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Dinner Tonight! | LEARNING TO COOK

Pasta alla Mexicana


In the last few years a new term has been added to California cuisine: "fusion food." This usually describes a mix of Asian and European dishes, and my experience has been that most attempts at fusing don't fuse, though you may have had better luck than I.

Here is one experiment I like, a fusing of Italian and Mexican ingredients. If this combination doesn't fuse for you, you can always use the Green Sauce on beans, fish or an avocado salad.

Cunningham's newest book is "Learning to Cook With Marion Cunningham" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).

Spaghetti With Green Sauce

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes

1/2 pound spaghetti

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 mild Anaheim pepper or 1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded

8 tomatillos, peeled

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

1/3 cup cilantro leaves

1/2 onion, diced

1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

* Bring large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add salt and spaghetti and stir for a good minute so spaghetti strands don't stick together. After 12 minutes, fish a strand of spaghetti out with a fork and run it under cold water. If spaghetti is tender and not firm or hard, it is ready. (If you haven't finished preparing sauce, just turn heat off under pot of spaghetti and let it stay hot until sauce is finished.)

* As spaghetti cooks, cut chile into 1/4-inch strips. Hold strips in bunched up pile and chop crosswise into 1/8-inch pieces. Set aside. Cut stems from tomatillos and slice tomatillos in 1/4 inch slices. Hold each sliced tomatillo together and slice into small pieces crosswise.

* Place garlic, cilantro, onion, pepper and tomatillos in small saucepan and set aside. Just before draining spaghetti, warm green sauce 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat; this isn't to be cooked, just barely warmed so spaghetti stays hot.

* Drain spaghetti into colander and shake colander to remove as much excess water as possible. Combine spaghetti and warmed sauce in mixing bowl and serve. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

2 servings. Each serving: 595 calories; 583 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 101 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 1.25 grams fiber.

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