“No man is lonely eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention,” Christopher Morley once said. And as it’s the month of love, here’s to a week dedicated to one of the most romantic countries on earth! Italy has sex appeal in spades – think fashion, football, ice cream, scooters, castles, beaches, lakes, and its three very macho and temperamental volcanoes. Stir some of that passion into your home this month – Ciao Italia!
Ever wanted to know exactly how to cook the perfect pasta? Scroll down…
All pasta is not equal! Choose a brand with a good reputation and only buy pasta made in Italy.
Use a big pot. Pasta needs to move freely as it cooks.
Use plenty of water. For 500g of pasta, you should use at least six litres of water.
Add salt to the water. Pasta needs salt for flavour. Add salt to the boiling water and make sure it has dissolved before you add the pasta.
Bring the water to a full, rolling boil before adding the pasta. When you add pasta to water that is not yet boiling fast, it releases natural starches, which act like glue and you get soggy, sticky pasta.
Stir the pasta as soon as it’s in the water. And stir again a few times during the cooking process.
Do not add oil to the water. Oil coats the pasta, and prevents sauce from sticking to it when you serve it.
Never overcook pasta. Pasta needs to be cooked so it’s still firm when bitten. This is called “al dente”. Follow the cooking time on the packet but also check your pasta. Break it – if the inside is still whitish it is not yet cooked. But be ready for action. Drain pasta as soon as the inside has lost its whiteness and remember there will be a small amount of carryover cooking between the time you remove the pasta from the stove, and combine with the sauce.
Save a little pasta water. Scoop a cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta and keep it aside to add to your sauce in case it is dry.
Get the sauce onto the pasta immediately after you drain it. Noodles cool down fast and start sticking to each other without a sauce to keep them apart.
Do not cook two different kinds of pasta in the same pot. Their cooking times will be different – and it looks a mess!
Pasta comes in different shapes and sizes to suit different sauces. Thicker, heavier pasta is better for thicker heavier sauces, while fine pasta suits thinner, lighter sauces. Keep a few boxes of pasta in the cupboard for those emergency meals.
Susan Greig never ceases to amaze with her incredible cooking courses and kitchen savvy, this time proving that even a snappy meal can be beyond delicious with this Pasta with Pea Pesto and Baby Beetroot recipe.
300g frozen peas
2 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 T single cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
40g parmesan cheese, grated
200g cooked small beetroots, halved
50g almonds, finely chopped
150g cooked green beans
Sensational Tomato Sugo
For a real, rich Italian tomato sugo that takes you straight to a back street in Rome, do this:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot.
Simmer a few cloves of garlic (simply cut in half) until soft and clear.
Throw in a few cans of tomatoes and as many fresh chopped tomatoes as you want.
Add a couple of tablespoons sugar, a dash of vinegar and salt.
Reduce the sauce until it smells Italian, adding more sugar, vinegar or salt to taste.
Throw in a handful of fresh basil towards the end, and continue to let it reduce until thick and pungent.
Having said this … it doesn’t hurt to enjoy a night out every once in a while, right? And for divine Italian cuisine (think Ciao Baby Cucina, Primafila Mastrantonio and Verdicchio) as well as a stylish Tuscan-styled look and feel and enticing entertainment, there’s no better spot to go to than Montecasino. It’s almost like being transported to our second fave city (after Joburg, of course!) without ever getting on a plane. Family fun or perhaps a romantic evening for two … you’ll find it all here. Details: www.tsogosun.com/montecasino
Invented by a Sicilian monk about 100 years ago, Amaro Averna is an Italian bitters that is still trending today – and as we all know, bitters are IN! Amaro Averna is often drunk neat or on ice, but it makes a supreme cocktail. Here are some contemporary Averna cocktails from Adriatic Food & Wine.
Averna Red & Salty
1 part Amaro Averna
2 parts Blood Orange Juice
1 part Amaro Averna
4 parts vodka
2 parts lemon juice
1 part sugar syrup
1 part Amaro Averna
2 parts Cachaça
1 small Lime
Not sure where to find a bottle of Amaro Averna to make these decidedly delish cocktails? A little birdy tells us that the Liquor City on Beyers Naudé has it! Better still, they have a range of other tasty liqueurs as well as fab red and white wine options … so no matter what you fancy, you’ll be able to quench your thirst with ease. We don’t know about you but now that we have the colourful cocktails sorted, we’re just itching to throw an Italian-styled soirée! Details: 011-888-9374
The inside scoop
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy homemade ice cream and the addition of nougat creates an enticing texture combination of gooey-and-crisp almond nut,” says Jackie Cameron of Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine.
Nougat Ice Cream
Image courtesy Jackie Cameron / Kate Martens
6 Egg yolks
¼ cup castor sugar
1 litre cream
15ml glucose syrup
1 vanilla pod, split in half and seeds removed
2X 110gr nougat, cut in small blocks
Recipe courtesy Jackie Cameron @ jackiecameron.co.za
Looking for Joburg’s best Italian restaurant? Well, look no further – Café Del Sol has captured Joburgers hearts (and stomachs) with their yummy, wholesome pastas and pizza … and depending on which restaurant you visit, be it TRE in Parkhurst, Classico in Olivedale or Botanico in Bryanston, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable, authentic experience. Throw a glass of wine into the mix and we’re sold! Details: www.cafedelsol.co.za