A bowl of freshly made pasta is definitely a comforting way to end your day. This favourite Italian dish comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes. You can enjoy your preferred pasta with an assorted medley of sauces. From freshly made tomato sauce on a bed of Linguini to lusciously covered farfalle in pesto sauce, pasta can be served in multitude ways. You can serve up pasta as a salad, for your breakfast, as a tea-time snack or for a romantic candle-light dinner. You can satiate your cravings at home by making pasta in your kitchen with readily available ingredients.
Italians have mastered the art of pasta making. They have stretched, twisted, filled and hollowed their pasta and these textured doughs have now become universal favourites. However, rocket-science it may sound, this simple recipe of “Cucina casalinga” will transport you to Milan. Before making a finger-licking dish remember a simple rule. A delicate pasta would marry well with a subtle sauce, and a robust one needs a vibrant sauce to leave a clean plate.
Let’s start off with a basic flat one called “lasagne”.
The silky melt-in-the-mouth sheets can be made with:
- 2 ½ cups maida,
- 2 eggs,
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil,
- 1 teaspoon salt.
How to make:
Step 1: Take flour in a clean, dry bowl. Make a well in the centre and add eggs. After the eggs, add salt and olive oil.
Step 2: Take a fork and incorporate the flour with the liquids. (Tips: A ratio of 3 parts of flour to 2 parts of eggs (by weight) gives an ideal dough). If you think the liquid is not enough, add some water and knead into a smooth dough.
Step 3: You should knead the dough for about 10 mins. Kneading well ensures a smooth and elastic dough. Let the soft golden mass rest for about 30 mins.
Step 4: Roll the dough out to make thin sheets. (Tips: Your fingertips should be translucently visible. Do not hesitate to use dry flour while rolling out).
Step 5: Cut the sheet out into 3-inch sheets. You can dry them on a clean cloth for future use. You can also boil the sheets, for immediate use, in lots of water and a generous amount of salt. Once they rise up, they are done.
The long and ribbon-type pasta is a by-product of these flat lasagne. The long ones are called spaghetti, and the ribbons are called Fettuccine or Linguini. To make the ribbon-ones, cut the rolled out lasagne sheet into thin strips. The spaghetti is the super-thin version of the lasagne sheet. The smaller ones like farfalle and fusillini are the ribbon-ones cut even shorter and twisted. You can even enjoy filled or stuffed pasta. You can fill it up with veggies or with mince or cheese. These sublimely melting ones are called ravioli or tortellini.
The freshly made lasagne can be used as layers between mince in red sauce. You can prepare lamb mice with red sauce. Place the mince in the bottom of a shallow square dish. Place boiled lasagne over it. You can continue with three layers of each. Top it up with parmesan and bake it for 12-15 mins on the medium oven.
The stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortellini can also be made at home. A sample recipe is given below.
For a “pumpkin ravioli” with desi tadka, you would need:
- Pumpkin: 150 g
- Olive oil: 2 teaspoons
- Curry Powder: 1 teaspoon
- Panch Phoran: 1 teaspoon (Tip: ¼ of each mustard seeds, cumin, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds make up panch phoron)
- Butter: 2 tablespoon
- Sage leaves: 3-4
- Salt to taste.
How to make:
Step 1: Peel and cut the pumpkin into cubes. Rub olive oil, curry powder, panch phoron and salt well into the pumpkin cubes. Oven-roast the pumpkin till soft. Mash them up well. If they are too dry, add a few teaspoons of milk.
Step 2: Now take the pasta sheet. Cut into 2-inch squares. Fill this mashed up pumpkin into the centre of a square. Seal it up well with another square. Boil these lovely pillows in water like lasagne.
Step 3: Heat butter in a pan. Add some sage into the butter. Toss this ravioli in the sage butter. You can serve it up as a snack or as a side dish.
Each pasta can be paired up with delicious sauce or can be just served up with a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese. It’s the sauce that elevates a simple and rustic pasta to an elegant and Michelin level culinary delight. There is a range of sauces that go along with pasta to make a hearty and nutritious meal. Let’s have a look at a few of them.
The most common tomato (ey) ragu is made with loads of tomatoes, onion and garlic. Make a small cross on each of 250g tomatoes and drop them in boiling water. After 4-5 mins, when they rise up, you can take them out and cool them. You can now peel off their skin. Crush these peeled tomatoes. Take a pan and add a tablespoon of butter. Chop 100g onions and 10g of garlic. Sauté them along with 10 basil leaves. Once the onions turn pink add the crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper. You can store this Ragu in a clean and dry jar for future use.
The tomato sauce, along with lots of parmesan, is perfect for spaghetti, macaroni, farfalle, fusillini and delicate cheese stuffed ravioli. You can also make a pesto sauce with a handful of basil, pine-nuts, olive oil and parmesan. Blend basil and pine-nuts and add olive oil in a steady stream while blending. Take out of the blender and mix in 4 tablespoons of parmesan. A cheesy white sauce is also a perfect blend.
The word “Pasta” not only makes you drool but can also become a party pleaser. Now, after reading this, you can make and cook pasta like a pro. Enjoy the mood-lifting and soulful dish with your family and friends.
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