Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pasta, Part III or IV

Paccheri e astice (lobster)
“No dish in history has as many variations, colors, motifs, tastes, textures and subtleties as a dish of pasta.” ― Marc Vetri 

Unlike last year, I have not overdone it with the pasta.  While I was taking Italian classes here last year, you may recall, I went to lunch with school friends daily, and most of the places we frequented offered three choices: pasta, pizza, panini. I was, by the end of the second week, sick of all three.  This year, though, I've cooked in the apartment most of the time I've been here alone or with Mike.  We've stuck to simple lunches of cheese and fruit with a slice or two of prosciutto, and our dinners have been salad with a thin slice of chicken or some other meat on it.  That way, when we go out—which is not often at all—I can order a pizza or pasta dish.

Let me also add that I just can't deal with all the bread involved with sandwiches and pizza.  I like the pizzas here because the crusts are rather thin.  I don't like the bread of this region for the most part because it tends to be too smooth and without the texture of bread from Abruzzo.  That's just me.  Mike, on the other hand, likes the bread here. While the photo above is of cuipeta, the bread of Ferrara, most of the bread of the Emilia-Romagna region is similar in texture if not in shape.

Enough on bread.  Let me tell you about different pastas.

Paccheri e astice
Paccheri are very large tubes of pasta.  As with the smaller rigatoni, paccheri can be smooth or have ridges.  My favorite way to have them is with butter and sage, but Mike ordered Paccheri e astice (lobster) the other night.

"How is it?" I asked him since I'm not too willing to try anything with seafood.

"Messy," he replied. He expected to have chunks of lobster in the dish, and he wasn't wild about cracking the half lobster up while trying to eat the pasta.  I wasn't too thrilled to watch him do it, either.  "Do you want to try some?" he asked me.

"You enjoy," I replied and continued eating my scallopina.

Tortellini en brodo
Tortellini en brodo
Tortellini originated in the Emilia-Romagna (in Castelfranco Emilia) region of Italy around 1570 when someone was looking to make a filled pasta. In order to prevent the filling from falling out, he/she folded the square around his/her finger, and the rest is history.  Depending on who's making the tortellini, the filling may be of cheese (ricotta or parmesan or both), meat (prosciutto, mortadella, sausage, beef, or a combination), or a combination of meats and cheeses.

Tortellini is the number one culinary tradition of Bologna, and unlike the way we serve it in the States, the tradition here is to serve it in broth, which is how Nancy ordered hers (above).  The tortellini in the photo above are the average size.  I've seen them even smaller in fresh pasta shops.  One of these days, I'll have to try the small ones.

Tortelloni con burro e salvia
Tortelloni con burro e salvia
Tortelloni are the big brother of tortellini.  They are about twice the size but have the same shape as the smaller version. Cooks serve tortelloni with either a red sauce or, more likely, with a butter and sage sauce (above). The big difference is in the filling.  Instead of meat, the favored fillings for tortelloni are ricotta and spinach. 

That said, the various provinces of Emilia-Romagna have their own versions of tortelloni. In some areas, you might find porcini mushrooms or walnuts in the pasta. In Modena and Reggio Emilia, you might have tortelloni filled with pumpkin and crushed amaretto cookies.

I'll stick with the cheese, thank you.

Linguine con cozze e gamberini
Linguine con cozze e gamberini
I am not, as I constantly say, a fan of most seafood.  A number of people in both groups liked seafood and ordered pasta with a variety of seafood sauces.  The one above was, I believe, Charlene's. It was linguine which you probably know is a long pasta similar to fettuccine.  The big difference, other than the width (Linguine is not as wide.) is that it is more elliptical than flat.  Linguine is a very popular pasta to use with seafood.

Tagliatelle carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara
The history of spaghetti carbonara is one that people argue about (Imagine that Italians would argue!), but the fact is who cares from whence it came?  Pasta carbonara is spaghetti mixed with bacon (prosciutto) and raw egg and topped with cheese.  The heat of the hot pasta cooks the egg and makes an absolutely wonderful "sauce". . . usually.

Mike ordered tagliatelle (a wide, flat pasta) carbonara (above) a few days after he arrived in Bologna, so when we were in Burano, I was craving it, so I ordered it myself (below).  Let me tell you that a well-made carbonara has a creamy texture and a nice, creamy color (above).  The cook gets that by by beating the eggs and tossing the mixture with the pasta.  He/She then tosses in the bacon and tops with cheese.

When the waiter put my spaghetti carbonara in front of me last week, I immediately knew I was going to have a problem.  In the first place, it was too yellow.  Note the difference in the color between mine and Mike's.  I believe, from the taste, that they used just egg yolks for the sauce.

Spaghetti carbonara
"They added onions and garlic to the sauce," I told Mike.  "This is not going to be good."  By that statement, I meant that I was going to get sick, not that the pasta was not going to be good.  That said, the pasta was not good because it was not carbonara. It was some weird eggy, oniony, garlicky pasta that ended up making me sick.

Gramigna con salccicia
Gramigna con salccicia
Gramigna is another of the pastas from the Emilia-Romagna region, and it's one of my favorite new pastas. A wild, curly, grass-shaped pasta, gramigna typically is a mix of plain and spinach pasta.  Because of the curly shape, it can wrap around anything you cook with it.  I usually see it here with sausage and a light cream sauce (above), although I've also had it with sausage and a red sauce.

When I say "light cream sauce," I really mean it is a light sauce.  The base is 2/3 c of white wine, 1/2 c pasta water, and 3-4 T of cream.  Italians use pasta water in a lot of their sauces.

Ok.  Who wants what??

No comments:

Post a Comment