Chef’s Day Off

Daisley Gordon’s Pasta in Fried Tomato Sauce

One simple step transforms the Cafe Campagne owner’s after-work pasta into an umami powerhouse.

By Allecia Vermillion Photography by Amber Fouts December 8, 2022

Cafe Campagne owner Daisley Gordon makes a mean bowl of after-shift pasta.

Image: Amber Fouts

One night, while Daisley Gordon’s Cafe Campagne was running a pasta special, one of his cooks suggested the chef toss it with the house calamars a la Provencale . The combo was a bit of a lark, but tasted pleasant and robust, the chef recalls, with lots of umami. “I would eat it myself at the end of the shift a lot.”

If you don’t happen to run a classic Pike Place Market bistro, your kitchen may not be stocked with lovingly prepared squid dishes. But its appeal when paired with the pasta wasn’t really the squid, says Gordon. It was the capers. Especially with a marinara that’s been browned on sufficiently high heat so the natural sugar in the tomatoes starts to caramelize, adding extra depths of flavor. To Gordon’s mind, “It’s like the caramelized tomato on the edge of a pizza crust.”

For such a simple pasta, it delivers fat, salt, acid, and the unctuous feel that comes with lots of olive oil. When the restaurant has hard Spanish cheese on hand, Gordon likes to grate that on top, but classic parmesan works, too. “That’s it—then I just eat it up,” he says. “I mean, hopefully I get it out of the pan and into a bowl.” If not, we understand.


 

Image: Amber Fouts

Ingredients

(Serves two people) 

  • Pasta, 4 ounces (spaghetti, linguini, or even bucatini are great)
  • Olive Oil, 3 tablespoons extra virgin
  • Garlic, 2–3 cloves, chopped
  • Shallot or onion, (or both), 1 small, chopped
  • Capers, 2 tablespoons
  • Marinara, (jarred), 1 ½–2 cups
  • Parmesan, the real stuff, or similar high-quality cheese for topping

Steps

  1. Prepare pasta according to instructions. Set aside and reserve some pasta water in case you need it.
  2. Heat a 10-inch, or medium-size saute pan. Add a generous amount of olive oil.
     

    Image: Amber Fouts

  3. Once oil is hot, add the capers, garlic, and shallots or onion (or both). Let them cook for about two minutes, until softened and aromatic.
  4. Dump in the marinara and stir. The fat from the olive oil helps it start caramelizing.
     

    Image: Amber Fouts

  5. Keep stirring it occasionally, so the hot sauce doesn’t spatter.
  6. After a few minutes, the sauce will acquire a darker, caramelized color. When that happens, it’s time to add the pasta.
     

    Image: Amber Fouts

  7. Toss the noodles together with the sauce. A bit of leftover pasta water, if needed, can keep everything from sticking to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Transfer pasta and sauce to individual serving bowls. Top with cheese.
     

    Image: Amber Fouts

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