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La Pasta Affilata e Dolce

March 16, 2010


This pasta dish comes together rather quickly. It utilizes pantry and produce staples, so it’s a perfect Sunday dinner. [We go grocery shopping Sunday night, so we’re usually out of everything.] Affilata e Dolce means sharp and sweet. The onions, capers, and vinegar all contribute to the sharpness while the almonds, cooked garlic, and tomatoes balance sharp with sweet. I really liked this dish! It’s sort of a cross over Spanish+Italian pasta dish, which is a great representation of my heritage.

La Pasta Affilata e Dolce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 medium or 1 large white onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4-1 lb whole grain angel hair pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet (or cast iron skillet) over medium-high flame.

Why? Olive Oil has a higher smoke temperature than Extra Virgin Olive Oil, so I always start with regular and add extra virgin toward the end.

Once the oil is hot, pour the onions in the pan and toss to coat. Add salt, (I use about 2 tsp?), capers and chunked tomatoes.

Why? Cooking the tomatoes over higher heat for a long period of time will break them down into almost a gel that coasts pasta perfectly. The salt will draw the moisture out of the onion and cook it to a golden brown color much sooner than it would take without salt. Adding the capers at this stage mellows their flavor, so the dish is perfect for caper haters and caper lovers alike.

Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring often until everything is reduced into a sauce. Add the extra virgin olive oil and the minced garlic, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for another 2-4 minutes. Get the water on for the pasta.

Why? Adding the Extra Virgin Olive Oil at this stage keeps its fruity, nutty flavor intact. Garlic can’t withstand slight char like onions can, so it always requires a shorter sauté time. Additionally, it’s in much smaller pieces so it cooks quicker than the onions.

Add the vinegar and most of the almonds to the sauce. Reduce.

Why? Sharp capers+sharp vinegar=full sharpness, sweet almonds+ sweet tomatoes+sweet onions=balance between sharp and sweet. Cooking the vinegar mellows it.

Add salt to the water and taste [do this by filling a tasting spoon with the hot water then letting it cool for a minute or so.] If the water doesn’t taste like ocean water, add more salt. Add the angel hair and cook for 4 minutes.

Why? Whole grain angel hair is much more nutritious than traditional pasta. The well salted water will improve the flavor.

While the pasta is cooking, take about 1 cup of the water and toss it into the sauce. The starchy, salty water will slightly thicken over low heat.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain and toss it with the sauce. Add most of the parsley, pepper to taste and toss.

Serve, garnishing with more parsley and almonds.

Why? Almonds add a crunchy sweetness to the dish, parsley adds a fresh note. No fresh herbs? No problem, just zest one lemon and toss with the pasta. Lemon and parsley have similar fresh and light flavors.


Do you like the new recipe layout? I hate things that don’t include reasoning. Without an explanation, I just don’t like to follow directions. I’ve been the same way since I was 3 years old. 😉 Do you like to read the why or does it drag out the recipe too much?


Ever have trouble naming a recipe? Try this.


In type in specific ingredients or flavors of a dish, and translate them to a few different languages until you find something that sounds appealing and represents the dish [both with language and description].


Hehehe. Did you know free translation has an auto-detect? I typed in a recipe I found in my grandmother’s cabinet (the grandmother with more than one ethnicity) and found out it was Polish! She got it from an old neighbor a long time ago. How cool is that?


My mal de tête [headache] wasn’t better this morning so I slept in and had a day to myself. It was glorious. Stress doesn’t agree with me- my stomach goes crazy and I get migraines. I have no idea why, but I decided to load up on classes second semester of my senior year and there are specific clases that no me gusta…if you catch my drift. The repetitive SCHOOL-WORK-WORKOUT-3HOURSofHOMEWORK-BLOG-SLEEP(?) leaves me so drained! I need to create a new game plan and improve my attitude toward school and work.

After all, I do love most of the people I go to school with, I love my job, and I love blogging+my amazing readers! Maybe all I need is to take a second to pray & be thankful. 🙂


26 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2010 4:31 am

    I love the explanations! I’ve never seen a recipe written like that before but I really lik le the idea. I would definitely welcome it again!

  2. March 16, 2010 4:34 am

    I love that you answered WHY to the recipe instructions. You really know your stuff! I think that is a great idea!

  3. March 16, 2010 5:06 am

    I like the layout, girl! But then, I’m the kind of person who reads cookbooks for fun…still, it looks like a great recipe!

  4. March 16, 2010 5:15 am

    You’re genius for adding the WHY!! I know a LOT of readers who happen upon this post – even months or years from now – will appreciate that you’ve explained with such detail. It will be SUCH a blessing for those who don’t know how to cook, or who are wanting to learn more.

    Great job, Mae! 😀

  5. March 16, 2010 5:54 am

    I like the explanations!

    Wow, you have a full plate! (No pun intended. :P) Work, school, blogging, homework, and working out. That’s a lot of WORK.

    That translation thing is cool!

    • March 16, 2010 5:58 am

      You know what, I have everything…I think I might go make this right now!

  6. March 16, 2010 7:08 am

    I am thankful for you! Hope you’re feeling better and that you got in some R&R today.

    Love the new recipe layout – I learn so many great tips from you. So please KEEP the “why’s” 🙂

  7. Danielle permalink
    March 16, 2010 7:23 am

    I love the tips and agree with everyone else- you know your stuff!

    The new header is cute 😀

  8. March 16, 2010 7:35 am

    First, the pasta sounds fabulous! I love pasta so I’m always looking for new ways to eat it 🙂 Second, I love the explanations as well!!! I’m also one of those people who want to know WHY before I do something. I like reasons. And I also love learning new things! And girl, you are so smart!!!!

    I wish you luck with balancing all that you have on your plate It’s stressful, I know. You just have to prioritize and make the most of your time… well, that’s my advice. I crack under pressure/stress so I’m not exactly the best person to give you this kind of advice 🙂

    • March 16, 2010 7:59 am

      I know what you mean… :/ Thank you for the advice though!

  9. March 16, 2010 8:12 am

    what a fancy name – the pasta looks really delish ! I should make some this weekend too!

  10. March 16, 2010 8:13 am

    The pasta looks great! I love the step by step instructions. I’m horrible at time management, so I’m glad I didn’t discover the blogworld until college, or I never would have gotten anything done!

  11. March 16, 2010 8:42 am

    it looks great and if i’m reading this recipe right it should taste great too

  12. March 16, 2010 9:48 am

    Love it! I was JUST thinking early today about doing this with my recipes for Brain Food 101 sometime!

  13. March 16, 2010 10:31 am

    How do you know all this info? I want to read what you’re reading!

  14. March 16, 2010 11:33 am

    i like the “why” section 🙂 i like to know the “why” before i do things, too. keep up the great posts…thanks for inspiring me to eat healthyand creatively!

  15. March 16, 2010 1:32 pm

    I love the WHYS the WHYS are everything I do not know! I also love the recipe namer and the fact that you are so positive. It reminds me of all the things I have to be grateful for too. Thanks Mae.

  16. March 16, 2010 6:30 pm

    Hi Mae! I’ve been lurking for ages but haven’t posted until now ❤ I love the recipe layout with the "why's". It's wonderful and makes me feel like I'm more in control of what I'm doing! It's also such fun to learn – I know when I'm making dinner I always love it when people ask me to explain.
    Great eats, great blog!

  17. March 16, 2010 9:17 pm

    That translation thing is pretty cool! I never know what to name my recipes.

  18. March 17, 2010 1:51 am

    MMMMM, that pasta sounds great. I love capers and tomatoes together.

  19. March 18, 2010 7:24 pm

    Girl this looks yummy! 🙂 And I adore the new spring header too

  20. March 19, 2010 7:41 pm

    I love this dish! I love meals that you can pull together from pantry basics.
    And I like the recipe format. I like hearing why people do things, I sometimes do that in my recipes.

  21. Katie permalink
    March 26, 2010 9:13 pm

    I just found your blog, but thought I’d chime in. I LOVE the Why part. I just learned so much about cooking that I didn’t know, just from reading ONE of your recipes! I feel like you’re teaching me how to cook instead of just giving me specific steps to make one particular thing, and that is so much more valuable. And it’s something I’ve never really seen. Keep doing it!

  22. Alli permalink
    March 30, 2010 11:26 am

    Just stumbled onto your blog, the dish looks great 🙂 One note on the translation: affilato is more for a sharp knife. Something like “dolce-amaro” is suited for a food dish. “Agrodolce” is a specific sweet and sour sauce. Buon appetito!

    • March 30, 2010 5:53 pm

      Hahahahahha thank you so much for pointing that out. Free translation can be quite dangerous sometimes! 😉
      I hope to take Italian in college, so maybe I won’t make mistakes like that…

      Haha I’m just going to pretend sharp was for the knife I cut the onion with… right?

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