PASTA AUTO-DA-FÉ, New Seminary, Eucharistic Congress, Cookbook (variant: Rotelle Puttanesca!)

The request: Dear Father Byers, […] We are so thankful to be a part of the Diocese of Charlotte under the courageous leadership of Bishop Jugis. We truly believe the new college seminary is an answer to prayer, and we are eager to to offer our support. So a few other ladies and I are collecting recipes from our Diocesan priests. We will edit, compile and publish them in a cookbook to be sold at the Eucharistic Congress. All proceeds will go directly to St. Joseph College Seminary.

george david byers.jpgWhen you have a moment, would you email me your favorite recipe to be included in the cookbook? Also, would you mind attaching a current photo to be published along with the recipe? This will help those outside of your parish to recognize you. And finally, would you please complete just one of the following sentences:

  • “My favorite food in the world is _____.”
  • “A mealtime tradition my family shared is _____.”
  • “I never did enjoy cooking; instead I prefer to go to the store and buy ____.”
  • “The strangest dish I’ve ever eaten was ____.”

My response: The strangest dish I’ve ever eaten was Saint Peter Fish roasted on an open fire along the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, strange because it was so different from any other fish I’ve ever eaten: sweet, substantial and, while retaining its own unique flavor, is available to be spiced up in ways other fish cannot be.

My recipe:


I love eating good food, but I have a mental block about cooking so severe I can’t even look at a menu in a restaurant as that would be too much like cooking. I just listen to what others are getting and say: “I’ll have that as well.” Having said that, returning to America after having spent twenty years in Rome forced me to come up with a pasta recipe that wasn’t even remotely reminiscent of the sauces we so wrongly call “Italian.” Behold, my one and only recipe that I call “Pasta Auto-da-Fé,” which has nothing to do with trusty autos but everything to do with burning heretics at the stake. Heretics do not believe the entirety of the truth, but pick and choose a few things out of context, which they further twist in favor of political correctness to other reactionary individuals. Real cooks will immediately see that my ingredients do not make for a harmonious whole, and so are simply burned together. It’s delightful. And good for you.

At the ready:

  • a few fresh tomatoes (a can of diced tomatoes will do in a pinch)
  • a pinch of salt
  • olive oil (first-cold-press extra-virgin)
  • Watkins Black Pepper (just because)
  • Lemon Pepper (with its own salt and spices)
  • crushed red pepper
  • ground (cayenne) red pepper
  • Italian seasoning: the usual mix of herbs and spices
  • fresh basil from your garden if you have it
  • Pasta proportioned to your appetite, made of semolina from pure durum wheat. I like to use rotelle (ruote) or “wagon wheels” since Saint George, my patron, was martyred on a “breaking wheel.”

To be prepared before beginning:

  • lots of garlic cloves chopped finely
  • large green olives chopped in eighths (with pimentos of course)
  • a large onion chopped roughly
  • chunks of cheese of your choice (besides parmigiana)

Having set a kettle to boil, throw the onion chunks along with the garlic into a non-stick skillet on good heat with a bit of olive oil. You’ll want to get the onion heated right through, browned only just a bit. Meanwhile, dice up the tomatoes and dump them into a Pyrex bowl (you’ll be eating out of this if you’re as barbaric as I am). Add the olives and the cheese. Over this, shake on layers of the four types of peppers and Italian seasoning. Be especially abundant with the ground and crushed red pepper. Toss this into the microwave for 2 ½ minutes. Leave it sit in the microwave. When the water comes to a rolling boil, throw in a dash of salt, a few drops of olive oil and the pasta. Keep stirring the onion and garlic so that it doesn’t burn. As the pasta is arriving to a perfect “al dente,” dump the onions onto your “sauce” and microwave for another ½ minute. Finally, strain the pasta and mix it in with the tomatoes. Over this put on some parmigiana. A few basil leaves make it look surreal. You’ll want something to drink when the fire gets hot.

Variant: Add 2 tablespoons capers and about 8 anchovy fillets to make Rotelle Puttanesca!

UPDATE: A response from the nice lady making the request:

Father, I absolutely love it! I read this aloud to my family and my 15 year-old howled and said, “I like him. I like him a lot!” If it’s alright with you, I’d like to publish every word. Thank you!

And then, I think in reaction to the variant at the end, she added:

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.

I think I have too much fun…


Filed under Recipes

9 responses to “PASTA AUTO-DA-FÉ, New Seminary, Eucharistic Congress, Cookbook (variant: Rotelle Puttanesca!)

  1. meshugunah

    Sounds delicious. I think you and my son, aka Mr Pasta, may be related….

  2. elizdelphi

    I make something highly similar. I have not been to Italy but especially on Friday when I abstain from animal foods (including cheese) I have to think of something to make that is good and uses things I have on hand, and semi regularly it would be something like this. Often it is with canned tomatoes, either in whole or part, but once in a blue moon I find actual San Marzano Italian variety tomatoes at an affordable price at the farmer’s market and that makes it the BEST. Wish I had a place to grow them myself because they are usually $$. I like the idea of putting olives in it and will remember that next time since I have a little can of sliced black olives here. I like to eat this with walnuts on it if I have them. When eating the leftovers the next day I would include cheese though. I do use whatever shape pasta I happen to have, which is never wagon wheels (I am not a big fan of penne, but that’s usually what I have). I love the martyrdom theme though.

    Everyone should know how to make simple, inexpensive and tasty food like this.

  3. I am a real cook and your recipe is very impressive, (yum) especially for a person with a mental block for cooking. May I suggest you add about 2 tablespoons capers and about 8 anchovy fillets – then you will have Rotelle Puttanesca.

  4. Nan

    Milk will put out the fire.

    Elizdelphi not even a pot on the windowsill to grow tomatoes?

  5. elizdelphi

    Nan, I have a small efficiency apartment that opens onto a parking lot and my door is about 2 ft lower elevation than the parking lot so in order to keep water out of this sunken area there is a big overhang, that also means no direct sunlight ever reaches my apartment (this is kind of beneficial in the summer because it is un-airconditioned and also difficult to ventilate) and there is no other place where I could have a pot. I do have a little plant in here of a kind that will survive on practically no light and occasional water, it does not grow very big under such conditions but is the hardiest houseplant ever; was sold to me as a “ZZ plant”.

    Last year I planted some seedling tomato plants and other kinds of vegetables and strawberries behind the building along a fenceline, but the maintenance man came through twice with Roundup weed killer and destroyed both my “garden” and the weeds. This year they moved the bike rack to that spot.

  6. Nan

    Elizdelphi, I didn’t know they had catacombs in the Midwest. I can’t imagine life without at least a window air conditioner.

  7. Watkins black pepper——just because? How is your supply holding up anyway?

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