Most of the dishes I create are done so out of necessity. Some inspiration also comes from walking the aisles at the grocery and endlessly paging through my cookbooks. On our most recent trip to New Mexico and central Texas we bought several wines, heavy on the beefy reds. He reminded me of them [a hint of “please, let’s have one soon” thrown in], so I planned on making last night’s supper one that would pair a red. I was thinking pasta.

The result ended up being an amalgamation of Pasta all’ Amatriciana and Pasta alla Puttanesca I started out with tomatoes, crimini mushrooms and basil. After a trip to the store the dish was ramped up to include salty Kalamata olives and sweet Prosciutto di Parma. Not only does it look impressive but it’s so quick to make. Gutsy, yet delicate and fresh. The sauce is deep and rich, smooth and silky, a tad fiery. Topping it off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, grating cheese and torn basil are the perfect final touches to round everything out.

Having recently re-read one of my favorite Shakespearean plays it seemed like something the elfin Puck — mischievious, spritely and merry — would love to eat. Hence the name.

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Garnet-colored 2005 Cap*Rock Cabernet Sauvignon splashed into glasses to nicely pair our bold midsummer night’s pasta. Cin, cin!

A Midsummer Night’s Pasta [serves 2]

Printable recipe

2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 good-sized handful fresh basil, roughly torn or chopped, reserving a bit to garnish

dried chilli pepper flakes, to taste [lots for us!]

2 medium ripe red tomatoes, roughly chopped

4-5 crimini mushrooms, rinsed, stemmed and roughly chopped

1/4 c [2 oz, or about 8-10] pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

2 thin slices Prosciutto de Parma, sliced lengthwise into 1/4″ thin slices, then sliced crosswise into 1″ pieces

2-4 T grated Romantina or Pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish

6-8 oz, depending on your hunger, dried fettuccine or tagliatelle

Put a large pot of water on to heat for the pasta. When it comes to a boil, salt well and add noodles. Cook according to package directions, or until al dente.

Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, basil and chilli flakes, and fry gently for a minute or so. Add the tomato [juices and all to provide a bit of liquid for the sauce], mushrooms and olives, and cook for a few minutes more, until the tomatoes have softened. In the last minute, add the prosciutto and give it a good stir.

With a pair of tongs, add the cooked pasta directly into the pan with the tomato mixture. Toss well and thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed – this will create a lovely loose, shiny sauce. Add the grated cheese and toss again. Taste, adjusting the seasoning, if necessary. Portion into bowls and drizzle over a little more good quality extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately with a little extra grated cheese and torn basil leaves sprinkled over the top.

A squirrel bread original.

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Try this: Crumble over a little ricotta salata – just a little bit – this salty cheese would go really well with the other robust flavors and make it look great.

And this: A handful of spinach or arugula added at the end — the heat will wilt it into the sauce.

Or this: Use canned whole plum tomatoes if your fresh tomatoes aren’t that appealing – you won’t get the lightness as from fresh, but with canned you’re assured of quality product packaged at the peak of ripeness.

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