Let’s talk about pasta!

PastaPasta is one of those things that seems to divide the nation, most people either love it or they find it utterly bland and boring.

I’m here today to challenge those in the latter category because when I’ve spoken to people who find pasta bland and boring, it’s usually as a result of being exposed to overcooked slop as a child.

I’m not going to suggest we all start making our own fresh pasta because let’s face it, most of us have neither the time nor the inclination to do so. I will however, suggest people get creative with how they think about pasta and what they put with it. And why am I banging my drum about pasta?

  1. It’s cheap and therefore great for feeding families on a budget
  2. It’s easy
  3. It’s quick
  4. It’s fabulous for creating dishes out of leftovers
  5. If you go wholemeal, it’s not too shabby nutritionally either

Often when people talk about cooking pasta at home, they really mean they’ll boil up some pasta until it’s wallpaper paste and then throw a jar of sauce over the top. In reality, well cooked pasta doesn’t need a huge amount of sauce. If you go to a good Italian restaurant, you’ll usually find your pasta dish has a light coating of sauce rather than being served a bowl of soup with pasta shaped croutons in it.

So how do you achieve that at home without being an expert? Here’s my simple technique, which has made a few pasta haters reconsider their pasta-based views:

What you’ll need:

  • Dried pasta – either regular or gluten free. My timings are based on white pasta
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh tomatoes (chopped into small pieces)
  • Fresh parmesan
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh chilli
  • Fresh garlic
  • Spring onions or regular onion if you prefer (finely sliced)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional extra ingredients – pick at least a couple:
    • Meat – can be any but I usually pick lardons or salami so my cooking time is minimal
    • Veg – again can be any that you love but I tend to go with red peppers or sweetcorn (make sure your veg is in small pieces)
    • White wine

What you do:

This is all based on my personal taste and you can jiggle around the ingredients and timings to suit you.  This is designed as a guide for first-timers.

  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil
  2. Chop any bits and pieces that need chopping
  3. When the water has reached boiling point, drop in a glug of olive oil and add your dried pasta
    • If you are using raw meat for the sauce part, you’ll probably need to get that on to cook first – shallow fry it is how I would do it
    • Pop the lid back on the pasta but remove again if it starts to bubble over. CHECK THE TIME! Leave the pasta bubbling for 9 mins, stirring at least once
  4. Once you’ve got the pasta on to boil, fire up a large frying pan with a good glug of olive oil. Add your garlic (crushed), chillies (finely chopped) and onion if using. Stir.
  5. After a minute or so or when your onions have softened, add the rest of your ingredients excluding parmesan and basil – your meat may already be in there if you started with raw meat
  6. Keep an eye on your pasta and when the 9 minutes are up, spear a piece and check if it’s ready for draining – remember it should have a little bit to it. If it’s not, (varies by pasta shape) turn off the heat, pop the lid on and let it sit for 3 more minutes. Then drain
  7. By the time you’ve drained your pasta, your sauce should be ready – check your meat though if you started with raw
  8. Tip the sauce into the pasta pan once the pasta has been drained. Stir. Serve with grated parmesan and torn basil on top

 

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