In Italy I ate copious amounts of pasta. I managed to pick up a few recipes and skills too. Here are two classic pasta recipes (spaghetti al pomodoro and cacio e pepe) and a new way of doing homemade pasta (cavatelli).
🍝 Spaghetti al pomodoro 🍝
I got a little bit obsessed with this simple, tomato-based pasta. I think it could very well be my favourite pasta. The secret (according to the Italians I asked) is the quality of the produce. The tomatoes have got to be in season (summer!), ripe and bursting with flavour and sweetness. Alternatively, you can use good quality Italian canned tomatoes in place of the fresh ones.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
Approx. 1/2 kg of ripe tomatoes (Roma or cherry tomatoes are best)
Large splash of extra-virgin olive oil (approx. 3 tablespoons)
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
Small bunch of basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
------- to serve ------
2 tables extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter (optional)
5 basil leaves , shredded
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese
1. Cut the tomatoes lengthways (or grate them if you want a finer texture with less skin).
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, then add the basil, salt and pepper. Then add the tomatoes.
3. Cook the tomatoes down for about 20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with the spoon as you stir.
4. While the sauce simmers, heat the water for the pasta. Cook the spaghetti in salted water until a little less than al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/3 cup of the starchy water.
5. Remove the cooked basil (the stems at least). Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook a little longer over medium-high heat until all the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente. If the sauce is over-reduced, use the reserved cooking water to adjust it.
6. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir through (butter - optional), oil, basil and cheese.
7. Buon appetito!
🧀 Cacio e Pepe 🧀
Cacio e Pepe is a classic Roman pasta. It's made with only three ingredients - pecorino romano (the pecorino from the Rome region is hard and salty), black pepper and spaghetti. Done well, the result is divine. Perfectly al dente, perfectly peppery and salty.
Finely grated pecorino romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Ratio per person: 2 tablespoon cheese : 1 teaspoon pepper
1. Stir cheese and pepper in a bowl. Add a splash of water and stir well until it’s a thick paste.
2. Cook spaghetti until al dente. Just before it’s finished, take a few tablespoons of the boiling water and add to the cheese mixture. Stir vigorously until it resembles cream.
3. When the spaghetti is ready, strain and add immediately to the cheese mixture. Stir together super quickly so the cheese coasts the spaghetti consistently.
4. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese and pepper.
🙌🏼 Handmade cavatelli pasta 🙌🏼
Cavatelli translates to something like ‘little cave’. This pasta is perfect for holding the pasta sauce. and it's very easy to make; no pasta machine required.
Pinch of salt.
Ratio per person: 1/2 cup flour: 1/8 cup water (best to go by how it feels - add more of either if necessary).
1. Knead dough for about 8 minutes. Cut off a chunk and roll into a long rope, about 1cm in diameter.
2. Using a non-serrated knife, cut rope into small pieces about 1cm wide.
3. Using two fingers, gently press down and drag the dough towards you. And there you have it!
4. Cook the cavatellis to al dente (about 4 minutes) in boiling salted water, then drain and stir into your sauce.
🌿 Wild rocket and sun dried tomato pesto 🌿
Ingredients (super rough quantities for 2 people... Best to go by taste 👅)
75g roasted almonds
2 cloves garlic
Large handful of wild rocket
75g grated Parmesan cheese
75mL extra-virgin olive oil
75g sun dried tomatoes, chopped superfine (we used powdered sun dried tomatoes, but I've never seen them available anywhere, so go with the ones in the jar.)
Pound bit by bit in a mortar and pestle, bit by bit, adding oil along the way, until it forms a thick paste. Stir into your pasta.