Pasta is rich in B vitamins, keeping the skin, blood cells and nervous, immune and digestive systems healthy. Many pastas are also enriched with iron.
It is a quality carbohydrate made with durum that digests slowly and keeps you feeling satisfied longer and a quick meal to prepare. Add vegetables, meat and cheese to the sauce for a balanced meal with many variations.
Bring water to a full boil. The standard ratio is one quart (1 L) of water for every 1/4 pound (250 g) of pasta. Do not add oil to the water. If the pasta is slick with oil, the sauce won’t stick.
Salt boiling water, using kosher rather than iodized salt. The standard ratio is one tablespoon (15 mL) for every two quarts (2 L) water. Stir pasta after adding to boiling water and stir frequently until cooked.
The length of time to cook depends upon how it will be served. If tossing with oil or an uncooked sauce, cook all the way to al dente (to the tooth). You can bite through the pasta without any grit inside the noodle and it’s also not soggy.
When serving with a cooked sauce, drain the noodles just before al dente. If baking the pasta dish, leave them more firm. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water to thin the sauce, if necessary. The starch in the water will thicken and improve the texture.
Do not rinse cooked pasta unless the recipe calls for it. The starch helps the sauce cling to it. Rinsing can make the pasta soggy and dilute the flavour of the sauce.
For best flavour, don’t serve it in a heap. If you are cooking the pasta in the sauce, do not stir a lot. That will turn the pasta into mush.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter
Gnocchi are dumplings served throughout Italy and usually made with potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a nice change.
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes 400 g
- 1/2 c. fresh ricotta 125 mL
- 2 tbsp. finely grated Parmesan cheese 30 mL
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 c. all purpose flour (approximately) 500 mL
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter 125 mL
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves 60 mL
- 2 slices prosciutto, chopped, optional
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Prick sweet potatoes with a fork, wrap in foil and place in oven on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about one hour.<
When done, remove foil and cool to room temperature. Remove skin, mash and stir in ricotta, nutmeg, Parmesan, salt and pepper.
Add flour, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, gently mixing with a fork or your hands. Continue adding flour until it becomes a dough that you can roll into ropes. You want a soft dough. Don’t add more flour than necessary or the gnocchi will be tough and doughy.
Cut off a piece of dough and roll into a half inch (3 cm) thick rope on a well floured surface. Cut rope into one inch (5 cm) pieces.
Roll each gnocchi across the back of fork tines and set on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place them in freezer until ready to use. If not using right away, place the frozen gnocchi in a tightly sealed freezer bag. They will keep in the freezer up to three months.
To serve, bring a large pot of water to a full boil and add salt. Add gnocchi and cook. When they float, they are done. Drain and serve with sauce.
Browned butter is also called beurre noisette. It is simple but the flavour is complex. The aromas are a nutty caramel and slightly sweet. Melt butter in saucepan and continue to heat until it turns brown but does not burn. Strain to remove milk solids and return butter to pan.
Add prosciutto and saute until almost crispy, then add sage leaves. Toss with boiled gnocchi and serve. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan.
Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 1 pkg. large shell shaped pasta 500 g
- 1 c. ricotta cheese 250 mL
- 1 bag fresh spinach or 1 pkg. frozen spinach
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese 30 mL
- 3 c. tomato sauce 750 mL
- 1 c. mozzarella, grated 250 mL
- 2 tbsp. sundried tomatoes 30 mL
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. crushed red chilies, optional 5 mL
- 2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped 30 mL
Cook pasta shells to not quite al dente, drain and set aside.
Steam spinach, squeeze out water and finely chop. If using frozen chopped spinach, thaw and squeeze out water. Add ricotta, Parmesan, sundried tomato, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
Saute crushed red chilies, pine nuts and garlic until just turning brown and add to spinach mixture.
Cover bottom of baking dish with tomato sauce. Stuff pasta shells with filling and arrange over tomato sauce. Top with more tomato sauce and grated mozzarella.
Cover and bake at 350 F (190 C) until warmed through and cheese is melted. Makes about 18 large shells.
Spaghetti Aglio E Olio
This is spaghetti flavoured with garlic and olive oil.
- 2 tbsp. kosher salt 30 mL
- 1 lb. dried spaghetti 500 g
- 1/3 c. olive oil 80 mL
- 8 large garlic cloves cut into thin slivers
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 3 mL
- 1/2 c. minced fresh parsley 125 mL
- 1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving 250 mL
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta and cook to al dente. Set aside one cup (250 mL) of the pasta cooking water before draining.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold the pasta.
Add garlic and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently, until it just begins to turn golden on the edges.
Add red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Carefully add reserved pasta cooking water to garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Lower heat, add salt to taste and simmer for about five minutes, until liquid is reduced by about a third.
Add drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Remove from heat, add parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Allow pasta to rest for five minutes for sauce to be absorbed.
Serve warm with extra Parmesan on the side.
Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: [email protected].
Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: [email protected]