This pasta is a show-stopper (and delicious). It's extravagant in that it requires one bottle of drinkable red wine for about four serves. Details below.
During the 'Lockdown", I have been part of an on-line group (mainly as observer) that connects by posting a daily photo of dinner on FaceBook. These are not professional cooks but an international, mixed bunch of people, staying/working from home. At the beginning, some were quick to point out that they did not cook; they were too busy, their jobs, their social lives and net-working obligations were so intense that they just had to eat out most nights of the week. I didn't buy it.
In amongst the happy choppers there were also those who were rather startled to find they were enjoying themselves. I've always said cooking was better than yoga.
It was interesting to watch the group grow, not just in number but in confidence and range. At first hesitant and apologetic, as the same names came up over and over, they showed more flair, more adventurous techniques.
But some thumbs down...
Left: Deliciously juicy
Right: "Healthy" variety but some dressing please, some juiciness please.
And it seems that baking is the new status symbol, the new "power" activity. We have the time to make something that is a luxury in that it is not totally necessary. And there was good baking and sad baking, the worst being a pumpkin and apple tart made without sugar or butter so that it was "healthy". No image recommended.
Left: - a bun to be proud of.
Right: "breaking bad" with rhubarb.
The most controversial observation I make is there is "too much pasta". There is too much pasta being prepared/eaten/ordered - a carbohydrate overload. Pasta is not a meat or fish substitute, pasta is not a vegetable substitute. It's a filler. It's a carbohydrate. It's a flavour carrier; part of a course, not something to build a meal on. (A potato is in fact more nutritious.) Kids are leaving home and getting used to living on the stuff, the only thing they have been taught to prepare.
Pasta is not a meal, it's a course. (I've written this and Krakatoa has not erupted!)
I'm not being culturally insensitive. Living on pasta is like living on cake or bread and dripping. Fine every now and again but... Any self-respecting Italian will tell you it's part of a fuller meal.
That said, I've become obsessed with the red pasta below and perfected the quantities enough to pass it on..
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Our Gastronomy Book Club was humming along nicely when the "Lockdown" happened. Yes, we should have zoomed. We might have to look into this but nonetheless, we're still reading. The book for 25th May is The Umbrian Supper Club - Marlena de Blasi. It's nomination had a mixed reception, so we hope for some lively comments.
I am not too sure about this book but it did introduce me to the idea of cooking pasta in red wine. (In fact, the Umbrians seem to cook with wine as though it were water! I must investigate.) I've played with this and I'm now confident I can pass on the method.
Left: Have everything ready
Right: Red wine pasta with figs and blue cheese
Pasta Cooked in Red Wine
For 2 people as a course within a meal. (Until you have the hang of this, don't try more than four serves at a time).
120 gm pasta (penne)
500 ml (2 cups) red wine
20 gm (1/4 cup) finely grated pecorino
30 gm butter (or 2 tbsp olive oil)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Either 50 gm cubed pancetta (or bacon) or 30 gm chopped walnuts
This is not so much a recipe as a technique. Be patient.
I like to use scales. Once you've made this you may like to adapt to cup measures.
Choose a drinkable (cask is fine) full-bodied red - Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz rather than Pinot.
Choose either pancetta or walnuts, not both IMO.
I've chosen to served it with figs, halved, topped with some blue cheese and grilled, to start a meal, but it could also accompany a main course. Any ideas?
How did you go?
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