Tomatoes, basil, stracciatella di bufala

My first homegrown tomatoes are better than they look, a little pale and regular for me to trust them on sight. The type is Rouge de Marmande.

Perfect with white sourdough, fresh or toasted, butter, and, on top of slices of tomatoes, a little good quality salt. That’s often been breakfast lately.

And something like this on pasta: heat best olive oil and add finely chopped fresh garlic and some tomato, sliced/chopped according to the type of pasta cooking. Basil from the garden – we’ve got some at the moment – a little chilli finely chopped, some parsley….all as you have convenient or to taste. I don’t cook any of this, but I heat it gently. Stir in stracciatella di bufala or burrata and then mix in the drained pasta.

That’s it. I think it should be a very mild, almost sweet dish, but you can add freshly ground pepper and/or parmesan if you want. Sometimes I start by frying a finely chopped shallot and then after adding the garlic and chilli, turning the heat up high to burn off perhaps half a cup of white wine or rose. It shouldn’t be a piping hot dish either. Warm – luke warm, maybe – is about right.

If you live in Adelaide, getting good tomatoes from the Wayville market (if not other places) is easy. But growing your own seems to be quite easy…unless beginners’ luck has struck again.

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Herbs and greens pasta sauce

Ingredients for two

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • one shallot chopped
  • two cloves garlic chopped
  • a couple of good slugs of dry white wine
  • a good sized zucchini chopped
  • a couple of tablespoons pine nuts dry roasted to a light brown
  • flat leafed parsley, perhaps one cup of leaves
  • maybe half a cup or more of pouring cream
  • chopped green rounds from spring onions
  • chopped chives, maybe half a bunch
  • parmesan grated for the table

Method

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan fry the shallots and garlic in the butter until softened. Add the wine and boil until the alcohol is burned off. Add the zucchini and cook at a lively pace, saucepan covered, until the zucchini is soft. Add the cream, pine nuts and parsley. Puree. I continued to add parsley until there was a noticeable green fleck to the sauce.

Keep warm on a very low temperature, season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, stir in the chives and spring onion rounds leaving a handful for decoration. Put drained spaghetti in bowls, add the sauce, mix thoroughly and then sprinkle the green rounds on top.

Parmesan and more pepper are required at the table.

I think when I try this again I will use at least double the zucchini and less cream. I would also like to try vodka rather than the wine, which I thought was a bit sweet. Not clear to me that the pine nuts added to this.

Parsley pesto

The simplest version, made for two.

  • olive oil
  • parsley including stalks – 1.5 bunches for two people – roughly chopped
  • maybe half a cup of pine nuts toasted
  • perhaps a cup of grated parmesan
  • one clove of garlic finely chopped

I layer these in a mixing cup: olive oil, parsley, a little of the garlic, some nuts, parsley, garlic, nuts, olive oil. Mash with a stick blender.

Add several dessert spoons of the pasta stock and then the cheese. Decide whether you’d like more liquid. I put in maybe half a dozen spoonfuls, but it will depend on your preferred consistency and how much olive oil you began with.

Put drained pasta in bowls, add a few spoonfuls of the pesto. Extra cheese and fresh pepper to be added as desired.

At the point of adding stock and parmesan, this simple combination is remarkably sweet. There are many things I might consider adding; for a start salted capers, anchovies, chillies, lemon are all on the table.

 

green sauce for pasta

Parisis restaurant on King William St Hyde Park that makes a green vegetable sauce for pasta.

Spaghetti Verde (vegetarian option) Spaghetti tossed with peas, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, aglio, a splash of white wine and shaved parmesan.

I confess it sounded a bit too vegetarian for me but I tried it nonetheless and was pleasantly surprised. I try to make a habit now of throwing green vegetables together for sauces at home and it really seems like whatever is about will do. I didn’t have white wine, but I did have tuna. I think without a bit of a kick from either of these, or some other substitute, maybe some bacon, it would all be too bland.

Ingredients

  • shallots chopped
  • garlic finely chopped
  • a couple of chillis finely sliced
  • small tin of tuna in oil
  • ghee (or olive oil) for cooking
  • at least one medium zucchini washed and grated – a cup or so as minimum
  • some fresh peas
  • chives chopped
  • spring onion, white chopped and added to the sauce, the green chopped and reserved for serving
  • additional best olive oil for serving
  • grated parmesan

While boiling the water and cooking the spaghetti:

Method

Fry the shallots, garlic and chilli in ghee – I prefer to do the frying in ghee and add olive oil at the end when serving. Better taste. Add the tin of tuna, break up and mix in thoroughly. Then add the various vegetables and herbs.

Mix the cooked spaghetti into the sauce, serve with the spring onion greens scattered on top.

Pasta and chickpeas

It’s the basis of many a variant in Italy and I’ve decided to add it to our staples like this:

Ingredients

  • 1 tin chickpeas drained, rinsed, peeled
  • 1-2 tblesp tomato paste
  • some shallots finely chopped
  • fresh garlic finely chopped
  • small pasta shapes
  • anchovies mashed
  • salt and pepper
  • ghee
  • water/stock

Optional additions as you please….

  • parsley
  • chives
  • spring onion
  • spinach
  • lemon
  • bacon
  • parmesan grated for serving

I started out frying shallots and garlic in ghee, adding chickpeas and then the water or stock if you prefer and lastly the tomato paste. Let all this simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. This can sit in the fridge once it’s cool.

When you come to preparing the meal, boil the pasta but keep it underdone, drain, put back in the pot and add however much of the chickpea mixture you want as well as the mashed anchovies which will melt through. While this is reheating and the pasta is finishing its cooking chop herbs or other last minute accompaniments. Add and stir through. Serve.

For two people the first time I did this I added a small bunch of parsley, half a bunch of chives, the white of a spring onion and before serving sprinkled snipped spring onion greens on top. The second time I made the addition finely chopped spinach.

The possibilities are endless, one could add an Indian element by sprinkling garam masala on top. Fresh chillies would work well too.

It can be as soupy or stewy as you please. Part pureeing the chickpeas is an idea I have not explored yet but will obviously enhance a move from the one to the other.

This is cheap, healthy and tastes great. It is also quick and flexible – in Italy carrots and celery may be added, but I wanted something that wasn’t an echo of minestrone. You could also make in large quantity and freeze the first part of the recipe, the stock/chickpea/tomato paste combo.

 

Vegetarian carbonara

It feels like yesterday, but evidently it was just over two years ago that I wrote a post on carbonara.

Much more recently we went to Maccaroni Trattoria in Melbourne and tried their vegetarian version of carbonara, which replaced the bacon with zucchini. Alice and I enjoyed it so much that we both thought in terms of cooking it at home. I certainly haven’t exactly done that, if for no other reason than the restaurant version had cream, whilst mine stuck to the traditional carbonara only egg attitude.

Ingredients for two

spaghetti
olive oil
3 eggs
parmesan, grated
pepper, freshly ground
2 medium zucchinis grated
shallot, chopped finely
garlic, chopped finely

Method

While the spaghetti is cooking:

Mix one egg per person and an extra yolk per two people.  Add parmesan, perhaps a cup, leaving some for the table. Add lots of freshly ground pepper.

In a large pan, I use a wok, heat olive oil and gently fry the shallot until soft, add the garlic, mix, add the zucchini and gently fry until softened.

Keep a cup of the cooking water before you drain the spaghetti.

Then, as for the normal version, put the pan back on the heat, add the spaghetti. Mix and then add the egg/cheese mixture, turn quickly if not frantically, take it off the heat, you don’t want scrambled eggs. Add some of the cooking water you saved, still stirring in a completely panicked way. It all seems to come together into a nicely silken coating needing nothing more than loads and loads of extra pepper as you eat. This is not to say that the panic was unnecessary, it is probably an essential ingredient. This dish doesn’t want you to think you are in control.

The lack of meat for taste made me add the shallot and garlic. I might also have added parsley. I should have added only some of the cooking water, but I tossed in a whole cup and this was okay – a bit runnier than it should be, but that was a good excuse to overdo the cheese served at the table.

I would happily have this any time, and surely it would be a happy marriage to combine the two versions, using both pancetta and zucchini. I will report on that some time.