Food For Thought: Pasta

The quintessential Italian dish of pasta comes with some pretty serious history and very strong regional ties.

In 1957, a reported eight million Brits were glued to their TV sets as the BBC played what has now been dubbed the “biggest hoax ever pulled off by a news establishment”. A very serious Richard Dimbleby reported on a family, nestled in the border of Switzerland and Italy, harvesting their annual spaghetti crop. With every aspect of the fabricated story covered, Dimbleby justified the uniform growth of spaghetti due to generations of patient and successful farming practices. We have come along way over the last 50 years and now know spaghetti does not grow on trees. It doesn’t only come in a tin. Just like the hundreds of pasta shapes there are as many sauces to match. The quintessential Italian dish of pasta comes with some pretty serious history and very strong regional ties. It all starts with a selection of fresh or dried pasta. Making a batch of fresh pasta dough takes 10 minutes and four ingredients, perfect for filled pasta, lasagna or thick ribbons for the richest of ragùs. Dried pasta, slightly less decadent but just as delicious, can be a complete waste of time unless bronze-extruded. The extrusion of the pasta creates a rough surface, leaving the sauce clinging to each and every piece. There is a fine line between al dente and baby food, therefore the cooking of the pasta is the most crucial step of all. A large pot of salted water on a rolling boil will ensure that the pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Contrary to popular belief, there is absolutely no need to add olive oil to the water, as this will only sit on the top and end up being discarded. I am not sure about the theory that pasta is ready when it sticks to the wall, I haven’t tried it and to be honest I don’t really fancy having to clean that up. For me, a simple taste test lets me know when I have perfectly al dente pasta, that and the instructions on the packet! The last and final decision to make is the sauce selection. Light sauces are perfectly matched with thinner and more delicate shapes such as spaghetti, capellini and tagliatelle. Richer sauces need pasta with more body and weight such as penne, rigatoni and pappardelle. Pasta is one of the most humble and simple dishes ever created and when perfectly prepared with its rich tradition in mind there is possibly no other food as magical. @annabelleats

Fresh Pasta with Green Pea Pesto

Rich Fresh Pasta Dough Ingredients • 500g ‘00’ flour • 5 egg yolks • 3 whole eggs • Extra virgin olive oil • Salt Method 1. Place the flour in a mound on a clean bench top 2. Make a well in the centre (but not all the way to the bottom) 3. Break the eggs into the centre of the well 4. Using a fork, gently beat the eggs until combined 5. Slowly start to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture 6. When the majority of the flour has been incorporated into the egg mixture, switch to clean hands and start to bring the dough into a ball (you may need some extra flour on the surface if the dough is sticky or a splash of water if the dough is dry) 7. Knead the dough – using the palms of your hands – until smooth and when lightly pressed, springs back. This should take around 10 minutes 8. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight 9. Once rested, take one-inch slices off the ball and, with a light sprinkling of flour, roll out to a thin even sheet of pasta. Alternatively, run the slice of dough through a pasta machine 10. Cut into your desired shape and size 11. Leave to dry at air temperature for 30 minutes before cooking in a large pot of boiling, salted water Green Pea Pesto Ingredients • 200g peas (frozen is fine) • 25g grated pecorino • 80ml extra virgin olive oil • Juice from half a lemon Method 1. Place all ingredients in an electric mixer and pulse until a thick sauce consistency 2. Season with salt and pepper to taste 3. Gently toss through al dente short-shaped pasta 4. Finish with mint leaves and more grated pecorino

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