We’ve talked a lot already about the big influence Italian food has had on Peruvian gastronomy. Italians arrived in the country by the thousands in the late nineteenth century, and their love of food was matched by that of Peruvians, making theirs a very fruitful culinary friendship. Italians were eager to share their passion for colorful homemade preparations, and Peruvians happy to learn new recipes.
The result was a large list of Italian dishes that were adapted to the Peruvian taste. Some of them, such as conchitas a la parmesana, have even been close to forgotten in Italy, but are still one of the main attractions of Peruvian cuisine. I bet most people don’t even know that this appetizer was not created in Peru.
One very simple -and for that reason extremely popular- entree, with obvious Italian roots, is what we call tallarines rojos (red noodles). This is nothing more than spaghetti with tomato sauce, adapted to the popular taste. Remember when we shared the recipe for tallarines verdes (green noodles)? That is the Peruvian version of spaghetti al pesto, made with queso fresco, milk and spinach.
Tallarines rojos, on the other hand, is a sweeter and sturdier pomodoro sauce. Because Peruvians tend to have such heavy appetites, the addition of grated carrots is understandable, as it makes the sauce thicker and more filling. The added vegetable also gives extra color and flavor, making it sweeter without the need of sugar. Another addition for flavor are dried mushrooms, and the water in which they soak. Any extra layer of flavor is always welcome in Peru. And finally, for those who feel they haven’t eaten unless they eat animal protein, chicken, beef, or any other option may be added either to the sauce, or placed on top of everything, crowning this dish.
The base of the homey and beloved tallarines rojos is usually vegan though, hence I share it today for #MeatlessMondays.
PS: I used whole grain pasta (you can use quinoa or rice pasta to make it gluten-free). In Peru, however, it is mostly done with regular white pasta. I also used jarred tomatoes, since they’re not in season and are richer this way, but you can chose to do it this way, or with fresh tomatoes. Make sure they’re very ripe if you want to do it from scratch.
- 2 pounds tomato (peeled, seeded, and chopped or pureed)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 red onion
- 2 large carrots, finely grated
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup dried mushrooms, rehydrated in a glass of water, and chopped (strain and reserve the water)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- In a saucepan over medium heat, saute the garlic and onion over medium heat, for 5 minutes, stirring.
- Add the carrots, mushrooms and tomato paste, and stir for another minute or two.
- Add the tomato, tomato paste, bay leaves, and the mushrooms' soaking water.
- Cover partially, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, cook the pasta according to package instructions.
- When the sauce is ready, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with oregano, remove the bay leaves and stir.
- Serve the pasta on plates, covered with sauce, and sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese (optional).