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Monday, December 03, 2007

kitchen therapy with my favorite pasta dishes

I cooked any pasta dishes at-least three times a week and won't get 'sick of it' if eaten everyday. I mostly kept packets of dry pasta (used to make fresh pasta too, if time permit) and herbs ready in the kitchen for nights when dinner needs to be simple, good and fast, throw pasta into boils, and top or mix them with whatever I got in the fridge. Sharing my last week 'kitchen therapy' session with my favorite pasta dishes (Serves: 4-5 people):

" Spaghetti Pasta with Meatballs Recipe "

One of my ultimate comfort food "Spaghetti Pasta with huge Meatballs". This classic goes a long way with some homemade pomodoro sauce. The secret to the melt-in-your mouth meatballs is in the milk-soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs.

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 big onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup milk
4 thick slices firm white bread, crust removed
3 pounds ground beef mix
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups heated Pomodoro Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 pound fresh whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
Leaves from fresh basil
1 pound spaghetti

Bring a big pot of salted water and dashes of olive oil to a boil for the spaghetti. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and parsley and cook until the vegetables are soft but still translucent, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.

Pour enough milk over the bread in a bowl to moisten and let it soak while the onions are cooling. Combine the meat in a large bowl. Add the egg and Parmigiano and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and add that to the bowl along with the cooled onion mixture. (Hang onto the pan - you'll need it to cook the meatballs.) Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands or with a spoon until just mixed together. Don't overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Shape them into nice looking meatballs (between the size of a golf ball or tennis ball, I preferred mine big as tennis ball).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a 3-count of oil in the frying pan over medium heat and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes. Put them into a baking dish and spoon about half of the tomato sauce over. Shower with the mozzarella and drizzle with olive oil. Put the meatballs in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and put it onto a large serving platter. Pour on the rest of the sauce and mix well. Spoon the meatballs on top of the spaghetti and garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately along with extra cheese.

Pomodoro Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes) and about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and season with salt, sugar and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring for a few minutes with a wooden spoon to further break up the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.

" Spaghetti Pasta Puttanesca Recipe "

Another really simple pasta is "Spaghetti Puttanesca" a traditional Italian pasta dish made with a sauce named sugo alla puttanesca, its name came from the fact that it was a quick, cheap and easy to prepare meal.

1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4-1/2 tablespoons chili flakes or powder
2 (14oz) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved
1 tablespoons capers
3 anchovy fillets in water, chopped
3 Tbsp black olives (I use kalamata)
freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. Add the garlic, parsley and chilli flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, over medium heat. Add the crushed tomato to the pan, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the capers, anchovies and olives and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Season with black pepper. Toss gently with the pasta until the sauce is evenly distributed. Serve with Parmesan.

" Spaghetti Aglio e Olio(with Garlic, Mushroom, Nuts & Tomatoes ) Recipe "

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio(with Garlic and Oil). The classic preparation of this dish is simply with olive oil and garlic, then dusted with paprika. You could use a handful of finely chopped parsley or any other fresh green herb you might like. Because I planted a lot of herbs like basil, mint & oregano, I will often add in a tablespoon of this mixed herbs with parsley. Another option is to add red pepper flakes. Alternatively you can simply put the red pepper on the table for those who would like it hot.

1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 or 2 Tblsp. minced fresh herbs such as parsley, fresh oregano or a mixture (optional, but I like this fresh herb)
Freshly grated Parmesan (pass separately)
(optional ingredient that I like to add from the original recipe above)
- a bowl of fresh shiitake mushroom
- 1/2 bowl of fresh halved-cherries tomatoes
- 1/2 bowl mix dried nuts & raisins

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta al dente and drain, saving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. While the pasta is cooking, gently warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan, add the garlic either slivered or minced and heat just until the garlic turns golden. If you are using the red pepper flakes, add them here. Remove garlic or not according to your taste. Set oil aside until pasta is drained. Place oil back on medium low flame and toss pasta, in the sauté pan, with salt until well coated. If the pasta seems dry add dribbles of the pasta water. Add herbs and just heat through. Serve immediately with a good grind of black pepper, and pass the grated cheese at table. I also like to have a cruet of olive oil on the table so diners may add a drizzle if they wish.

If you wanted to know more about pasta and other great recipe, please visit www.ilovepasta.org

Enjoy! "La Dolce Vita" translates to... "The Sweet Life".

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“ Better to be a Pirate than to join the Navy ”

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