Buongiorno (good day) and a hearty welcome to my 3rd Pastastic! e-newsletter.
I kick us off this month with my top 3 cooking truths, which I reckon you should know and appreciate before you even step into the kitchen.
Then I have some cracking new recipes for you - 2 of which were supplied to me by 'friends of da family'; knowledgeable Italian mammas who are good friends with my own pasta mentor Marisa. Expert-o-rama!
I've also added a new site search feature, plus you'll find a picture-packed page, a non-stick pasta tip, an eye-opening Asian fact, and details of a truly smokin' site.
Enough waffling then, let's get straight to the juicy stuff... I hope you enjoy this issue as much as I enjoyed producing it!
Matt - firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: Due to a technical niggle it's possible that you didn't receive the last issue of Pastastic! If so, sorry, you can read it here.
"I mean, why consummate two years of unbridled passion when we can have pasta?" - Alec, Dark Angel TV series
Inside this issue:
3 Things Amateur Pasta Cooks Should Know
Hard-learned cooking truths that should stand you in good stead.
My very latest pleasure-producing pasta creations, including a rollin' Pugliese beef dish and a Sicilian veggie treat.
Get unstuck with this useful gem.
Info from the Orient.
New Site Feaure
Find the recipe you want in no time.
A smokin' site you're sure to like.
Most Popular Pages: November
This month's most-clicked destinations.
3 Things Amateur Pasta Cooks Should Know
Learning to cook tasty Italian pasta meals from scratch shouldn't be stressful, but the truth is it can be if you don't have simple-to-follow recipes (which you do!) and you understand a few key home truths.
I've learned these truths the hard way. They are...
1. Guests and new dishes don't match
By which I mean this - following a recipe for the first time just prior to the arrival of dinner guests is a recipe for disaster (or at least some frenzied hair pulling!).
I've tried, and failed at, this trick a few times, so I know it's true. I thought, "Ho hum, I've done all these recipes before", followed by the genius line, "Guests! A chance to experiment with something new!'.
Mistake. A biggie... because this plan usually, not always, but almost always goes pear-shaped.
Here's why... time constraints mean stress. If your guests are set to arrive at 8, you might start cooking at 6pm thinking that'll be fine. And it might be. But might be doesn't really cut it when you have people due to arrive, expecting to be fed something edible.
If you run out of flour for the fresh pasta, what then? Do you have time to hit the shops? Or what if your first attempt at the sauce turns to crozzled mush, have you time to start it all again?
I've lost count of the number of times family members have arrived only to find me grumbling my way around the kitchen bemoaning my own stupidity and lack of preparation. I promise you this: it's not the welcome they're looking for!
The lesson? Attack new recipes - even the super-simple ones on my site - when you are relaxed. I find the weekend the perfect time for this.
2. Don't be shy with salt
Yes it raises your cholesterol and that can be bad, but I'm not talking about heaping it onto your plate of food... instead we're talking about salt as an essential part of the cooking process.
You mightn't think of pasta for instance as tasting of much on its own. But just try boiling two pans of packet pasta - one with half a handful of salt stirred into the water, and one without. I guarantee you'll spot the difference.
Bland? Flavourless? That'll be the salt-less batch. How much should you use? I employ half a handful of the white stuff for each two-person pan of pasta.
3. Simple ain't the same as stupid
This follows on from point 1, in that some of the tastiest Italian pasta dishes I've eaten - whether in Italy or abroad - have been the simplest.
A supple ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach for instance, or a hearty spaghetti bolognese gulped down after a day's cycling. Mmm... both winners and not fancy in the slightest.
A surprising number of kitchen starters, I find, try to jump in with an innovative newfangled take on Italian food, only to flail when their lack of cooking skills becomes apparent.
I know. I've been there. With loud, clanging 'look at the eejit' bells on. It's not a good plan... because not only does it lead to some pretty dodgy tasting tucker, but it's demoralising and it can therefore put you off cooking anything again.
I suggest beginners start by learning and perfecting this tasty tomato sauce. This will serve you in great stead, as so many Italian dishes use a variation of this delicious staple. If all else fails or the cupboard is otherwise bare, just smother some short pasta in this baby, maybe throw in some bacon chunks, and you'll dine in style.
Nuccia's Vegetable Pasta Recipe
First up comes a scrummy veggie-packed recipe from the Sicilian kitchen of my mamma-in-law's buddy Nuccia. This dish takes zucchini and tomato and melts them over succulent short pasta. Yes it takes a little while to melt that veg, but it's 100% simple to prepare.
Nut & Shroom Spaghetti
A brand new entry in the Very Easiest section of my site, this scrummy porcini and nut spaghetti usually wins over even ‘shroom-haters’. Choose between earthy walnut or moreish pistachio nuts, plus we'll throw in a little charismatic saffron and there's even an optional chili kick.
Orecchiette Pasta With Beef-Rolled Celery
This orecchiette pasta recipe comes from a friend of Marisa's named Rosetta Chirico (now that's an Italian name right there). A traditional ‘Pugliese’ dish (i.e. from the Puglia region of Italy), this beef and soft tomato-covered pasta delight is packed full of contrasts: you have supple beef, molten tomato, succulent pasta, plus the surprisingly strong taste of parsley leaf, twinned with just a little garlic. Good stuff.
Pictures of Pasta
Following a couple of reader requests, I've added a quick-hit pasta pic page that web users can use to grab free free shots for their own blogs, homework, whatever they like really... (If you know of anyone looking for such images, feel free to send them here.)
Long pastas such as spaghetti and small pasta shapes that 'slot' together such as orecchiette can stick together when boiling in the pan. Very frustrating.
Now, a common misconception is that salt helps avoid this. It doesn't - salt brings out the taste of the pasta. However olive oil does help!
So when boiling such shapes in the pan, add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin when you add the salt (i.e. as soon as it's all boiling). Of course you must also stir it regularly too. Those 'stick-ups' will then be a thing of the past.
According to the folks at Prince Pasta, the Chinese were recorded eating pasta (flour and water mix) as early as 5,000 B.C.
(Note: To avoid any noodle/pasta/pasta noodle confusion, I'll be adding a web page about the differences between these soon.)
New Site Feature
The navigation buttons on Pasta Recipes Made Easy are designed to help you find the recipes you want, but this approach does involve some clicking and reading.
Therefore I've added a new Pasta Search function to the site. This should help you find the page or dish you want quick-smart!
Do you love smoked barbie-style foods? Are you an old hand at smoker cooking, looking for a new recipe, or confused about which smoker grill to buy?
Then my good buddy Bill's fantastic Smoker-Cooking.com site is for you. Just remember to lick your fingers clean afterwards!
Most Popular Pages: November
These Pasta Recipes Made Easy pages were the most-clicked this month. Check 'em out!
Laura's Meat Lasagna Recipe - This mouth-watering classic is almost too filling. I can't get enough of it... and web searchers seem to like it too.
Calories in Lasagna - How sensible... those Googlers love the Meat Lasagna page above but they also want to check how many pounds it will pile on! This page has all the info, including exercise examples to help you burn off all that cheese...
Minestrone Soup Recipe - Who knew minestrone was actually an Italian veggie soup? Learn about it here, then knock up this nutritious dish in no time at all.
Missed your FREE 5 Simple Starters e-book?
Just right-click here to save it to your PC.
Receive updates when new pasta pages appear:
see my Pasta Blog page
Get in Touch with recipe questions and site suggestions. Whatever your query, just let me know.
Ciao for now folks and happy eating!
Have your say about this page! Just add a comment in the box below.