Pasta Rules!

I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something wrong with me!  Here’s why…

An article I was recently reading in a local magazine included a photo not unlike this one, minus the basil leaf, of white spaghetti topped with a huge dollop of tomato sauce. And as soon as I saw it I had a visceral reaction; not in a good way! It was just plain wrong! There were other lovely photos accompanying the article; a mound of flour on a board with eggs sitting in the centre, just waiting for hands to knead it into pasta dough and another one of pasta dough that had been flavoured with beets, shown being run through the pasta machine with glorious bright pink pasta sheets coming out the other side… so sexy!

Readers may know that I simply adore pasta…and when in Italy, I get to indulge by treating myself almost every day to my favourite food on the planet…the other one is tomatoes! You can ask my husband! So that normally, when I see a picture of well-dressed pasta it makes my mouth water and I instantly start craving some! It’s the only food that has this effect on my senses!

Now us Italophiles know that there are food rules and “thou shall toss your al dente pasta with the sauce adding pasta cooking water to achieve a wonderfully sauced plate of pasta” is an important one!
Was my reaction over the top? What I’m thinking is that slowly, slowly I’ve been embracing Italian food rules. I never thought this would happen to me but…

Ellis Barnstable, a Vancouver based writer, wrote an interesting and fun story about learning to enjoy pasta and how to cook it after growing up in a home where “pasta” was a tin of Chef Boyardee. She had a boyfriend, who had “spent months in Italy,” to teach her. Alarm bells starting ringing when I read that he had cooked angel hair pasta and tossed it with hot Italian sausages, strips of red bell pepper, dried basil, fresh parsley and then topped the whole thing with Parmigiano, instead of the way it’s normally eaten in Italy which is in a broth, or perhaps I made into a sort of custard based flan and baked.

There are good reasons for the pairing of certain shapes of pasta to certain sauces as opposed to others shapes and in this case the angel hair would be completely unable to handle the type of sauce he made. Boyfriend definitely dropped the ball on his pasta choice for this one!

Now I must admit that in the summer when the cherry tomatoes and basil are at their finest, I make an uncooked sauce of them using lots of olive oil, garlic and fresh basil, letting it marinate at room temperature for a few hours which, by then, as the tomatoes exude their juices, the whole thing becomes rather lovely and sort of soupy.  Then when tossed with hot, freshly cooked angel hair it becomes more like a warm salad really.  Utterly delicious! The boyfriend gets points, though not forgiven, for introducing her to Marcella’s Tomato Sauce…you probably know the one, right?  And here I thought I was the only one not to throw away that gorgeous, velvety lump of oniony goodness!

I enjoyed Ellis’ story about her journey a lot. I think I’ve just about gotten over that photo! Well maybe the thought of it still lingers!

Comments

    • Aah…but your nonchalance is probably due to not living in Italy where one islikely to be severely reprimanded! As I said in the post…some shapes are far better suited than others…just think of all those lovely openings in tubes…just ready to accept some kind of ragu or other chunky sauce! Glad you enjoyed the read!!! Pasta makes my hum!

  1. You’re spot on Phyllis! Seeing sauce put on top of naked pasta gives me the creeps and is so 60’s and 70’s. Who would even think these days -when doing a photoshoot- that a look like that would be acceptable? Of course in Japan there is the whole subculture of retro americanized italian food where this is totally normal and has been for decades.

    There’s a whole article/blog post waiting to be done on tv shows and movies that have the worst food combos or wine or whisky props that are absolutely wrong or hopelessly outdated. You know they didn’t hire a real food/wine person to do the props or styling.

    That other recipe stopped me in my tracks when I saw the dried basil – for myself nothing! is way better than using dried. Your thoughts?

    Now, while we are on the topic of pasta …I was at Autostrada for dinner with friends the other evening (my first time). I really liked the place, the concept and the cutting edge style, especially for a neighbourhood resto.
    One thing that came to mind (and it isn’t just there, La Quercia is another example) is that any place that does very correct, super italian, very al dente, minimally sauced pastas…..they are meant to be eaten the moment they are plated as the natural starches in the pasta soak up the tiny amount of moisture in the sauces and render the dish very often quite stiff. If you are chatting and don’t get to it right away it really lessens the enjoyment of a well made pasta….so it struck me that there should be no problem or weirdness in asking your server for a small dish or tiny pouring vessel of hot pasta water to pour over your pasta and stir it around a bit to reconstitute if necessary.
    I know from having chef’ed in an Italian restaurant that it’s exactly what we do when the pasta is waiting to be plated….and it seizes-up so to speak. A splash of the pasta water gets it back on track.
    I haven’t done this yet but I’ve started to obsess about this becoming a thing in places that serve good pasta. Am I nuts? Or is it already a thing? Especially when your little plate of pasta with minimal ingredients and not very large portion size is usually around $20+.

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