Real vegetarian food, served in an imaginary world...

Sunday 30 April 2017

A CASE OF IMMUNITY – A meal for Hector Elizondo

The second of Zelda’s test recipes for Jenny at Silver Screen Suppers, in preparation for the wonderful Columbo Cookbook is Hector Elizondo’s Famous Pasta Pomodoro

The Context
I must admit that Hector Elizondo is not an actor I was previously aware of, but his filmography runs from 1963 to the present day and includes some very famous films such as The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Pretty Woman.
In the 1975 Columbo episode, A Case of Immunity, he plays Hassan Salah, the chief diplomat of Suaria.

The Recipe and my Variations
Hector's original measurements seemed quite ambiguous, with varying amounts suggested. I have listed them as I used them and found them to work.
Spaghetti or linguini is suggested but I prefer spaghetti, purely because linguini is flatter and not as appealing to the eye.
The amount of olive oil seemed excessive. I used 1tbsp and it was sufficient.
Hector’s shopping list contains anchovies. I obviously wanted to make this a vegetarian dish so they had to go (although piscaterians will be happy to leave them in). You could make a very respectable meal using just the other ingredients, but as anchovies add a depth of flavour I substituted capers as a salty alternative.
I used chilli flakes rather than red pepper flakes but I suspect that they are very similar (if not the same thing).
I tried making it with the rosemary but, to be quite honest, I don’t know what Hector was thinking about as it seemed totally inappropriate. Perhaps he had a rosemary bush outside his kitchen door or he just got the names of his herbs mixed up. It has to be basil for serving, it really does, with a mixture of fresh herbs in the sauce.
I thought the sauce quite ‘orangey’ and dry, so I added the ketchup mix and allowed it to reduce.
I also added the pasta to the sauce (instead of the other way round) and grated additional parmesan over the serving dish at the end.
*Vegetarians will need to make sure that the parmesan they choose is vegetarian, as not all are.

1lb/ 450g spaghetti
1tbsp olive oil
6 fresh cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
70g capers
1 tbsp chilli flakes
Freshly grated vegetarian Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped mixed herbs
Basil leaves to serve
12 fresh tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato ketchup

Put tomatoes in pan of boiling water until skins crack. 
Rinse the capers and chop them finely.
Sauté the garlic, capers and chilli flakes in the oil, taking care not to let them brown.
Cool the tomatoes under running water and peel. 
Drop the tomatoes into the sautéed sauce. As you mix them in, sort of chop them – you want the sauce to be a little lumpy.
Add mixed herbs and season with black pepper.
Mix 2tbsp tomato ketchup with the same amount of hot water and add to the sauce.
Allow to simmer gently while you cook the pasta.
Make pasta according to packet instructions and drain.  
Add to the sauce and mix in a tsp of the grated parmesan.
Place in bowls, grate more parmesan over the top and scatter the basil leaves.

Hector didn’t specify how many portions this made but this easily served two and would, I am sure, have stretched further. (We did indulge a bit!) It would be good served with a lovely green salad.
And, remember for an arty picture, wipe the bowl before taking the photo.

The Verdict
It was certainly spicy! The chilli flakes give a real kick.
It felt odd throwing away all the tomato skins. I would be inclined to keep them on, chop them finely before cooking, allow them to break down and enjoy them in the finished dish.
This makes a lovely quick meal: from start to finish it was about half an hour, or you could make the sauce in advance and reheat when you are ready to eat.
I’m not sure why this is called Hector Elizondo’s Famous Pasta Pomodoro. In a google search the only mention of it was via Silver Screen Suppers; but maybe it will become famous after Jenny’s book.

The Experience
From the start, it smelt delicious. We ate it in bowls with the episode on the screen.

Quick, easy and tasty: this is a meal we will probably have again. 


  1. AWww,you are sweet with the "maybe it will become famous" comment - that did make me laugh. I love your switch of capers for anchovies - inspired! I'm going to incorporate all your brilliant findings into the book - great to have a veggie version of this dish, famous or not!