The Tribune - Spectrum



Sunday, March 12, 2000
Sugar 'n' Spice


And now it’s pasta time
by Harkiran Sodhi

WHEN you think of Italian cuisine, pasta immediately comes to mind, as these are as intermingled as India and curry are to most Westerners. There are many different types of pasta that are made in Italy and some estimates place the number at a staggering 400 varieties.

There are as many as 400 varieties of pastaPasta comes in different shapes and sizes and are cooked and eaten with different sauces. Vermicelli is the fine stranded pasta, while there is a giant cannelloni which looks like large pipes in it’s shape. Some pasta is shell shaped, while others are elbow shaped and still others are spiral shaped almost like a corkscrew.

Some types of pasta are eaten with a sauce, some just with butter, while others like the tortillini are stuffed with a filling of either cheese or meat and then eaten. Where there are Italian stores you can find pasta which is fresh and home made, the other type is the dried pasta which is sold in packets. In India, only the packet, dried pasta is available till now, but when cooked well even these can taste good.

  Cooking pasta can be a little tricky. Often the tendency is to overcook it and have the entire lot being a big, mushy mountain which doesn’t taste or look very good. Then the other extreme is where the pasta is rather underdone leaving it with a hard core.

While boiling pasta the trick is to use a large sized pan and give the pasta plenty of room to boil in and thereby prevent sticking. When the water is boiling add in a teaspoon of salt as well as a teaspoon of oil to the boiling water. Also try to make sure that the water is boiling really well when you add the pasta in.

When you add in the pasta to the boiling water do so slowly and once it is all in the pan stir it once or twice to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook it in the pan leaving it uncovered. The Italian’s say that pasta when cooked should be tender but firm to the bite or ‘al dente’ as the typical phrase is. Once it is cooked, remove the pan immediately from the flame and drain in a colander or sieve. leave it there allowing all the water to drain out of it slowly. Mix in the hot sauce, or butter and serve immediately.

It is best recommended to cook the sauce to accompany the pasta while the pasta is boiling and then add it in as soon as the pasta is cooked. Pasta always tastes better this way rather than making it sit around for a while.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients:

350 gms of spaghetti

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 medium sized onion peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons oil (if possible olive or then any will do)

400 gms minced meat

2 tablespoons of tomato puree

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

100 gms of Parmesan cheese, grated

Method:

Cook the spaghetti with 1 teaspoon of salt and a little oil in a large sized pan of boiling water. Cook till it is tender but be careful not to overcook it. Leave it to drain in a colander, or a sieve allowing all the excess water to drain out of it. While the spaghetti is cooking make the sauce on the side or if you feel it will take longer then cook it before the spaghetti as you should serve the spaghetti as soon as it is ready to maximum flavour. In a pan add in the oil and the fry the chopped onion in it till it is light golden in colour. Add in the meat and stir till it is browned. Add in the tomato puree and stir and cook it till the meat is fully cooked. Add the seasoning and mix again and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes on a low flame.

Put the spaghetti in a dish and add the cooked sauce over it . Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over it leaving a little to be served separately on the side. Serve hot.

Butter Pasta

This dish is not only very easy to make but it is very popular as well. This is especially great as a dish for fussy children who love the flavour of butter and cheese with the spaghetti. This can be made with any type of pasta such as macaroni or spaghetti .

Ingredients:

500 gms pasta butter a generous portion

Grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Cook the spaghetti, or macaroni in a large sized pan of boiling water with a little salt and a little oil added to it, taking care not to overcook it and leaving a little bite in it.

Drain it in a colander or sieve and let the excess water drain out of it. Turn the drained pasta into a serving bowl and mix in the butter into it with a generous hand. Add in the grated Parmesan cheese and mix it all well. Serve it with extra butter and cheese on the side.

This feature was published on March 5, 2000

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