WAIT FOR IT......PASTA SAUCES.

March 29, 2018

 Different shapes, different sauces. But the hero is always the pasta, not the sauce. That's why they write books about it.

 

(This post will make more sense if you read the preceding one.)

 

PASTA AL FORNO 

 

Timballo di Tubetti e Melanzane

Makes one x 20 cm mould or 4 individual x 6 cm ramekins

 This is my meatless take on a baked timballo. A timballo is a round, drumlike tin, whence the dish gets its name. Feel free to add shredded, cooked meat from the sugo, tiny, tiny meatballs or diced ham. 

 

2 eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise, lightly salted, layered in a colander and weighted down for an hour

2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for frying the eggplant slices

1 half small onion, chopped very finely

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 bunch basil, stalks kept separate, leaves torn

1 tin tomatoes, chopped with the juices or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

250 g short pasta such as tubetti or half penne, cooked and well drained, then tossed in a very small amount olive oil to keep from sticking while you are preparing the timballo 

4 eggs, boiled, peeled and chopped

4 eggs, beaten 

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

1 cup low fat ricotta (it is important to use low fat as it is drier than full fat)

salt and pepper

 

Pat the eggplant slices dry with a paper towels but do not wash them. Heat up the extra olive oil in a frypan and lightly fry the slices. Set aside on paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Make a simple tomato sauce: heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and fry the onion until it is very soft but not coloured. (It is not traditional to add onion to a simple tomato sauce but I like the subtle sweetness.)  Add the garlic and the basil stalks and stir for 1 minute taking care not to burn the garlic. Add all the tomatoes at once and stir. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Turn off the heat and allow to cool a little. Remove the basil stems.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, boiled eggs, beaten eggs and cheeses. Tear the basil leaves and add, reserving a handful for garnish. Pour in the sauce and mix well, you might like to hold back a spoonful for garnish. Season, but remember the eggplant slices will have residual salt, so take care. 

 

In a round cake pan, arrange the eggplant slices in a spoke pattern leaving plenty of overhang.  Put in the pasta mixture, smooth down evenly and cover the top with the eggplant.

 

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 20 minutes. Allow to set for 8-10 minutes  before unmoulding onto a platter or individual plates if you've made the ramekins. If you like, garnish with a little extra sauce and a few leaves of basil. 

 

FRITTATA

When we were young, my mother often cooked extra spaghetti during the week (we rarely had spaghetti for Sunday lunch), then for a snack, we had spaghetti frittata. What a treat for a picnic, eaten cold! 

 

4  free-range eggs 

40 g Parmesan cheese, grated

sea salt, freshly ground black pepper 

finely chopped flat leaved parsley or basil

400 g leftover cooked pasta, with its sauce - not just spaghetti, penne, spiralli, whatever is left over

extra virgin olive oil 

 

Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a 22 cm frypan with metal handle. 

In a bowl, beat the eggs and add the cheese, salt and pepper (remember the pasta is already seasoned, so taste as you go). Put in the herbs, I like lots of chopped flat leaved parsley.  If you like, add some chopped sausage, or ham or diced mozzarella cheese - for this, you really don't need a recipe.

Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in the frypan and pour in the egg and pasta mix. Fry on a medium heat to set the bottom, then put into the oven for about 10 minutes or until the frittata is firm. Eat warm or at room temperature in large wedges. 

 

 

PASTA ASCIUTTA

Pasta Asciutta - dry pasta, so called because it is simply dressed in a sauce and doesn't swim in a pool. At home, we serve more sauce than is 'proper', then, with a crust of bread, we mop up the residual - fare al scarpetta - two courses in one! Although not considered entirely well mannered - it is such a compliment to the cook! La scarpetta refers to a shoe - fanciful Italian notion - but I can see the association.

 

 Photo credit: google images. I'd washed our dishes before I remembered. I must say, this is rather enthusiastic! (What do you think, Nancy Lee?)

 

In very broad terms, there are a number of categories for the sauces to dress pasta asciutta.

  • ragu - rich meat sauces

  • alio e olio - simple, quick olive oil and garlic sauces, these can be enriched with vegetables, anchovies, olives but remain simple dressings for pasta

  • fish sauces - very often these fall into the alio e olio dimension but sometimes we add tomatoes and make a ragu.

 Photo credit: Spaghetti alle Vongole. Recipe in previous post: How to eat like an Italian Policeman -Salvo Montalbano.

 

THREE ENRICHED ALIO E OLIO PASTA SAUCES 

The sauces will be enough to toss through 500g cooked pasta each. Make the sauce first, then boil the pasta, holding back some of the cooking water to add to the sauce. 

 

 

PUMPKIN AND WALNUT 

 

Plenty for 4 people - filling enough for a weeknight dinner, followed by cheese and fruit. Thank you, Olivia, for the photograph. 

 

 

1kg pumpkin, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup of walnuts, roasted and chopped roughly

1/2 cup chopped parsley

chopped chilli to taste (optional)

olive oil

salted ricotta (even fetta works well, if you can't find salted ricotta)

cracked black pepper

500 g paccheri 

 

Toss the pumpkin pieces in oil, season and bake  in the oven, until just cooked.  Warm the garlic in the olive oil, mix through the pumpkin.  Add all other ingredients, except the ricotta.

Cook  500g  pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente, drain and toss through the sauce immediately.

Hold back some of the boiling water to moisten the sauce.

Finish with salted ricotta cheese and pepper

 

PASTA with CAULIFLOWER

 

 

We had this in a little vegetarian restaurant in a side alley in Syracusa - I can't tell you the name but I can show you how to get there on a map. Or if you wait until next year, I'll take you myself.  I have added some anchovies, capers, chilli and black olives that were not part of the original. 

 

1.5 kg cauliflower, cut into large flowerettes

olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

6 anchovy fillets (optional)

2 tablespoons drained capers

chilli, finely chopped salt and pepper

handful pitted black olives

zest 1 lemon

1 cup coarsely ground breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

500 g ridged penne 

 

Cook the cauliflower in plenty of salted water, do not let it go mushy.  Sauté the oil and garlic very briefly, then add the anchovy fillets, mashing them with a fork until they form a paste.   Add the drained, boiled cauliflower, breaking it up with a fork.  Fold through the chilli, olives, lemon zest and pepper, check for salt. In a separate frypan, heat up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toast the breadcrumbs mixed with parsley until golden. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain, remembering to hold back some pasta water.

Toss the cauliflower with the cooked, drained pasta, adding a ladleful or two of the pasta water.  Add the crumb/ parsley mixture and toss again.

 

 

 

Tagliolini al funghi e limone

 

 

One warm day in Lecce, Puglia, I cut away on my own after class.  I walked through the cobbled streets to the covered market at Porta Rudiae, just inside the walls of the city.  I was not particularly hungry but needed comfort as sometimes happens when I am away from home.  I saw big, open field mushrooms and I knew that only some pasta al uovo (egg pasta) would dispel my malaise.  This is a fool proof remedy for such a crisis........... you're welcome.

 

This is a recipe for one (or two).

 

150 g mixed mushrooms - portobello, Swiss browns, porcini if you are blessed 

2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, as robust as it comes

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed with salt 

chopped flat leaved parsley

zest and juice 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

enough pasta for you - cook a bit extra and invite someone, make an effort

Cut the mushrooms into strips. In a frypan, heat the olive oil and very gently warm the garlic, throw in the mushrooms and cook until they soften and colour. Off the heat, add the parsley, zest and juice. Adjust for seasoning.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it is al dente to your palate - you have no one to take into account, please yourself. Drain the pasta, hold back some water. Toss the pasta with the sauce, moisten with the water if necessary. Grind black pepper over the top.   

 

RIGATONI ALLA GENOVESE

 

I will tell you a story of a "fish out of water". Except it was me in Naples! As you know my family originates from a little town some 46 km from the city of Naples - so in the big city we were like country bumpkins - the poor relatives, mouths agape at the wonder of it all. Then I grew up. 

 

Some twenty years ago, I started taking tours to Italy. On one of the first tours, we were hosted in Naples by dear friends in the Diplomatic Corps, Angelo and Valeria.  I asked them to take us to a restaurant for Rigatoni alla Genovese for lunch. This is Naples' most famous sauce (apart from Napoletana), that no one else recognises.

 

The waiter, as is the custom in proper restaurants, let us eat our delicious, creamy pasta before he took our orders for il secondo. I was non plussed, surely they would bring us a few slices of the unctuous  meat with some wilted spinach, spritzed with lemon juice? "Ahh", he sighed. "If only we could eat as simply in a grand restaurant as we do at home." Oops. 

 

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil

100 g fatty pancetta, diced

1 kg beef chuck, in a piece

1- 2 stalks celery left whole 

1 carrot, peeled left whole

1 fresh bay leaf

1.5 kg brown onions, sliced lengthways 

1 cup dry white wine

chopped parsley or a little marjoram

freshly grated parmigiano

500 g rigatoni or paccheri

 

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and render the pancetta to release the fat. Remove the cooked pancetta and set aside. Add the meat and over a high fire, brown all sides, turn down the heat. Add the celery, carrot, bay leaf and all the onions.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add all the wine and scrape up any loose caramelised 'bits' on the bottom of the saucepan. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook for at least 3 hours, checking from time to time to make sure there is liquid in the pan. Add small volumes of water or stock. 

When the meat is meltingly tender, remove it, the celery, carrot and bay leaf and continue to cook the onions for a while longer until they have collapsed into a creamy, sweet puree. Season to your taste.

When ready to serve, cook the rigatoni or paccheri and remember to hold back a ladle of the pasta water for the sauce. 

Add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix. Serve topped with chopped parsley or a pinch of marjoram and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serve the slices of meat that have given all their goodness to the sauce as a secondo with wilted spinach, blanched green beans or broccolini.

We're not in Kansas any more, Toto.

Always serve greens with Vitamin C from lemon, orange or lime juice. This way the iron in the greens are absorbed by the body. 

 

Buon Appetito.

 

Pasta in Brodo gets its own post. You'll see why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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