My best meals are usually spontaneous and unplanned. Ingredients present themselves from the Spring garden: I wander about, basket in hand, and pick a few likely candidates to make the Pasta Del Giorno ( pasta of the day) while Mr T digs out a cheap, light red wine, to go with it. He does most of the hard physical labour in the orto, carting wheelbarrows of compost about or making fences and mowing grass, so a proper lunch is in order most days. I add a few pantry staples and a new combination is born.
Today’s pasta takes around 20 minutes to prepare and cook. Meanwhile, have a munch on these radishes while I boil the pasta water.
Pasta del Giorno. Casarecce con bietola, acciughe, e ceci./ Casarecce pasta with silver beet, anchovies, and chickpeas for two or three people.
Recipe for two or three.
- 180 gr casarecce pasta ( I prefer De Cecco brand)
- 6 anchovy fillets in oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
- a pinch of ground chilli flakes
- 4 medium-sized young silver beet leaves including stems.
- a few tablespoons of chickpeas, well-drained, from a can. ( reserve the rest for another use)
- black pepper
- more oil and parmigiano to serve
In a heavy based deep sided frying pan, add the oil and stir fry the garlic and anchovies together, mashing the anchovies as you go.
Add the chilli and finely shredded silver beet leaves, stirring well. Add a handful of chickpeas to the mixture. Turn heat down to very low or off until the pasta is ready.
Meanwhile cook the casarecce pasta in a large pot of salted water and as per packet directions. Keep a cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta OR, simply scoop out the pasta with a large wire strainer and add to the frying pan of sauce. The second method retains enough liquid to loosen the sauce.
Turn heat to high, then toss around in the frying pan, distributing the ingredients well. Season with black pepper. Consider adding a little more oil or cooking water. Serve in hot bowls with grated parmigiano. Salute!
The Bossy Stuff or Basics for Beginners.
It is easy enough to create a nourishing and well-balanced pasta dish so long as a few basics are observed:
- Start with a flavour base for your sauce. Each soffrito should match the ingredients and the season.
- Don’t overload your pasta dish with too many ingredients. Choose around 2-3 main ingredients to star in the sauce.
- Choose a pasta shape that will match or showcase your ingredients.
- Consider how to make your sauce wet. Short, fat pasta shapes are hard to digest if the sauce is too dry.
- Save some of the cooking water at the end to add to the sauce.
- Add the pasta to the sauce, and toss around in a large pan. This technique guarantees that the sauce is well-distributed through the pasta, and reheats as well. ( Don’t serve the cooked pasta in a bowl and plonk the sauce on top. Aussie style, alla 1970s – very stodgy )
- Time the cooking of the pasta and taste it for doneness. Al dente or to the tooth means a little undercooked and not too soft. Remember that the pasta will continue to cook when added to the sauce.
- Always heat the serving plates. A good pasta meal can become instantly cold through the omission of this step.
- Use large shallow bowls for serving. Large deep bowls are better for Asian noodle dishes. Small ‘old school’ bowls are good for breakfast cereal.