Oscar Noms is back! I’m super excited to dive into my annual Oscar Noms series this year; in such a divided and turbulent time, focusing on two of my favorite things (food + films) is an even more welcome distraction. I’m also extra excited about this year’s Oscars, which is officially the most diverse group of Oscar nominees ever, with actors of color nominated in every acting category, and with diverse casts and crews represented among the Best Picture and even Best Documentary noms. After two consecutive years of failing to nominate a single actor of color, this is a welcome improvement and proof that the #OscarsSoWhite campaign spurred some real progress and change.
My first recipe this year is in honor of the film Arrival, in which Amy Adam’s character encounters alien squid, and must decipher their intentions on planet earth. Sadly, Amy Adams was not nominated for Best Actress, despite her many looks of wonder and amazement and concern. Just kidding! I actually really love Amy Adams, ever since her breakthrough roles in Junebug and everyone’s favorite food blogger pic, Julie & Julia. Her Oscars snub was a surprise, especially when the film garnered a total of eight nominations, in every other major category.
But back to the food! While I was tempted to make a vegan calamari dish (inspired by the squid-like aliens), I decided that wouldn’t be very nice. I mean, if aliens actually did arrive on earth, I don’t think my first instinct would be turn them into fried calamari. I mean, I hope not.
But in these snowy winter months, who doesn’t love a spicy dish of pasta? Arrabbiata is super easy to make and perfect for spicy comfort food lovers like me. Many recipes call for simply adding a heap of dried red chile pepper to the sauce, but I find that dried red chile pepper is a bit aggressive in its heat. I prefer to temper the dried red chiles with fresh chile pepper, which offers more flavor instead of just heat. Feel free to adjust ratios to make it more or less spicy, as you wish. This recipe is really just a template to make it your own.
makes enough for 4 servings of pasta
4 lbs Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped (about 14 tomatoes)
1 fresh Thai or serrano chile, finely chopped, including seeds
1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red chile pepper, or to taste
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
large pinch of sugar
2 – 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
cooked pasta of your choice, for serving
- Bring tomatoes, chile, and oil to a simmer in a 4-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in vegan Worcestershire sauce and sugar. Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, about 45 minutes to one hour.
- Add garlic and simmer 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove from heat, then stir in basil and salt and pepper to taste. At this point, if you have a food mill, you might want to pass the sauce through it. I don’t bother to do that step. Mostly because I don’t have a food mill, and also because it doesn’t seem necessary to me.
- Serve over cooked pasta of your choice.