Pasta

Pasta

By
Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi
Contains
24 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742705545
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

There is a great history of pasta production in Campania. The famous ’ndunderi – a type of gnocchi made from flour and cheese – from Minori are from an ancient, possibly Roman recipe and have even been recognized by UNESCO as one of the first types pasta. The maccheronari, or pasta-makers, realised that Gragnano, further inland from the Amalfi Coast, had a particularly favourable, slightly humid climate which was perfect for slowly drying pasta. Today many Italians will only buy pasta from Gragnano as it is such good quality. Typical shapes include mista corta, a mixture of broken long pasta and short shapes perfect for soups. Paccheri, meaning ‘slap’, or mezzi paccheri, which are half the size, are large tubes often served with ragù or tomato sauces.

How to cook great pasta

Always cook pasta in a large pan with lots of water so that it can move around freely and will not stick together. Salt the water well – add around one heaped tablespoon to a large pan two-thirds full of water. It sounds like a lot, but most of it will stay in the water. There is no need to add olive oil to the water.

It’s really important to cook the pasta until just shy of al dente – still a little firm when bitten. When al dente, use tongs to lift long pasta such as spaghetti or linguine out of the pan and transfer directly into the pan containing the sauce so that a little of the cooking water mixes into the sauce to lengthen it. Drain short pasta through a colander and reserve a little cooking water for the sauce. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce and absorb its flavour.

Tomato sauces

It was the Spanish who introduced the golden rather than the red tomatoes to Italy in the 16th century. At first, however, it was only used as a decorative plant to be given as gifts as they were thought to be poisonous! Latini, the chef to the Spanish Viceroy of Naples, wrote his recipe for a tomato sauce called alla spagnuola, ‘in the Spanish style’. However, tomato sauce with pasta appears for the first time in 1790 in the Italian cookbook L’Apicio moderno, by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi.

Slow cooked pasta sauces & baked pasta dishes

These recipes take a little longer to prepare but are well worth the effort. Many can be frozen, so it’s a good idea to make an extra-large batch for another day. A slow cooker is very useful for making sauces such as ragù or Genovese as you can leave them to bubble away gently while you get on with other things. When making fresh pasta it’s a good idea to enlist the help of friends or family. I was once told that making pasta isn’t just about lunch; it’s really about making time to catch up with others and giving yourself time to chat. I like that idea.

Colatura di alici

Anchovy sauce

Though not readily available outside Amalfi, this unusual and delicious sauce deserves a mention. Otherwise known under its original Roman name of garum, it is similar to the sauce made by the antichi romani, or Ancient Romans, who fermented various types of fish together to preserve them and strained off the resulting juices. Nowadays only anchovies are used, kept for 40 days in salt. The juice, or colatura, is strained and added to hot pasta with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. This is the only time pasta is cooked without salt.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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