This penne with quick green chile marinara sauce is an old recipe, not only because I first posted it several years ago (in my pre-DSLR days) but also because it has been a family favorite for nearly as long as I can remember. In fact, when I asked my dad about the origins of the recipe (and of its obscure name, “penne al boccalone”), all he could tell me was that he found the recipe in a cookbook that he checked out from the library twenty or twenty-five years ago.
While the exact source and meaning of the name continue to be a mystery to me (and may be forever, unless perhaps one of you readers has stumbled upon the same book…?), it’s certainly no mystery why this recipe has stuck around in my family for so long! Lighter and brighter in flavor than many traditional marinara sauces, this sauce utilizes green chiles and fresh parsley to create a refreshing tanginess that is perfect for the warmer months—although we enjoy it all months of the year!
Another thing I love about this sauce is the full-bodied flavor that it achieves in a short amount of time. Traditional marinaras can clock in at well over an hour, but this version cooks up in just twenty minutes—which is about as long as it takes to bring a pot of water to a boil and make pasta! This recipe is an excellent choice for when you want a dish that feels gourmet and you want it in your belly SOON.
Do you have any old recipes whose names you don’t quite understand? And can anyone tell me more about the term “al boccalone”? Years ago, my (somewhat hasty internet) search led me to believe that it had something to do with sausage, perhaps because there was a charcuterie shop in California named Boccalone. The shop has since closed, and now, my (still relatively surface level internet) search turns up meanings such as “big-mouthed” or “a gossip.” So at this point, my best guess is that “big-mouthed” is a more literal reference to the shape of penne itself, since the opening is wider than that of, say, macaroni, but I’m interested to hear if anyone knows anything more about this!
- 1 pound uncooked penne
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons diced green chiles
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chopped parsley, divided
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- black pepper (to taste)
- shaved parmesan (optional)
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce: heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and green chiles and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, using a blender, puree the diced tomatoes. Add the puree and the tomato paste to the skillet and stir until combined. Add 3/4 cup parsley, vinegar, dried basil, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Combine the pasta and sauce. Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup parsley and shaved parmesan (if desired).
- If you’d prefer to use fresh tomatoes, you will need about 1 1/2 cups of puree (from about 5-6 roma tomatoes). Canned tomato puree should also work, although I have not tried this personally. I list diced tomatoes above simply because that is what I typically keep on hand.
- Original source unknown.
Nom! Another interpretation: a big mouth is what I need to get this delicious-looking penne into my stomach. Thanks again for sharing this excellent dish 🙂
Ha! I like that interpretation…you gotta open wide to shovel in as much pasta as possible in any given bite 😉
David @ Spiced says
Interesting! I love learning about the origin of recipe names, but sadly I can’t add much to the boccalone mystery here. The Roman historian in me jumped to the ‘Bocca della Verita’ in Rome, so the mouth connection is there…but that’s about it. And you already had that part! Either way, this pasta sounds like something I need to show up in my kitchen ASAP. And whenever we make pasta for dinner, it’s ALWAYS a ‘get in my belly now’ kinda night. 🙂 I’ve been playing around with Hatch green chilies lately, and I have some leftover…I’m thinking this marinara would be a great way to use ’em. Thanks for the post! And great photos here, too!
The mystery continues! Perhaps I should take a trip to Italy in order to investigate 😉 And yes, this would be a great way to use up those leftovers!
chef mimi says
This looks so good. I love how chile peppers are a part of many different cuisines! Although, I’d be tempted to use cilantro instead of parsley – or maybe both – but that wouldn’t be very Italian!
Thanks, Mimi! It’s funny, but I’m usually not a parsley person – I generally prefer cilantro – but I love it in this dish! It’s always fun to change things up, though, so maybe one of these days I’ll try it with cilantro.
chef mimi says
I’ve always felt parsley is sort of under appreciated ! I like it in marinades and vinaigrette’s, too.
Angie | Fiesta Friday says
Pinning this. I’m forever looking for pasta recipes. It’s what my daughter always asks for. Pasta, pasta, pasta… I think she will enjoy this, especially with the green chiles. She’s the only one in the family that likes spicy hot food! I actually like spices, but not the heat 🙂
I’d probably eat pasta every day if I could, so I get where your daughter is coming from! This sauce isn’t particularly spicy (my mom likes it and she doesn’t care for spicy foods much at all), but she could definitely add more chiles to suit her taste. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Lots of flavor in a short amount of time? I’m in
It doesn’t get much better than that, right? Thanks for stopping by!
Love a beautiful spicy pasta! 🙂
Thanks, Josette! It’s not very spicy as is, but there’s no reason you couldn’t add extra chiles to increase the heat 😉
I always sprinkle pepper flakes on my pasta, but with your recipe I wont have to, yummy!
You may want to add some extra chiles if you like really spicy foods, or even some finely diced jalapeños! I like spicy foods, but can’t tolerate as much heat as some people (like my husband). Thanks for stopping by 🙂
tom swift says
original source for penne alla boccalone: the vegetarian epicure, book two by anna thomas, knopf, 1978. page 240. we were already fans of book one, and started cooking this dish as soon as the second volume was available. an all time family favorite.