Spaghetti with asparagus….

One of my staple sauces for spaghetti has long been the bacon/spinach/pinenuts concoction. Today we bought asparagus at the market and I have to say it is actually an improvement on an already fine dish.

Ingredients

  • asparagus, stems snapped, tops left whole and the nice part of the stem chopped into a few pieces and then into quarters longwise, if they are thin stems.
  • garlic, finely chopped
  • pine nuts toasted in a frying pan and not burnt (wish I’d remembered that today)
  • bacon or lard fumé if you are in some part of the world that doesn’t do bacon.
  • olive oil for cooking
  • best olive oil for serving
  • parmesan

Method

While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the bacon or equivalent (pancetta is okay too) in olive oil, add the garlic and then the asparagus. You want all this to cook on a really gentle heat, maybe even off heat some of the time. When the spaghetti is boiled, drain and mix it thoroughly into the sauce, add the pine nuts.

Serve with black pepper ground at the table and parmesan. I found this a beautifully sweet dish, which perhaps did not even need cheese. We did add best olive oil at the table.

 

 

 

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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.

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.

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.

A pesto conversion

For years I’ve been using Stephanie Alexander’s pesto recipe. As it’s the other side of the world, I’m relying on the internet to give me an accurate rendition, but it’s something like this:

  • a big bunch of basil (she says a firmly packed cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 60g parmesan grated
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil

I don’t add salt and pepper at this stage.

You puree these and mix in some hot water from the cooking pot to thin the consistency.

That’s always done me, I like the balance. But the other day at Bottega Rotolo I got talking to Rosalie Rotolo-Hassan who mentioned that in her cooking classes she’s always modified it by adding a little asparagus and making half the nuts unsalted pistachios, also toasted.

I’ve been dying to try this variant, picked up some of the last asparagus around today and some really ordinary hydroponic basil as I couldn’t find any that had been properly raised. Now we have:

  • a big bunch of basil
  • no garlic because I forgot
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts and raw unsalted pistachios, toasted separately as they need different amounts of time
  • 60g of horribly expensive parmesan because we couldn’t figure out the price until we got home and looked at our receipt and went arrgghhhhhhhhhh
  • 4 asparagus pieces steamed until softish
  • olive oil, but slowly added and not nearly as much as 1/2 a cup

I left out the cheese to be added at the table. I pureed the rest, with maybe a couple of tablespoons of oil to begin with and then added a bit more later. I also added hot cooking water to reach the consistency I wanted.

The asparagus made it creamier and added to the sense that less oil was required compared with usual. Having said that, it’s all to taste of course. I did not in the least miss the garlic – loved the gentle taste of this.

Pepper and parmesan to taste at the table.

Serves two to three – we found that because it didn’t give the usual pesto punch that we added more of it than we usually would.