Post #391 Pasta Repast

July 13, 2015 at 1:06 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I like pasta.  A handful of pasta goes a long way.  It’ll fill you up and keep you full for a long while.  With the many shapes and sizes, pasta is one of the most versatile things on the planet.  If you watch what you put on it, it’s also one of the healthiest things you can eat.  It can be completely vegan, and if you’re eating that way, it can be completely gluten-free.  (But don’t get me started on gluten-free.)

As with most things I cook, I once had an overriding curiosity about pasta, where it comes from, how it’s made.  I got a hand crank pasta machine for Christmas one year and went crazy with it.  Chef Boy Ar Dee didn’t make as much pasta that year as I did.  My sauces made Ragu weep with jealousy.  There wasn’t a Ramen noodle soup anywhere easier than the pasta I was putting together.  After a while, I stopped making my own pasta, misplaced my hand crank machine, haven’t replaced it, and have attempted pasta noodles by hand.  I mean really by hand, even though the most seasoned Italian chefs use the machines.

The difference between dried pasta and fresh pasta is like the difference between a store bought tomato and a home grown vine ripened tomato.  It just doesn’t compare.  However, store bought dried pasta is perfectly acceptable in all uses and I use it all the time.

Tonight, for instance.  I’m wondering what to make for dinner and I’ve got a frozen kielbasa sausage.  That’ll thaw in an hour, but what can I make that will be interesting?  I buzzed through a bunch of sides in my biological computer and settled on pasta.  But that just opens the door for more questions.  What kind of pasta?  After another hour of rummaging through cupboards and ideas and getting creative, I decided on something simple.  So here’s what I’m doing.

First, I’m going to put a sear on the sausage for a couple of minutes, then put it in the oven to finish off.  That’s easy with cast iron.  I turn the oven on to 350, and put the whole pan in the oven when it’s hot.  I turn the oven off and let the residual heat finish the sausage.  When it comes out about fifteen minutes later, it’s hot and sizzling and tastes delicious.  (I do bratwurst that way, too, just for information sakes.)  If you don’t have cast iron, just make sure the skillet you use has oven safe handles.

At the same time I’m starting the sausage, I’m putting a big pot of water on to boil.  When the water is boiling furiously, I’m adding some fettuccine.

Let’s talk about fettuccine for a moment.  It’s a long skinny noodle.  Think of spaghetti that’s been flattened.

fettuccine

It comes in various thicknesses and widths, but the standard is what’s in the picture.  Fettuccine takes longer to cook since it’s thicker, and will nearly always turn out al dente unless you cook it far longer than necessary.  Fettuccine holds sauce better; holds flavors better; it’s my go to pasta when I’m inventing stuff.

So, now I’ve got a pot of boiling water with fettuccine in it.  Let the fettuccine melt into the water before you stir it around.  Otherwise, you’ll break it.  Add some salt to the water so the pasta picks up the flavor, but don’t add too much.  No more than a couple of teaspoons.  As you cook pasta more often, you can play around with the amount of salt.  Just remember that you can add more salt later.  You can never take it out if you over-salt the water.

While the pasta is cooking, I’ll heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and put some freshly minced garlic, some chopped onion, and some thinly sliced celery into the oil.  I’ll heat it over low heat so nothing burns, but the oil stays hot.  When the pasta is cooked, I won’t drain it.  I’ll add the pasta directly to the warm garlic-infused oil with tongs.  I’ll toss the pasta around in the oil to coat the pasta and spread the flavors around.  The pasta water left on the noodles will also help everything adhere.  I’ll turn the heat off the skillet, but leave the pasta in the skillet to stay warm.

At this point, I’ll take the kielbasa out of the oven, and slice it about a half-inch thick.  I have some spring greens from our last run to our vegetable stand so I’m going to cut them chiffonade and toss them into the warm pasta.  They’ll wilt but not get soggy.  I’ll add the cut sausage and toss, then put all of it in a bowl to serve.  Just before serving, I’ll sprinkle the whole thing with the True Lime I wrote about a few weeks ago to give it a tang.  It’s going to be yum, and it’s going to be elegant.

If only I had some chocolate mousse for dessert.  Hmm, wonder what I can come up with there?

Enjoy

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