Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pasta - Italian Style

Before I lived in France for 15 years, I lived in Italy for 2. There, I ate pasta everyday, often twice a day! I have never been so thin in my entire life, neither before nor since. So, I do not believe that pasta is fattening.  I learned from my Italian friends that the art of making pasta is a bit more complicated than we seem to think. Here are some simple guidelines and tips.

Matching pasta shapes with sauce…
There are many different shapes of pasta because there are many different textures and consistencies of sauce.  Long thin strands (spaghetti, etc) are best with smooth sauces or pestos. Wider long noodles, such as fettuccine and tagliatelle are well suited to creamy sauces like Alfredo.  Short tubular or molded pasta shapes with non-smooth surfaces are made to trap chunkier sauces. Sauces with small to medium chunks are perfect with fusilli or penne.  Sauces with very large chunks are best with shells, rigatoni, or other large tubes.

Boiling the Water
No kidding. There is a right way and many wrong ways! Pasta must be cooked in a great deal of well salted boiling water. About 4 quarts of water with at least one tablespoon of salt for one pound of pasta is the general rule. Check the instructions on the box for how long it should cook, remember that timing starts once the water has started to boil again after the pasta has been submerged. Do not add oil (it prevents the sauce from sticking properly to the pasta). Do not rinse the pasta; it washes away the starch and makes the pasta taste watery.

Easy but delicious Meatballs

I used to mix three or four types of meat to make meatballs which were then baked in the oven before adding to the sauce. Recently, I learned a much easier and better tasting recipe. Just 1 lb of ground beef mixed with finely chopped onions, parsley, 2 tablespoons of plain bread crumbs soaked in 3 tablespoons of water, and one beaten egg (I like to add a tablespoon or two of Parmesan cheese). Make medium size meatballs by rubbing in the palms of your hands and dropping into simmering tomato sauce to cook for about 45 minutes.  Makes about 12-15 medium sized meatballs.

Easy but delicious Tomato Sauce

I also spent many years making my own sauce for hours on end with many different combinations of ingredients.  It was never better than what I do now in just a few minutes.  One jar of Paul Newman’s Tomato & Basil sauce (Marona’s carries it) mixed with two cans of
Del Monte stewed tomatoes (One Italian Style and the other Original Style). Blend together with a mixer. Let simmer on the stove with some fresh basil if you have it.  (This makes enough sauce for a pound and a half of pasta which feeds 6 people).

The wines:
Let us succumb to the charms of a superb Chianti Classico (100% Sangiovese) - a dry red wine full of sun and plenty of fruit.
Chianti Barone Ricasoli 2008
Intense ruby red.Chianti with its full body minerality and tanginess.with floral hints and the spices of cloves, pepper, chocolate and wild cherries.  $13.99
Viticcio Chianti Classico 2006
A rich, sensual wine bursting with sour dark cherries, French oak, new leather and flowers. The wine’s inner perfume emerges with melding beautifully into the soft, creamy finish. $19.99
Chianti, Fattoria Lucignano 2008
Medium intensity ruby red. Intense nose, overflowing with fruity aromas of black cherry and violets. Soft and medium bodied on the palate it balances its tannins with moderate acidity. $13.99/btl - $21.99 magnum
All three wines can be found at Cascade Spirit Ship in Amenia.
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