There was a time when I didn’t know what was pasta al dente, a time when I was 100% convinced that if you add oil to the water in which you boil the pasta, it won’t become sticky. Of course it wasn’t sticky, but it wouldn’t have been anyhow if it had been good quality pasta and if I had boiled it in plenty of water.
I’ve said it before: I don’t feel the need for the Italian cuisine to validate the way I choose to cook, I don’t generally get stuck in recipes and I prefer learning the technique and applying it as I see fit, because eating is or should be about what you like in the first place, about joy and pleasure. However, I should admit that my rendez-vous with the Italian cuisine always result in delicious lessons which I then apply in my own style, because that’s how I like it and because simplicity is good in any form.
Yes, the Italian cuisine inspires me, but it doesn’t hold me captive. On the contrary, it helps me be a more open-minded chef, more focused on the ingredient. In today’s recipe you will learn a few things that I myself discovered throughout time. For some, these are very commonsensical, for other they will represent a stepping stone towards a truly successful bowl of pasta.
Most of the time, with almost no exception, I choose the Barilla pasta (which is number one in Italy, made from durum wheat and always served al dente). I prefer spaghetti no. 5, maybe because they’re among the first quality pasta I’ve ever cooked, many years ago. I have many memories linked to the no. 5, enough to make them a book chapter, but perhaps I will talk about this some other time.
In order to boil the pasta well, meaning correctly, I put a lot of water to boil in a big pot (the rule says it takes one liter of water for every 100 grams of pasta, but it’s not a problem if you put more water). Before the water starts boiling, I add the salt. Weighing is important here too, 7 grams/liter of water, but to keep it simple, add salt until you feel the water tastes salty.
For the pasta to remain firm and supple, I boil it for as long as it is indicated on the pack. Until the pasta boils (200 grams of pasta for 3 generous servings), I can take care of today’s sauce.
I cut into slices a few broccoli florets, I cut half an eggplant and half a courgette into small pieces. I fry them separately in a skillet, with a bit of olive and salt to taste. Not for long, just two minutes in the hot skillet are enough for vegetables. I leave them aside for a bit.
I add three tablespoons of tomato passata in the same skillet.
I remove the pasta with kitchen tweezers without worrying that sauce is dripping from it. The water with starch ties the sauce and because I didn’t add oil to the boiling water, the sauce adheres to the pasta.
I put the vegetables over the pasta and I stir well.
I ass a handful of green onions and another one of young oregano leaves.
I stir again. If I want, I grate a bit of cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano), but it’s not essential, I sometimes prefer not to add it due to its tendency to cover the other flavors.
That’s all for today. Stay healthy.
Special thanks to
Oana Bodnariuc, Authorized Translator