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July temperatures need to be countered with fare that offers protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and robust flavours, preferably all in one dish.
While macaroni cheese and spag bol are always popular, ring the changes with different pasta shapes – contemplate ribbons and tubes, corkscrews and “nests”, bows and spirals, shells and orecchiette, or little ears. When time is of the essence, fancy pasta will whet the appetite so the sauce can be simple and fast.
The Italians suggest that small tubes like penne go well with vegetable sauces, while the large fat ones like macaroni are best baked. Shells are recommended when you want chunky sauces as the pasta holds the sauce in its cavities. Meat sauces are best combined with larger tubes like rigatoni and pappardelle, while thin long pasta – spaghettini, linguine and bucatini - are better suited to smoother sauces, like oilive oil and pesto or tomato sauce.
And remember pasta’s golden rules: cook your pasta with love, serve with verve and eat with gusto! Buon appetito.
Rigatoni with brinjal sauce
A sustaining and intensely flavoured vegetarian combination from The Australian Women’s Weekly Great Italian Food, the dish is lent spirited flavour with brandy. Although the alcohol is cooked away, omit this ingredient if preferred. Although not essential, cooks may want to salt the brinjal slices and leave them in a colander to drain for 20 minutes before rinsing and using. As our tomato paste is very concentrated , you may want less than called for here.
60ml (4tbs) olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
2 trimmed stalks celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium brinjal, thinly sliced
2 and one-third cups (580ml) bottled tomato pasta sauce
Half cup (140g) tomato paste
Half cup (125ml) water
Salt and black pepper
20g finely grated parmesan cheese
Heat oil in large saucepan, add onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion softens. Add brandy, cook, stirring, until brandy evaporates. Add brinjal, cook, stirring, until brinjal is tender. Stir in the tomato sauce, paste and the water, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until sauces thickens slightly. Season to taste. Can be made ahead to this point, then kept in the fridge, covered for up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, uncovered, until just tender. Drain the pasta and place in large warmed bowl with half the brinjal tomato sauce. Toss gently to combine.
Divide pasta among serving plates, top with remaining sauce and pass the cheese. Serves 4.
Quick, delicious, rich and filling, this classic is perfect for a chilly night when a short order meal is required. This version comes from Modern Classic, book 1, by Donna Hay, published by The Fourth Estate, London. Smoked salmon offcuts could replace the bacon for a change, but just warmed, not crisped. It is important that the drained, cooked pasta is really hot when the egg mixture is added, so that the heat “cooks” the egg which thickens to coat the pasta.
400g fettuccine or pappardelle
6 rashers bacon or 300g smoked ham, cut into thin strips
3 spring onions, sliced
4 egg yolks
Half cup (125ml) cream
Half cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Cook pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and keep hot .
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat, add the bacon and spring onion and cook 3 – 4 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Combine egg yolks, cream, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk well together. Toss the egg mixture through the hot pasta, coating it well, then toss with the bacon mixture, add the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Chicken and vegetable lasagne
From Café Food at Home by Gael Oberholzer, published by Struik Lifestyle, here is a delectable alternative to the usual lasagna based on beef mince. It’s a great weekend dish, good enough to present to guests, can be partially made ahead, and requires just crusty rolls to accompany. While you can buy bottled tomato pasta sauce, homemade is nicer and its worthwhile making and freezing your own.
Gael uses threee cans of whole peeled tomatoes in her sauce, along with onions, garlic, basil, parsley and seasonings, cooking the mixture slowly for up to two hours. Start the dish ahead by cooking the chicken and keep the stock for a warming soup.
3 tsp olive oil
Half a red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
Half a green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
125g button mushrooms, halved
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups basic tomato sauce
1 tbs sun-dried tomato pesto
Pinch dried mixed herbs
Large pinch chopped fresh parsley
1tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 chicken, simmered, meat removed from carcass and shredded
3 – 4 cups béchamel sauce
250g lasagna sheets
1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.
Heat the oil, add peppers and onion and sauté for about two minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook, stirring, until mushrooms have given off liquid. Add the tomato sauce and pesto, herbs, parsley, soy and Worcestershire sauces, stir well, bring to a simmer and cook gently 45 mins – 1 hour.
Add the shredded chicken and bring back to the boil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from heat.
Pour a thin layer of béchamel sauce , about three-quarter cup, onto base of a rectangular ovenproof dish. Top with a 3 layers of lasagna sheets. Spread over half the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with a little cheese. Repeat the process, ending with béchamel sauce. Sprinkle over remaining cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 180 deg C . Leave to stand for 5 – 10 minutes before dividing into portions. Serves 6.
Fettuccine with meatballs in rosemary paprika sauce
Here’s a robust dish for two that is also ideal for making ahead and chilling or freezing. It can also easily be expanded to serve 4. It will take around 1 hour from start to finish. It comes from The Australian Women’s Weekly Great Italian Food.
250g lean minced beef
Half cup stale breadcrumbs
1tbs finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbs finely chopped chives
1 egg white
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 can whole tomatoes in tomato juice
1 cup water
2 tbs dry red wine
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
Half tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sweet paprika
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Combine beef mince, breadcrumbs, parsley, chives, egg white and sauce in large bowl. Mix well then shape into small meatballs. Heat oil in non-stick saucepan, cook meatballs until well browned all over and cooked through. Drain on kitchen towel. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender. Drain.
For the sauce, crush the tomatoes in their juice. Combine contents of the can with remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Add meatballs to rosemary tomato sauce, mix well and stir until heated through. Check seasoning.
Serve pasta with meatballs in sauce. Serves 2.
Looking for something different? Try this macaroni “pizza” a speciality from the Principe restaurant in Pompei. Can be served warm, lukewarm or at room temperature. At this time of the year, canned roma tomatoes would probably make a better option than pale wintery raw ones. The recipe can be found in The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan, published by Human & Rousseau.
60ml (4 tbs) olive oil
Half tsp finely chopped garlic
700g fresh ripe plum tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat a pot with 4 litres of water over high heat until boiling,
Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and garlic, heat together in a frying pan until garlic starts to colour, then add the tomatoes and cook gently for 10 – 15 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
When water has come to a rolling boil add 1 tbs salt, the macaroni all at once, stir, and cook until al dente, then drain and toss in the bowl with the sauce. Mix in the grated cheese and leave mixture to cool.
Beat the eggs, then mix into the pasta. Melt the butter in a large nonstick frying pan and allow it to foam. When foam subsides, pour in the pasta mixture, press down with a spoon until quite compact. Cook until base forms a golden brown crust.
Remove from heat, place a large flat plate upside down over the pan, then turn the pan over and allow the “pizza” to loosen on the plate. - Cape Argus