Add a squeeze of lemon to cut through it with a touch of acidity if you want, and you could switch the pine nuts for almonds or add toasted breadcrumbs for extra crunch on top. I prefer to use fresh sardines flavour-wise: I think they’re more delicate – but tinned will do just as well.
For the cherry tomato and oregano dish, the angel hair pasta (also known as capellini or capelli d’Angelo) is essentially really thin spaghetti. Get it in and out of the water quickly, so it doesn’t turn to mush. It goes well with lighter tomato dishes: you wouldn’t put angel hair pasta with a thick meat ragù, but penne and rigatoni can take bolognese or aubergine. Spaghetti and linguine work better with fish: just think of crab linguine. Buon appetito!