Carbonara: ‘Mayonnaise’ Tip

The origins of the carbonara pasta sauce are a bit of a moot point.  More and more current researchers believe that it came about as a result of American soldiers’ food rations when they liberated Rome and Italy (together with the other Allies let us please not forget ! Brits, Poles, Indians, Aussies, New Zealanders, French and Moroccans, and the Italian Partisans too).  The thread is that the staple bacon and eggs ration of the American GI got morphed into a guanciale OR pancetta and pecorino cheese sauce, liberally sprinkled over with freshly ground pepper.  The reason for this conclusion is that the Carbonara recipe is not to be found in any Italian Cookery book prior to the late 1940s.  So whether the GI Joes really were behind it or not, it can be indisputably ascertained that the Carbonara as we know it today originated some time during WWII.

And in Rome we think we make the best Carbonara.

The four pillars of  the Roman pasta portfolio are: (1) Cacio e Pepe (using only pecorino cheese and pepper), (2) Gricia (pecorino again but this time with the addition of rendered pork jowl aka guanciale);  (3) Amatriciana or Matriciana (basically a Gricia cooked in a tomato sauce and served with Pecorino) and (4) last of all the Carbonara.  The first two are, historically speaking, the ancients.  The third required the use of tomatoes that hailed from the Americas, and that didn’t begin to joyously ‘invade’ Italian recipes until the early 1800s.  So our Carbonara is the new kid on the block and maybe, just as with the tomatoes in the Amatriciana, comes with a bit of an American ‘background’.

Earlier I wrote that Romans like to think that they make the best Carbonara.  And I like to think that the way I make it is representative of its Roman outlook: I don’t like pancetta, I prefer guanciale.  I do not like the mix of  both parmesan and pecorino, I prefer to use pecorino only.  Also, I do not use the egg whites, only the yolks.  Raw egg yolks are good for you, raw egg whites are not.  True, the cooked pasta which is still hot will “cook” the beaten egg mixture but I still think that the egg whites are unnecessary and do not add any flavour whatsoever.  Last, as with any ‘normal’ Italian Carbonara lover, I am of the idea that adding cream or herbs to this hearty pasta is anathema.

INGREDIENTS

Eggs, pecorino cheese, black pepper.  Spaghetti or tonnarelli are all very well and good but short-shaped pastas are easier to handle.

PASTA BRAND

Today, I decided to use Delverde which gets its name from the River Verde.  They draw their water for their pasta-making from the River apparently.  They are geographically very close to the popular De Cecco and Cocco pasta brands, Fara San Martino in the Abbruzzi Region.  http://www.delverde.com/it

 

I decided to weigh the pasta today: 380g for three people (i.e. 125g each – this is a really BIG helping, and 380g would suffice for four people ordinarily.  But but but … Carbonara has a way of being very more-ish).

PLAYING AROUND WITH THE PEPPER

Try this tip if making Cacio e Pepe too.  Those who understand Indian cooking know that it is vital to warm up spices before including them in a recipe, and this is the same idea. I actually read about it for the first time what feels like aeons ago, probably in the late 1990s, in a cacio-e-pepe recipe by Maureen Fant (Partner at Elifant Archaeo-Culinary Tours) who has been living in Rome for decades.  If it works for cacio e pepe it must surely work for Carbonara, I thought.  And it does.

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You’ll need a wee pot or pan (the one in the middle) and a mortar and pestle.  If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just use a full can/tin of something (baked beans?) or a rolling pin to bash the pepper corns.

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Warm the pepper over a low heat and be sharp and keep an eye on the procedure.  Just last month, I was heating up the pepper and left it to finish watering my plants on the balcony (we women are always multi-tasking even when we’re cooking).  To my horror, when I returned to the kitchen minutes later I could hardly breathe and my eyes began to smart: the essential oils from the pepper had gone beserk.  I had to throw them out and stay away from the kitchen until the ‘smell’ dispersed, cough cough.

5As you bash the warmed pepper in the mortar, the NICE fragrance from the pepper will make you smile.

6And then, since you can’t bash the pepper to smithereens, put it through a strainer/sieve.  The end result will be so much more refined and also good for avoiding pepper overload.  I saw this tip with the sieve in a Jamie Oliver episode when he was in Rome making cacio e pepe on a roof top.

You can keep any leftovers in a sealed jar.  It will always smell and taste more fragrant than unheated pepper.

Pepper prep finished.

GRATE SOME PECORINO

7If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know how much I detest grating cheese.  I always try and find someone who wants to be helpful and the task today landed on my obliging husband.  He does ask silly questions, however: “How much should I grate?”.  I don’t know.  Enough for four people.  As it turned out, he grated just the very amount I was after, huh! (Actually a tad too much but that’s not a problem.)

GUANCIALE (PORK JOWL) AND RENDERING THE GUANCIALE

8The rule of thumb – well at least MY rule of thumb – is at least 30g of guanciale per person, 35-40g  being even better.  But I use my eyes a lot too.  As I was slicing, I cut what I thought would be enough for four 100g portions and then added an extra slice – a bit like when making tea in a teapot, you know, 1 teaspoon loose leaf tea per person plus one for the pot.

Think of it this way: 40g guanciale x 100g of pasta per person.  I cut it first and weighed it later, and it came to just under 150g – wow, bang on considering I was cooking 380g of pasta!

9After you’ve sliced the guanciale in match-stick shapes, turn on the heat and let it cook and the fat render very slowly.  I actually started out doing this first,  and then got on with the pepper prepping as the guanciale was cooking.

10Once the guanciale is thoroughly cooked, you will need a sieve and a bowl or something to catch the rendered fat.

11Here we go.

12Transfer the cooked guanciale to a large saucepan.  Later you will be draining the cooked pasta directly into this saucepan – no heat.  You could, if you preferred, use a big fat large bowl instead of a saucepan.

CARBONARA MAYONNAISE

13What you see are: 4 tablespoons of grated pecorino on the left (1 tablespoon per person) and the rendered guanciale fat on the right.  Which has been left to cool.

Carbonara can go horribly wrong if it the egg curdles over the hot pasta.  My way of making carbonara does a great job of avoiding this pitfall.  And basically, it’s like making a sort of mayonnaise – only we are using pork fat instead of a vegetable oil, and adding grated cheese.

14Here are the cheese and the fat.

15Time to add the egg yolks.  These were rather small eggs so I used 1 egg per person plus another for good luck.

16The egg whites are in that terracotta bowl.  (I later put them in a small jar in the freezer. )

So rule of thumb: 30-40g guanciale x 100g pasta x 1 egg yolk per person x 1 tablespoon grated pecorino romano cheese.

17When I mixed everything together, however, my mixture was a bit too liquid for my liking so I added some more pecorino.

18And also a sprinkling of pepper.

The pasta has been cooking for at least 4 minutes at this point …

19I remove some of the cooking water.  That ‘thing’ you see in the cooking water is a bit of guanciale that had accidentally fallen into the pot.  No problem, if anything it adds flavour.

I now wait for the cooking water to cool.

20I add the cooking water a little at a time, a little at a time, until I get a creamy sauce.  This is literally minutes before draining the pasta.

TIME TO BRING IT ALL TOGETHER

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22On the table.

23One last thing.  As always we must always taste, taste, taste.  And the carbonara sauce was VERY tasty.  It needed more cheese but I decided to add parmigiano/parmesan at this point rather than pecorino because otherwise it would have been too strong.

Below is a link to some very short videos showing me make carbonara dating back to March 2014 – more than five years ago!  I have ‘perfected’ the recipe over time, as outlined in today’s post.  There is always something new and wonderful to learn in the world of cookery.

I hope you find my ‘mayonnaise’ approach useful and if you have any other short-cuts and/or tips do let me know, thank you!

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/videos-of-the-carbonara-in-the-making/

Pasta Ulrika following on Pasta Camilla

Here we are.  I seem to be having a courgette/zucchine obsession.  Well, in my defence, they ARE everywhere this time of year and you know what they say, when life hands you lemons, make Limoncello … no no no.  When life presents courgettes, find a way of making them interesting.

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Some fresh chilli for instance.  As in the above photo.

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Since I am making pasta, I know I shall want some grated cheese – and I opt for a mixture of pecorino and parmesan.  There is no one about wanting to help me grate the cheeses so I choose to cheat.   This is not the best way to grate cheese because it can’t be fine enough.  But it was fine enough for me that evening.

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What you see are eight slices of thinly sliced (by my butcher) of guanciale, pork jowl.  If anything can make a pasta dish more ‘interesting’, it’s most definitely guanciale: think Amatriciana, think Carbonara, think Gricia.  I cut the guanciale up into smaller portions.

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I cooked the guanciale over a low heat so that its fat would render.  And I waited for it to become a little crispy.

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While the guanciale was cooking, I set about removing most of the pulp from the courgettes.   Talking about kitchen toys as I did in my previous post, that tool you see with a white handle is a courgette corer.  Very handy for when you want to make stuffed courgettes.  You can also use it as an apple corer.

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I slimmed down the courgettes and cut them down to bite size.

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And now it’s almost time to cook.  Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a big saucepan and add garlic, pepper corns and fresh mint.

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Once the courgettes have been slimmed down even more into large cubes, turn the heat on, cook the garlic until it becomes golden, and then add them.

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I added the fresh chilli too.  The veggies were cooking under quite a fiery heat.

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And now I did the porky ‘thing’ of adding the fat rendered from the guanciale to the  mix. Only the fat.  Save the guanciale meat for later.

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I swithched the heat off and blended the courgettes as much as I could.

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The blending became easier after the addition of plenty of cream.

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The last addition was the grated cheese.  Time to test.  Add salt and pepper as required.

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Drain the pasta directly into the large saucepan, add a little cooking water and toss and turn until the pasta is well coated and/or has absorbed some of the sauce.

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See what I mean?  I added yet more fresh mint leaves.  And last, the crispy guanciale.  You could, if you wished, add the guanciale directly onto the pasta served on a plate.  But people were getting hungry, all eight of us and there wasn’t time for such a nicety.  There was some extra grated cheese already on the table for those who wished to add a sprinkling on top of their plate.

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So eager was everyone to dive in, that no one took a photo – not a single photo of the delicious pasta on the plate !  So what you see above is the pasta (what was left of it) the day after.  Sigh.

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The good thing was that someone got to eat these leftovers.  Pasta can indeed by reheated and enjoyed – but only ONCE.  I wrote that in capital letters and will repeat: pasta can be reheated but only once.

Anyway.  The title of this pasta is Pasta Ulrika, in honour of my delightful niece from Sweden who was visiting.

Shame about the lack of photo to show how enticing this humble mix can be – but give it a try anyway, I think you’ll like it very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Another Summer Tomato Spaghetti Sauce – Almost “Crudaiola”

A “crudaiola” sauce (pronounced croo-dah-yo-lah in English) is essentially a sauce that is made up of raw ingredients.  This pasta recipe is almost raw.  It’s cooked very little.  It is a take on a classic Italian tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes when in season.

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The word for uncooked in Italian is “crudo”.  So, I’m thinking that the word “crude” in English must somehow be embroiled etymologically with this … who knows how or why.  Of course, the Ancient Greeks called everyone who was not Greek a “Barbarian” and barbarians were known NOT to cook their food.  Can we hence assume that the Italian “crudo” (uncooked) had something to do with the English “crude” (i.e. unsophisticated) ?

Understated in the extreme as this recipe may be, there is nothing unsophisticated about it whatsover.  And as with the luxury of understated and refined goods, the secret lies in the quality of the ingredients.  I wouldn’t dream of making this recipe during the colder times of the year.  It requires the best of Summer tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS

San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, parsely stalks, extra virgin olive oil, basil, spaghetti

IMG_3751

I like kitchen toys – they make life a lot more interesting when cooking.  That little black thing you see on the right?  It’s a tomato peeler.  Yes, not a potato peeler – a tomato peeler.  And it does a wonderful job of peeling tomato skins.  If you don’t own one of these (and why would you?), then … then plunge your tomatoes in boiling water and let them sit there for a couple of minutes – after which, remove them and plunge them into very cold water, so that you don’t scorch your fingers when removing the skins.

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Now that the tomatoes have been skinned, they need to be quartered.  And then the quarters need to be halved.

IMG_3753And then … and then you want to get rid of the ‘inside’ of the tomatoes so that all you are left with is the pulp.  The stuff on the left, in the bowl on the left, is the ‘inside’ of the tomato.  And will be thrown away.  The stuff on the right is the good stuff, the pulp.

IMG_3754Job done.

IMG_3755Job almost done because it’s a good idea to slice the tomato pulp now, into thinner slices.

IMG_3756And to finish off the job, sprinkle salt over the slithers of tomato pulp.

IMG_3758People sometimes ask me to recommend pasta brands.  This is a brand I like. It’s called Pasta Cocco  and comes from the region of Abbruzzo.  If you want to read a little bit more about it, here is a link: https://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/making-pasta-pope-abruzzos-mastri-pastai  Here is their website but there is no translation in English it would seem? https://www.pastacocco.com/ .

TIME TO GET COOKING

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Bring the water to the boil, add salt (10g of salt per liter of water) and when the water returns to a rolling boil, lower the spaghetti into it.   Avail yourselves of a nice big saucepan and generously pour extra virgin olive oil into it.  Add as much or as little garlic as you like.  A handful of parsely stalks.  And some fresh chilli – or dry chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh.

IMG_3760Unlike other occasions when the garlic needs to be cooked to a golden colour before adding other ingredients, this time everything gets thrown in together – à la crudaiola. Boom.

IMG_3761And only now do we turn the heat on.

IMG_3762Cook for a few minutes.

IMG_3763Then add basil and cook some more.

IMG_3764Then add the cooked spaghetti and some more fresh basil and any other fresh herb you fancy and finish off cooking the pasta.

IMG_3765Toss and toss to finish cooking the pasta and then switch off the heat.

IMG_3767Can’t say this presentation looks like much.

IMG_3768Nor this.  But can I say?

It tasted just mmmmmm.

PS I was inspired to do this recipe by a similar one outlined in the book called “Faccia da Chef” written by comedian and cook Andy Luotto.

 

Making Mushrooms Sexy

Well, not really.  But you know what I mean, don’t you?  Mushrooms, ordinary button mushrooms, that are called “champignons” in Italian (which is of course a French word actually), aren’t exactly thriling now are they.  I can’t imagine people getting all excited about eating a plate of these mushrooms.  They seem to have gone out of fashion – I don’t even see them on Italian menus in family-run restaurants any more.  Sometimes as part of a pizza topping but that’s about it.  I wonder why, poor things.  They are quite tasty after all and surely, unless you hate mushrooms or are allergic to them, you don’t mind having them as a side dish, sautéed in olive oil and garlic and finely minced parsely.  But again, the operative word is “don’t mind” (which of course are two words but let’s not quibble here) as opposed to “hanker after” or “crave”.  Mmmmm.

As my children were growing up, I had to account for differing tastes when it came to vegetables and since I love vegetables myself – all of them I hasten to add – I did not mind putting at least two and usually three vegetable side dishes on the dinner table every evening. (potatoes often being the common denominator).  Favourite daughter can’t bear mushrooms, and might even be slightly allergic to them.  Whereas favourite son likes them, even the lowly button-mushroom kind.  Favourite husband is usually easy to please but he has never waxed lyrical over them.  So the bottom line, now that both kids have left home, is that I rarely cook mushrooms (except for the porcini kind, when they are in season).

I have been boycotting supermarkets for over ten years, a decision I came to after reading the book “Not on the Label – What Really Goes into the Food in your Plate” by British journalist Felicity  Lawrence.  I have been guiding tours around Frascati for almost two years and this piece of information pops into the tour when I show our clients my shopping street and the town’s market.  And I tell them, the way I write to you now, that I cannot get on my moral high horse about this – because food shopping is incredibly easy to do in Frascati and I have access within walking distance to everything I could possibly want (except for fresh coriander – for that I have to go into Rome.  Coriander/cilantro still not big in these parts).  As life would ironically have it,  however, it turns out that I have had to  frequent supermarkets on a regular basis (weekly!) ever since my mother stopped driving last year and I have to take her shopping (she turns 93 in December bless her).  I kid you not, I have been more often to the supermarket this past year than I have all together in the previous ten or more.  Oh – and by the way it’s not the idea of a supermarket that I am against.  It’s the fact that they don’t pay the producers well.  That and lots more but let’s drop the subject now and get back to the recipe for today’s post.

So there I was looking at the fresh foods at the supermarket with her the other day and turning my nose up disdainfully.  The aubergines/eggplants looked okay, I suppose.  The salads all came in plastic bags.  I’ll admit the cucumber looked good.  But for the rest I was really underwhelmed.  I went for the button mushrooms in a desultory bid to avoid coming home empty-handed.  I had to make dinner after all.

By the time I did get home, my husband told me he’d be late that night … so it was a case of my being on my own.  And that’s when I decided I would make a pasta dish with these champignons and let’s see if I could raise the bar here, and make them a bit special?

In the fridge I had some fresh tomatoes that I had cooked down in order to make a tomato sauce, and which I had put through a food mill.  A home-made tomato sauce is always good for adding ooomph to a recipe.  For the rest it was a case of the usual suspects: olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs.

On the other hand, since I WAS trying to make this a bit special, I knew I had to bring out some big guns.  Follow me.

 

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The pasta brand. This pasta brand.  Verrigni.  One of the best in Italy, full stop.  From Abbruzzo.

3A secret ingredient – dried porcini mushrooms.  Please ignore that lovely onion from Tropea in the foreground.  I used that to cook something else.

4I poured boiling water over the funghi porcini and let them soak until they were tender.

5Once they were totally rehydrated, I used a pair of scissors to cut them up.  And don’t even think about throwing away that porcini-infused water!  That’s what was to give the dish a bit of ooomph.

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Not too shabby either was this home-made tomato salsa I had prepared the day before. I skinned the tomatoes, chopped them up very roughly, and just cooked them down for about 15 minutes.  Afterwards I put them through a food mill and added salt and olive oil (extra virgin olive oil, naturally).

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The mushrooms soaking in a bowl of water.  They needed a good soak, it was very hot that day.

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The same mushrooms, a little later, roughly cut up and ready to be cooked.

TIME TO COOK

I put the water onto the boil for the pasta.

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I am recently very much ‘into’ this big frying pan – don’t ask me why.  I certainly didn’t need anything this big for my recipe but for some reason this was the only pan that ‘spoke’ to me that evening.   Made me feel a little cheffy, I suppose.  As you can see there is plenty of garlic, and plenty of olive oil.  There are, also, a few pepper corns (no, they are not mouse droppings).  And the green herb that you see is what we call “mentuccia” and which, I think is what is known as “calamint” in English (the official name in Latin is Clinopodium nepeta).  It is very strong, very.  Think mint on steroids.  And it goes wonderfully well with mushrooms. You could always substitute with marjoram, or tarragon, or thyme, or mint or even plain parsely.  Mentuccia is very easy to grow (I grow don’t have green fingers, trust me).

8I had the garlic cooking on a stronger heat that I would normally use.

9The minute the garlic started to turn golden, I added the mushrooms.

10And shortly after I added the porcini mushrooms and the water in which they had been soaking.

11Here you see everything bubbling away over a high heat.

12Time to cook the pasta too.

13I now added my tomato salsa.

14A thick slice of a beautiful lemon from the Amalfi Coast (they are famous for their lemons there).

15I tasted the sauce, added some salt, a bit more mentuccia and … yes … even some freshly squeezed lemon juice.  A little at a time.  A little goes a long way.

16I added a little bit of freshly grated pecorino cheese and switched the heat off.   The cheese melted easily even with the heat switched off.

17When the pasta was ready, I drained it directly  into my beefy saucepan and turned on the heat to a fierce temperature as I mixed in the sauce with the pasta.  I even did a bit of showing-off tossing – but couldn’t photograph that of course.

18I served it with some freshly grated parmigiano (parmesan).

19I added some chilli flakes just after I took this photo because I like a bit of heat.

I thought it was rather nice, thank you very much.  See?  There WAS  a way to make button mushrooms sexy after all.  Or so I thought.

The next day, while I was away, my husband had some leftovers for lunch.  When I got back, I enquired as to his liking of the dish.  He scrunched up his nose, took in a deep breath and pronounced it “unconvincing”.  I mean, he ate a whole plate of the stuff but it wasn’t exactly ‘good’ according to him.  He wasn’t being mean, by the way, just offering an honest opinion.

Yet.  You can imagine how crestfallen I felt.

“Did you add freshly grated parmigiano to it?” I asked.  He answered that no, he had not.

That must have been it then, I said to myself, trying to cheer myself up.  Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

PS – if you leave the cheese out, this recipe is fit for vegans.

PPS – It’s always a good idea to add some lemon juice to mushroom soup too.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/mushroom-soup-for-parties/

PPPS – Here is a little background on Mint (https://www.summerdownmint.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Food-Wine-Sept-2011.pdf)

More Mint Mythology
In Roman mythology Minthe was a
lovely young nymph who caught
the eye of Pluto, the ruler of the
underworld. When his wife Persephone found out about his love
for the beautiful nymph, she was
enraged and changed Minthe into
a lowly plant, to be trodden underfoot. Pluto couldn’t reverse Persephone’s curse, but he did soften
the spell somewhat by making the
smell that Minthe gave off all the
sweeter when she was trodden
upon. The name Minthe has
changed to Mentha and become
the name of the herb, mint.
In ancient Greece, mint was used
in funerary rites, together with
rosemary and myrtle, not simply
to offset the smell of decay but
mint was an element in the fermented barley drink called the
kykeon that was an essential brew
for participants in the Eleusinian
mysteries, which offered hope in
the afterlife for initiates.

 

 

Pasta Alfredo Frascati Spring Veggies Style: Peas, Asparagus and Broadbeans

Well, the original title was going to be “Paschal Pasta” because I served it on Easter Sunday a few weeks ago.

The idea of adding fresh peas, broadbeans (fava beans) and asparagus to my version of Pasta Alfredo (see link below) came to me as I sweated over the menu.  There were going to be ten of us for lunch including my in-laws who always expect some kind of pasta course at lunch, especially a festive version for a festive occasion.  There were absolutely loads of nibbles and appetizers and starters which were a meal in itself but I knew the drill – no meal would have been complete without the ‘primo’, the pasta course.  As I pondered how intricately busy our lives have become, a situation I now describe as the “Gulliver Syndrome” (we are all tied down by a barrage of minutiae on a daily basis), I realized that I had to come up with something super simple.  And Pasta Alfredo Frascati Style came to the rescue.

INGREDIENTS – Outlined in Bold below, after the photos

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10I got my greengrocer to shell the peas and broadbeans for me – phew.  Asparagus are easy enough to deal with.  I snipped the end bits of the asparagus spears, and sliced the rest of them into rounds.  I cooked the vegetables in separate batches, because they all have different cooking times.  I thought I was being practical using the same cooking water, and that it would impart a je ne sais quoi to it to when the pasta was going to be added.  And so it was.  The only suprise was the colour of the cooking water once I did add the broadbeans – it went a weird dark pinky-red colour.  Fortunately it did not ruin the end result.  But next time I will cook the broadbeans separately altogether.

I knew that leftovers were going to be hotly fought over the following day so I decided to cook more pasta than was effectively necessary for lunch.  So that came to 1 kg of pasta (600g would have been sensible).  Also, I opted for egg noodles because they take much less time to cook.  I bought two tubs of mascarpone, 500g each.  I ended up using about 750g in the end.  Italian sausages: 6 altogether, skinned.  Some olive oil.  Lots of freshly grated and equal parts of grated parmesan and pecorino, fresh mint, and salt and pepper of course.

DIRECTIONS

Add plenty of water to the pasta pot, add salt (10g of salt per 1 liter of water), and cook the three vegetables in separate batches.

Skin the sausages and start cooking them, mashing them all the while so that it looks liked minced meat.  Add very little olive oil to the saucepan to cook the meat which will release its own fat naturally.

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If you don’t own a wooden fork like that in the photo, use the tip of a whisk to break up the sausage meat.  I discovered this trick via my colleage, chef Luigi Brunamonti (we both collaborate at the Antico Casale Minardi).

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You are looking at a large saucepan and the equivalent of six sausages.  It does not take very long for them to cook.  Do NOT overcook, otherwise the texture will be ruined.

4Now add the mascarpone which will be very thick at first.  It needs to be loosened up.  The heat will help.

6Now add all the previously cooked veggies.

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I am not sure, but I think I detect some rosemary? Who knows.  I can’t remember.  But it wouldn’t hurt is all I can say.

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Meanwhile the fettuccine (egg noodles) have cooked – see what I mean about the weird colour that the broadbeans added to the cooking water?  Drain the fettuccine straight into the saucepan.  Add the parmesan to the sauce as well as some cooking water – so that you end up with a very creamy consistency.

11It doesn’t look very creamy here and that’s because I had to get on with the business of finishing it off and there was no obliging soul in the kitchen to take a photo for me.  All you need to know is that I kept adding cooking water a little at a time until I reached what I wanted.

10Remember this?  This is grated pecorino and fresh mint leaves.  I plated up the pasta and finished each plate off with some pecorino and the mint.

Again – no obliging soul to take any photo once we sat down to eat this pasta.  So I took some photos myself, the next day.

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14I had run out of fresh mint so you are just going to have to use your imagination.

I expect that vegetarians could enjoy a similar version just by cutting out the sausage meat.  In that case, I would add some garlic to the procedure early on.

My mother pronounced this the best pasta she had eaten in her life, bless her.  And indeed it was most Eastery and satisfactory … and … as you have seen … relatively easy peasy to make !  I hope I have convinced you?

https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/pasta-alfredo-frascati-style/

 

 

Version 4 Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino tweaked by a Crunch Factor

This being the fourth in succession of the Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino let’s just call the recipe AOP at this stage.   As stated previously, AOP has to be the second simplest pasta dish to make (the first is pasta seasoned with just butter and parmesan).  Even so, it requires a little bit of attention.

OLIVE OIL – The best olive oil you can muster.

GARLIC  – The thinly sliced garlic must ‘stew’, turn golden, and not burn, in plenty of olive oil.  That’s why it is a good idea to heat it over a low heat.  It can be cooked until it is almost brown if you prefer a stronger taste (this is very old school).

PARSELY – The parsely delivers best if it is a) finely chopped and b) also cooked in the olive oil.  I have been known to do neither thing, and just strew a bit of roughly chopped parsely over the cooked and seasoned pasta just before devouring it.  It is still good but, as I said, finely chopping it and letting it sauté in the olive oil takes the recipe to another level.

CHILLI – Dried chilli flakes … as much or as little as you like.  This ingredient also benefits from being included in the recipe from the word go.

PASTA – The ideal spouse for this pasta seasoning, it’s crowning glory, is Spaghetti.

Today’s variation features toasted bread crumbs, just for the fun of it, just for the added frisson of crunch in our mouth-feel.  Except that I didn’t have any bread crumbs to toast. Oh woe is me! Or rather woe would have been me had I not been able to resort to a little trick that is becoming very popular in Italy at the moment.  I don’t know whether you’ve heard of Taralli that hail from Puglia and other parts of Souther Italy?  The closest description I can come up with is  “teensy bagels”.   They are served as snacks at all times of the day and it’s always handy to have some around.  Warning: despite being somewhat bland in taste they are nevertheless very more-ish.

 

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So, if you’ve been reading the other posts on AOP you know the drill by now.

IMG_2130Chilli and garlic in plenty of olive oil and don’t let it burn.

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While that’s happening, finely chop some parsely and ‘pulverize’ one or two of the taralli (the little mound you see on the right).  I used a meat pounder to obtain the desired texture.

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I then added the chopped parsely and let it cook for very little time, let’s say one minute?

IMG_2133I took the pan off the heat and removed as much of the garlic as I could find.  You don’t have to do this.  And I personally wouldn’t bother normally but it was just one of those things you do, on a whim, for a very late Sunday lunch when making AOP for my daughter who’d had a late night the night before.

IMG_2134When the pasta was almost cooked and ready to be drained, I put the pan back on the heat and toasted the crushed taralli.  This is a terrible photo, I apologise, but trust me: the ‘stuff’ in the middle is the crushed taralli.

IMG_2135Then in went the cooked spaghetti.

IMG_2136I had to add some of the cooking water to finish the dish off, to get the right texture (and taste).  A bit of tossing went on too but I was unable to photograph that.

IMG_2137And just before serving I added a further sprinling of taralli (that I had toasted in a separate pan).

There you go.  Very nice too.

I would definitely recommend cooking the parsely in the olive oil from the start, whichever of the four AOP recipes you might like to try out some time.

For the rest … Passover and Easter are coming up soon.

Auguri!  Greetings to you all and carry on cooking !

Below is a link to another post concerning the use of toasted breadcrumbs on pasta:

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-crunch-factor-in-pasta-the-game-of-love/

 

 

Version 3 of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio in which ‘Raw’ Rules

The original title of this post was “Doctor’s Orders” because apart from the pasta that needs cooking, the rest of the ingredients are used raw.  And, as we are beginning to realise more and more, raw foods are good for us.

Doctors Orders – Pasta Aglio e Olio with a Twist

Italian food is easy, so many recipes can be readily executed even by a beginner.  It is simple – the list of ingredients rarely surpasses more than five or six and that’s not including salt.  It is not supposed to be difficult – if it were, only chefs would be cooking Italian dishes as opposed to single people and home makers all over the country and of every generation.  Preparations are rarely laborious and a proper meal can be concocted in one hour or even under.  The taste and textures it offers are wide ranging and refreshed by the passing of seasons, like milestones in one’s life.  The ingredients are rarely expensive.  Presentation can be tweaked to appear brashly peasant-like or chic, come hither-ish or aloof, tradtional or modern.  It is child friendly on the one hand but easily appeals to a sophisticated palate on the other.

Italian food is popular for all these reasons.

It is ‘meant to be’ because it can be handed down generation after generation and still remain current for most people’s palate.  It’s not supposed to be exciting or faddish although of course it can be surprising and delightful.  Variety is the spice of life, indeed … but if it’s variety we are after all the time, the canon tends to come asunder.  And this, say I with a bit of preoccupation which I hope people won’t attribute to self importance, is what happens when foodies from abroad pounce on Italian cuisine in seach of what’s new?, what’s the latest ingredient?, what’s the novelty regional secret?  It undermines the canon.   Think about what happened to pesto, for instance.  It became furiously popular in the UK and northern America about 30 years ago.  And  now? Now … it tends to be not so much taken for granted but ‘overlooked’ or culinary-backs-against it like a scorned wife.  And all because it’s just so … so been-there, done-that, ‘bo-ring’, what’s-next.  And when one takes into consideration that most of these people haven’t even tasted real pesto, they simply haven’t had the chance bless ’em, the petulance-and-jaded-palate-syndrome of food designers in chase of new food collections takes on an even deeper gastronomic melancholy for me.  If you have the time, do read this article, it’s very good and I was even sympathetic to its author.  Even so … he just couldn’t resist ‘tweaking’ the pesto recipe.  Creativity is a wonderful thing – but can we just stop calling a recipe ‘pesto’ when it is not!  Stop piggy-backing on something that is beautiful for what it is, and if you want to make changes – go ahead but call it something else.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/in-italy-i-learned-how-to-make-true-pesto-in-america-i-buck-tradition/2016/03/07/69617e96-dfc7-11e5-8d98-4b3d9215ade1_story.html

And it’s not just foreigners who are at it.  It’s also many many Italians, especially young Italians, especially Italians who have trained professionally and who have worked abroad themselves.  Haute cuisine, Italian haute cuisine included, has a place in swanky and posh restaurants, in serious and elegant establishments where the meal is elaborated to impress and seduce.  That’s a given.  That’s why we spend lots of money going there (myself included on occasion, lest you should wonder!) in order to give ourselves a treat.  But when I spot a recipe on the menu or elsewhere that is bog standard and ‘homey’ even, ‘reinterpreted’ by chef so and so … well, what can I say?  On the one hand I am curious and impressed.  On the other I feel like rapping their knuckles with a wooden stick.  ‘Leave well alone!’, I feel like shouting.  ‘If you carry on like this, very soon, a couple of generations down the road, Italian food will have become so inflatedly ‘complex’ and fussy that it will lose its innate beauty – ‘simplicity.’  An Italian rose is an Italian rose is a rose is a rose …

End of mini-rant.  Until the next one.

Despite my being unabashedly on the conservative side (!) when it comes to enjoying classic Italian food, not to mention somewhat averse to change for change’s sake, or downright dismissive of prettifications and updating of uber-traditional dishes, I do get won over occasionally when it comes to techniques that make life easier or that make sense gastronomically.  I only shudder and shriek within, and on occasion without, when said techniques end up with a complete make-over that’s only a virtual echo of the original.

So picture my face earlier this morning, slitty eyed, expression all screwed, nose scrunched up, my pursed lips relenting eventually to let out a long sigh, the mother of all sighs, I’ll have you know, when I read of a chic Italian chef in an ultra posh Milanese hotel holding forth about the spaghetti recipe known as ‘aglio, olio e peperoncino’.

Well. For a start … this recipe isn’t even Milanese.  So … why would a Milanese come to a Roman and tell them how to make an aglio e olio?  Stick to your risotto. And there is the culinary fact that … it’s hardly even a recipe. Not a high end one, at any rate. (By the way, it must be acknowledged that the recipe originated in Naples but that was a long time ago and we think of it as Roman here.  Nothing new about appropriation, eh?)

It is the equivalent of making toast when you are hungry.  It’s the classic dish to make when you are in a hurry … or when you come home from a late night out and discover suddenly that you are hungry and need to eat something before hitting the mattress.  All it requires is a bit of olive oil, garlic and some chilli (cayenne pepper) and parsely of course, even though a lot of people will eschew the parsely (and it’s not just the older folk who are long in the tooth and short in the gums where said parsely just looooves to stick and stand out embarrassingly).

Now why would a top chef even want to offer such a ‘plain’ dish on their menu?  Would you offer beans on toast at Claridges? or croque Monsieur at whatever Parisian restaurant is the bees’ knees?  Burgers are different.  They are made with meat.  Good meat is expensive.  So if a high end American restaurant serves a burger, that’s not culinarily seditious.

But … aglio, olio e peperoncino? Why? why, why, why, why, why?  Give me caviar.  Or lobster.  Or truffles.  I’ll make me own ajo, ojo e peperoncino at home thank you very much! (By the way, that’s the Roman spelling for aglio, olio e peperoncino.  The Roman use the letter ‘j’ to replace the letter ‘i’ – so think of it as an ‘i’ and pronounce it like this: ayo, oyo ey pe-pe-ron-cheenoh).

I do like to experiment, however hidebound my love for tradition might be, and I do like to ‘make sure’, to seek out the proof in the eating of the pudding.   So … guess what I did today?  I made an ajo e ojo e peporoncino that requires very little cooking of the garlic which is then complemented by room temperature olive oil and raw parsely.  Raw.  Good for you.  Olive oil.  Good for you.  Parsely.  Good for you.  Cayenne pepper – very good for you.  Pasta – the good quality kind? Very good for you too.  We should call this the ‘Good for you’ pasta!  Doctor’s orders!

Away we go.

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I used three large cloves of garlic for just over 200g of spaghetti.  Start by peeling the cloves and placing them in a small saucepan with plenty of cold water in it, or at least enough to cover them completely.  Bring the water to the boil.

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When the water comes to a boil, drain the garlic.  Repeat this thrice.  In other words, do this cold-water-come-to-a-boil for four times altogether.  In the meantime, put the pot with the pasta water on to boil too.

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Measure out 30ml of olive oil (extra virgin olive oil, naturally) per clove of garlic.  In this case – about 90ml of evoo.  Pour the evoo inside a processing beaker or whatever these contraptions are called.

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Once the garlic has been blanched for the fourth time … cut the cloves in half and remove the green inside bit – the ‘germ’, what the Italians call the ‘soul’ of a clove of garlic.  This germ is actually probably the healthiest part of this allium but there you are.  It isn’t too healthy when you are sharing the room with another person (they’ll hate you for your overpowering breath) and most lovers would shy away from even a kiss on the cheek … continental you say? Hm.  But stinky too.  Better not.
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Here is the  soulless garlic, deprived of its stinky germ.

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Cut up the garlic a bit more and place inside the beaker.
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When the spaghetti have been cooking for about 5 minutes …

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Remove a ladle or so  of the cooking water and set aside.  Allow it to cool.

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Pour the cooking water into the beaker.

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And now … process. Blitz away.  Until you get a lovely emulsion.

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I’d forgotten to add salt.  So I added a good pinch of salt and processed a little bit more.

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I then chopped up some parsely.

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I poured the garlic and evoo emulsion into a frying pan close to the pasta pot.

IMG_4563I dug out my cayenne pepper.

I drained the pasta directly into the frying pan – NO heat.  No need for any heat.  Mix well so that the pasta slurps up all the sauce.

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Plate out the paste and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

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My lunch guest does not like eating parsely so I added a little sprig just for a bit of adornment.

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I instead added the chopped parsely.

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And lots of it.

And was it any good, you might very well ask?

Yes, yes it was actually.  And I shall make it again – so there.

Interesting that the taste of the garlic was very apparent, but it did not overwhelm.  Nor did it make occasional appearances via a burp during the later phase of digestion.

See ? Never say never.  You live and you learn.