Spaghetti with Mystery Sauce

April 4, 2010 | By | COMMENTS

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One spaghetti recipe in Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta just begs to be tested. It takes inspiration from a Venetian restaurant that, Mr. Hazan writes, specialized in “unusual dishes” and is no longer in business. He often makes the dish for company, because he likes to see if guests can guess the secret ingredient in the sauce.
This seems a little bit too Hannibal Lecter for my taste. But it’s Giuliano Hazan, for crying out loud. I trust him not to feed me my own brain. And I do love a good mystery.
To sleuth out the secret ingredient in this spaghetti recipe, we’ll review the process pictures in reverse. It’ll be like watching Memento, but without the death and full-body tattoos. Ready?

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Clue #1: The secret ingredient is bigger than a breadstick, but smaller than a breadbox.
Clue #2: The color of the sauce it produces will remind you of (a) a beautiful peachy-pink building just off the Venetian Grand Canal, or (b) Easy Mac.
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Clue #3: Tomato paste and heavy cream are its primary co-conspirators.
Clue #4: After you hack the secret ingredient into chunks, you’ll have a heck of a time tidying up the scene of the crime. To minimize actual bloodshed, cut its ends off first, so you have a flat surface to work with while removing the rest of its rind. And watch those slippery fingers!
So Whatdunit?
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It was the Cantaloupe in the Kitchen with the Medium Skillet!
No one ever suspects a melon. They always seem so normal and friendly …
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Spaghetti with Melon
Adapted from Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009)
Serves 4
As Mr. Hazan notes, this sauce turns out far less sweet than you might expect. The original recipe, which calls for 2 teaspoons of tomato paste and 1.5 teaspoons of lemon juice, tasted rich and tangy, but still very cantaloupe-y, and in my humble opinion would not trick anyone. I increased the quantities of both ingredients, for extra red herring effect.
The recipe below makes a heck of a lot of orange-creamsicle-hued pasta, and the unusual flavor might not be for everybody. I think it might work nicely served in a smaller portion as a starter. You might want to halve the recipe on the first try. Let me know what you think!
1 3-pound cantaloupe
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt & pepper
1 pound spaghetti
4 teaspoons tomato paste
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus more to pass
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Cut the ends off of the melon, and then cut away the rind, so all you see is orange flesh. Cut the melon in half, scoop out and discard its seeds, and cut the melon into ½-inch dice. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, add melon, and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until the melon breaks down and most of its liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water and cook spaghetti until al dente. Add tomato paste, lemon juice, and cream to the melon, stir, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat. Drain spaghetti, toss it with the sauce and cheese, and serve immediately.

Categories: Recipes

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