Thursday, July 2, 2015

Devolving A Classy Roman Pasta Concept

Sorry for the absence. Life's been happening. Also, just haven't been hit with the inspiration for anything especially useful, tasty or novel...until now.

I was reading the New York Times Magazine (3/22/15 issue) and came across an intriguing piece on Roman pasta + sauce preparation. The basic premise was that the author assumed that the indigenous paste/sauce custom was for quickly made, very thin sauces. But he got schooled by a local chef.

It turns out that while he got the ingredients right, he got their USE wrong.

The actual tech in question called for taking VERY al dente paste, mixing it with a slightly watery sauce, or taking solid ingredients (grated cheese, pepperocini, proscuitto, etc) and actually adding water and then stirring them vigorously over medium heat for several minutes. What happens is that the pasta cooks further, absorbing water out of the sauce while dissolving a bit and emulsifying the sauce. So you wind up with nicely cooked pasta, dressed in a thick and silky sauce that adheres to and coats the pasta thoroughly.

All this is cool enough and I recommend that you look up the full recipes at the NY Times. BUT what struck me is how easily this adapted to the use of leftover pasta and either leftover sauce or thus ennobled store bought sauce.

THE MUSIC - I'd go with "Louis Prima: Collectors Series" coz - it's kinda wierd how he can pull off doing "Buena Sera" as unctuously as Dean Martin and "Basin Street Blues" with the same gruff charm as Louis Armstrong. While you're at it, you might wanna check out Gary Krist's book "Empire Of Sin" which studies the history of the vice business in New Orleans (Prima's hometown) but also homes in how the lives of Italian immigrants and their descendants and African Americans intertwined during the period that gave rise to Jazz (which is why you find musicians of both ethnic groups laying claim to its "invention") So here's a couple strategies:
* say you have restaurant leftovers including pasta already in sauce; and let's say for argument's sake that it comes with meat balls.
you separate the meat from the pasta, putting the former aside - perhaps throwing it right into a toaster oven to heat, or to wait for nuking
heat up either a non-stick pan or a heavy iron pan coated with a hint of olive oil, then throw in the pasta with a quarter cup of water
stir vigorously with a big wooden or metal spoon for about 5 minutes
dump on plate, and add warmed up meat, or nuke meat for two minutes and add.
In this case while you're just reheating this dish, you're also adding depth to the dish, taking it up a notch quality wise

* or you might have some plain pasta without sauce you're looking to use
IF you have no red sauce, you could buy a jar of the most economical sort (they're all kinda sweet and vile anyway); finely chop one onion - saute till carmelized and add to sauce along with a table spoon each of dried oregano and basil; mix well and let that sit over night - or at least for a couple hours to infuse that store bought muck with some more pronounced, non-sugary notes; I'd tend to add some hot pepper flakes as well to give it some zing
again, you heat up an appropriate pot or pan, add the sauce, then pasta and stir vigorously for 5 minutes or so
I'd add two ladles of sauce for every adult helping of pasta
Here you're taking a very pedestrian dish and making it something kinda special with this simple bit of tech in the process of heating it up

* finally - if you're working with leftover pasta, and nothing but kitchen staples
I'd heat up your pot or pan, add a hint of olive oil, then dump in your pasta
for each adult helping of pasta add
2 TBS of grated cheese (Italian preferred, but honestly you could shred up ANYTHING you have in the fridge)
2 TBS of carmelized onions
1 TBS of crumbled basil OR 1 tps of red pepper flakes (I wouldn't mix these coz in this dish you want one or the other taste to pop)
1/4 cup of pitted olive (chopped or whole as you prefer) OR de-stemmed pepperocini (chopped or whole - tho I think you'd want 'em chopped so they can get distributed nicely through the dish) or finely chopped tomoatoes (these can be fresh or canned
1/4 cup water
stir vigorously for 5 minutes or more

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