Monday, September 6, 2010

pasta!


pasta is a universal favorite.. a starchy, chewy blank canvas that welcomes all flavour sensations. being kid-friendly and simple in preparation makes it a familiar ingredient in nostalgic comfort foods (think mac n cheese, spaghetti with meatballs, chicken noodle soup, 칼국수!) as well as a support for fancy ragùs, silky emulsions, fiery stir-fries... even as a unique dessert of chocolate fettuccine with raspberry sauce and grated white chocolate (yum). it's a food that is just as tasty nude in oil and garlic as it is dressed to the nines in sophisticated fare.

my love for pasta stems from its simplicity and EASE. anyone can serve a mean bowl of pasta... many store-bought canned sauces taste good in my opinion. add some meat and veggies and it's what many people will call a home-cooked meal! nice taste and presentation without breaking a sweat. this is why especially at this time and place in my life (college), pasta is so important. to me, it is a "step up" from ramen instant noodles. it is the solution to the student's perpetual issues of hunger and time management.

it being labor day, i had some time to make a marinara sauce from scratch. i'm not sure if the use of "marinara" is entirely correct, since there's so many varieties of italian tomato sauces (example, spicy arrabbiata is traditionally made sans basil). anywaaays

first, i blanched some roma tomatoes. boil for a minute or so, then dunk in ice cold water so the skins slip off with ease. removed seeds and cut into small pieces, smashing with a fork as the excess water simmered off the tomato mash. add garlic, diced onion, olive oil, red wine, sweet and purple basil, salt pepper. (i know you're supposed to sauté onions and garlic in the oil first, but eh, i simmered the whole thing long enough i think).

also.. interesting thing about adding alcohol to tomato sauces. i had always wondered with creamy vodka sauce why you would add an essentially flavourless alcohol? after some quick reading i learned that cooking with ethanol helps break down  and release certain flavourful compounds in tomatoes, so it's a good idea to add some alcohol when using less-than-ripe tomatoes. in the case of many tomato sauces red wine is used in order to add a pleasant sweet taste while reaping benefits from the alcoholic sauce (the alcohol simmers off, by the way so don't count on feeling tipsy haha)
Here's a nasty looking picture... looks all purply hahaha
that's more like it.. with all the ingredients! hooray
cooked the pasta to "al dente" (with bite) and finished cooking it in the sauce so it had a chance to soak all the flavors up. i like using campanelle since it holds thin sauces well, plus it's beautiful like a bell or flower. mix it with anything and it looks much neater than say rigatoni or other simply-shaped pastas.


to all you "animal lovers" (cough)... stop worrying and eat up, it's vegan too.
next time i want to up the home-made nature of the dish.. with homemade pasta! i was discussing with my mom earlier on the phone that i have NO idea how i would go about making campanelle by hand, we couldn't even think of how they're made by machines for mass production! i tried looking up recipes for such but so far no success. hopefully soon though, i'll find a nice recipe for pretty pasta so i can continue on my quest to a made-from-scratch pasta dish. til then...