When it comes to pasta, most of us have a fall-back meal or two we can whip up easily enough with some pretty basic ingredients. Being a busy mother, I know all too well how the day can get away from them and spaghetti with red sauce is often the go to meal for these very occasions. So how do you get that authentic Italian taste with home-cooked pasta?
There is much debate about whether to buy fresh or dried pasta and with today’s trend towards “fresh is best” it would be easy to reach for the fresh option automatically. However, much like red vs. white wine, neither is superior—only different—and working with these differences to enhance pasta recipes is the best way to go. It’s more important to be aware of the different types of pasta and how long to boil them to get the texture just right.
Unfortunately, most dried pasta sold outside of Italy lists a cooking time that far exceeds the way Italians prefer it (“al dente”) so if you are wanting a more authentic dish, shave a few minutes off the recommended cooking time, bring the water to a boil, add a bit of salt, wait for the water to return to a hard boil and add the pasta. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you get it right because no one wants to eat soft, gluey pasta!
As for the sauces, there are some basic things to have around the kitchen—canned tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and black or chili pepper. If kids are going to be joining you then it can be wise to “hide” the veggies in the sauce; zucchinis grated finely along with bell peppers in a red sauce will do the trick nicely. This is a sauce full of nutrients and perfect with some fresh parmesan and basil on top. Try growing your own kitchen herb garden to add a boost of freshness to your recipe.
For a more risk-taking crowd, try a pasta dish with thinly chopped beetroot, onions and ground black pepper. Make sure to use the butterfly shaped (farfalle) pasta and watch young children light up at the “pink butterflies” on their plates! The caramelized onions and black pepper give this dish a sweet and spicy flavor and it only takes ten minutes to make.
When it comes to simple home-cooking that‘s still wholesome, pasta taste great straight out of the box. What’s more, swap a few key ingredients and you can adapt it to any number of dishes, from spicy arrabiata sauces with fish or seafood, to bare-minimum olive oil and garlic dressings. So get the pan lid on and start timing! When I am looking for a quick, hearty dinner, pasta is my go-to meal.
How do you create your pasta recipes? Are you a “made from scratch” person, quick & easy person or a mix of both?