Quick and Easy Pastas

  • POSTED ON 30 Jul 2013

We're keeping it "simple stupid" and looking at three pasta dishes you can get on the table well under twenty minutes. They're ideal for a mid week dinner or when guests pop in for a drink... which then turns into dinner... 

The ingredients used in these dishes are ones you'd generally find in your pantry or somewhere in the fridge. We've shone the spotlight on some of our favourite products to keep on hand... starting with a good base - the pasta! Pastificio Venturino is the best dried pasta on the market (in our opinion!), with many shapes and sizes available. 

#1 Puttanesca 

Admittedly, 'puttana' in Italian means whore, and reportedly this southern style dish gets its name as it's 'quick and easy' to put on the table. Common pantry items, olives, anchovies, capers and tinned tomatoes, combine to create a beautiful, somewhat slightly, chilli spiked sauce. We think this recipe c/o Nigella Lawson is true to origin but we'd stick with the chill flakes over the jalapenos (that said, if there's no chill on hand, by all means!). 

From the deli?  We love using the Russino anchovy fillets and our own brand of Lilliput capers, either salted, or in brine. Both give the sharp salty kick this dish needs, and is known for. The Pastific Venturino Passata di Pomodoro, provides a dense tomato base. 

#2 Carbonara

Classically a Roman dish, it references the Italian word for coal carbone. It is said that the dish was prepared for the hard working coal workers, the carbonaro, and was named in their honour. It's reported too that the flecks of pepper within represent the coal. This recipe from Gourmet Traveller has all the makings of a great carbonara - eggs, a great Italian cheese and guanciale (although pancetta is a more than suitable and commonly available substitute). 

From the deli? Stock up on flat Montecatini pancetta from the Milton store. 

#3 Tomato, rocket & parmesan 

This doesn't really require a recipe and the quantities are up to you. Just take freshly cooked and drained al dente pasta, combine it with chopped tomatoes (this would work beautifully with heirloom tomatoes from the market), torn rocket leaves, gratings of parmesan and a glug of good olive oil. That's it! It's a great example of 'keep it stupid simple' and lets your ingredients shine. It'll become one you turn to time and time again. 

From the deli? Good cheese in this dish is a must! Naturally, Reggiano Parmegiana is our choice. Buy a large wedge, store well, and it will be on hand for sometime.

Mastering Risotto

  • POSTED ON 22 Jul 2013

Risotto might well be the ultimate comfort food, particularly when the weather turns a little cooler. It's a pot full of warmth, and what we love (creamy goodness aside) is that once you have mastered the basics, it's easy to add in other flavours, particularly when you've a few items in the fridge fast approaching their due by date!

Sometimes, risotto can be seen as a difficult dish to execute. This happens mainly, as careful consideration isn't given to the principles. When this happens, the results go a little awry and the insides of the pot are left containing a somewhat gluggy mixture. For us, there are 7 key principles to remember when making risotto, and we promise that if you take all into consideration when next creating yours, you'll have a smooth over stodgy result.

Principle 1:  Good and hot stock

You must have your stock warming on the stove, as adding cold stock interrupts the cooking process and can lead to hard, uncooked kernels in the center of the rice grain. We make our own stocks and sell them at both Milton and Spring Hill. Once you've tried a handmade stock over a store bought variety chances are you won't go back...


Principle 2: Saute don't brown...

When you are cooking your onions (and/or garlic) be careful not to brown. You need them to be translucent and soft - if you begin to really brown them, the flavour will impart onto the rice, and also, the texture will be thrown off. 

Principle 3:  The rice...

Use good rice! We carry two varieties from Melotti, their Vialone Nano is our pick for most risottos but we prefer the Carnaroli if making a seafood one.  You must toast your rice, just until the perimeters of the grain are translucent. This also assists the kernel in retaining structure throughout the cooking process while still absorbing moisture.

Principle 4: Deglaze!

As with most dishes, when you are adding to a sauteed vegetable mixture deglazing is key. It allows all the flavour that's been imparted onto the bottom of the pan to once again join the dish.When making risotto you will often deglaze with wine, but using stock too is fine. 

Principle 5: One ladle at a time

Good things come to those who wait... and adding a ladle at a time is a labour of love. This also is key when bringing out the starch in the rice, to achieve a creamy consistency. You add your next ladle when the contents of the last are beginning to disappear.

Principle 6 : Bringing it together

This might well be the best part because you know something amazing awaits. Be sure to have your parmesan finely grated, and your butter (if using) cut into smaller pieces. This allows them to integrate evenly into the dish, and you won't be over beating to incorporate. 

Principle 7: Immediacy 

Serve immediately, and onto warmed bowls, so as not to undo all your hard work! 

Feeling ready to try your hand at risotto? Try this one using beetroot, asparagus and feta.