Monday, May 4, 2009

Pesto and Pasta

This is a classic and basic Italian cooking. The main component is the pesto sauce. The pesto sauce is very versatile. You can combine the sauce with any pasta or you can even served it with risotto. I would sometime spread the Pesto on the toasted bread.

The pesto is very easy to prepare, all you need are good and fresh ingredients. Have it all mixed or churned in the food processor.


100 grams Pine Nuts

3 handfuls of Fresh basil leaves

Extra virgin olive oil

100 grams Parmesan Cheese

Half a clove of Garlic

Sea Salt and ground black pepper

Method - Lightly toast the pine nuts in a pan. Grind the Pine Nuts in the food processor, or if you prefer you can pound them in a mortar. Take the grounded pine nuts and reserve it in a bowl. Next, grind the basil leaves with the garlic. Mix the pine nuts and basil together. Pour some olive oil and half of the parmesan cheese into the mixture. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Gradually add the olive oil until you get a smooth paste.

Cooking pasta seems like a simple job, but if you want to cook perfect pasta, there are few things to take note. Pasta should be cooked ‘al dente’, an Italian term used to describe the pasta that is cooked through but maintain it’s firmness.

I usually check the cooking time on the packaging and set the timer, when the cooking time is almost up, I would take a few strands to check (by eating them) if it is ready. The cooked pasta should be felt firm when bitten, as opposed to starchy and soft if it is overcooked. The time between under-cooking and over-cooking is so brief that you have to monitor the pasta very closely in the last few minutes of cooking time. "You can cook the best tasting sauce, but if you messed up the pasta, the end result is not good", this has always been my mantra when cooking pasta.

When selecting your pasta, take a closer look at the texture of the pasta. The texture will give you an idea of the quality of the pasta. Avoid those that are smooth and almost glazed. These pasta when cooked are extremely slippery and the sauce will not stick and lacks the texture. Take a closer look at photo above (by clicking on it) to appreciate the texture.

In pasta manufacturing, one of the process is to extrude the dough through a die. The quicker they are extruded, the more pasta can be made in a shorter time (make more money). However, this compromise on the quality of the pasta. There are huge choice of pasta from Italy in Melbourne, I usually stock them up in my larder whenever I come across the good quality ones in the supermarket or 'deli' grocer.

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