Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pasta con le Melanzane (Pasta with eggplants and Mozzarella)

I love finding surprises in my garden.   Eggplants have always been one of my favorites.   I have had my fill of eggplant Parmigiana and eggplant tapenade  this Summer.  Now that we are nearing the end of the Summer season, I found two eggplants hiding behind one of my overgrown tomato plants.   This is the perfect dish.  I never get tired of Pasta, do you?
Ingredients: 4 servings
2 medium  eggplants, sliced, salted and drained.  Wipe clean with paper towels and set aside.  Begin this process approx. 2 hour ahead, so eggplants have a chance to extract their liquid.
3-4 cloves of garlic diced
2 sliced fresh tomatoes (I used compari, as they break down easily even with their skins on).
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt (several teaspoons to taste)
Pepper (about 2 teaspoons)
One large skillet
About 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella torn or sliced into pieces
One pasta pot
12 ounces of Rigatoni or penne pasta
handful of fresh basil chopped
handful of parsley torn into pieces (optional)
Method:  Heat your olive oil and vegetable oil in a skillet on medium.  Add your garlic and cook unitl fragrant.  Do not overcook.  You want to be able to smell the fragrance of garlic.
Add your eggplant and cook.  Add about a teaspoon each of salt, pepper and put a lid on the pan.  After a few minutes, check your eggplants.  Keep cooking until they are somewhat broken down.  Give the pan a mix again and put a lid on the pan.   Give it another mix and add your sliced tomatoes.    Using the same method, keep cooking for about 10 minutes or so, until everything has broken down.   Remove from the heat and add your mozzarella pieces.  While your pasta cooks, remove several tablespoons of water and add it to the pan. This will ensure for a creamier consistency, once the drained pasta is added to the eggplants.
 Add your hot pasta and give it a mix.  Add some additional salt if necessary.  Add as much herbs as you like.    Let the pasta rest before serving for a more intense flavorful dish.  Buon Appetito!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Classic Pasta Alla Carbonara

The following is the only way to prepare classic Pasta Carbonara.   There is no other way,  I promise.  It's orgins are questionable.   There are several theories about how this dish came about.   I tend to lean toward the explanation of it dating back to Ancient Roman times.  Doesn't everything?    "Cacio e uva" or eggs and cheese was served to coal miners. The black pepper was added to intensify the flavor.  The black pepper resembles coal.    The second theory has to do with two Americans throwing together their food rations, namely cheese and bacon over some pasta and pasta alla Carbonara was born.  Whichever you believe, it's all good to me. 
Forget the cooking shows, fancy magazines and  several interesting cookbooks. Classics should be enjoyed and remembered not covered up and forgotten.
Since you never know when company will arrive at my house, it's always good to have a plan B.  Pasta is a perfect plan B.  I always have pancetta on hand, as salted pork jowl and guanciale is very hard to come by in Tupelo, Mississippi.   Be sure whatever you use, it is salt cured as Americans like to smoke everything and smoke has nothing to do with any italian dish.   I like to measure the amount of egg yolks you will need this way; One large egg per 1/4 pound of pasta or one egg per person.  For this recipe, you will only be using egg yolks so be sure and reserve your egg whites for a Frittata.  
My version: 
Make adjustments for an increase in pasta.  
One pound of good quality italian pasta  (Spaghetti)
                      6 ounces of diced pancetta or
                      guanciale (salted pork cheek)
                      One large skillet
                      Pasta pot filled with salted water, brought to a rolling
                      salt (optional), to taste
                      4  large egg yolks 
                      1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
                      Several tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid from
                                cooking your pasta.  
                      Plenty of black pepper

Method:  Place your pasta Pot filled with salted water to boil.  Cook your pasta until al dente.  Cook your pancetta  until  brown lightly,  without olive oil, just on it's own and until they are cooked through and slightly crisp.  The strips make for a prettier presentation and gives your guests the option to set it aside (although I have never seen anyone actually do such a thing, as they are quite satisfying).   Place your egg yolks in a bowl with your cooking water and cheese and give it a mix.   Remember to take your egg yolks out a bit ahead as you should always be working with room temperature eggs to get a creamy consistency.  Set the bowl aside as you drain your pasta.
Drain your pasta with a bowl underneath to catch some cooking watter.     I set aside a little extra, just in case.   The starchiness of the water contribute to the creamy texture of this sauce.   Drain, add your pancetta and mix with your egg mixture.    Head straight to the table and serve with plenty of black pepper.  The black pepper gives this dish it's intense flavor. 
Buon Appetito!
If you don't believe me, just watch this wonderful video from the premier experts in Italian Food and Food culture, the Academia Barilla in Parma, Italy. 
Pasta Carbonarahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKrI9pGpM78