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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

Alice's Spaghetti Primer - How to Eat Spaghetti
(return to food)

see also...

Pasta e Verduara : 140 Vegetable Sauces for Spaghetti, Fusilli, Rigatoni, and all other noodles by Jack Bishop

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Siggy's Spaghetti Works by Peggy Thompson

Non-Italians usually do not know where to begin when faced with a plate of spaghetti al dente; in fact all they have to do is to roll it around their forks. In order to make it shorter, some cut it with the fork or even a knife. Others use a spoon to help or they take too much at a time on their fork. Then they have to open their mouths wide, and the sauce dribbles down their chins. Finally, exhausted by all this effort, they leave their plates hallf-full.

Spaghetti is sold in the right size, neither too long nor too short
It is so easy! First, no spoon, no knife-- neither is permitted. Only a fork. The rolling operation must be done with the fork on the curve of the wide, deep bowl (piatto fondo) in which it is served. It must be a wide bowl like a shallow soup bowl with a shallow rim against which the prongs of the fork are held while rolling in a clockwise motion (counter-clockwise for left-handers so as not to splatter the sauce on yourself). Work with the right hand against the left side of the plate and vice versa for left-handers. Now, free a little space at the side of the bowl, heaping the spaghetti toward the center.

Now take the spaghetti, not too much or too little and do not cut it. Spaghetti is sold in the right size, neither too long nor too short. It should be about ten inches long. However, if it is longer, it does not matter, it will still roll around your fork.

An Italian takes some of the spaghhetti on his or her fork, raises it high above the bowl and measures the length with his eye. If he decides it is too long, then he puts drops some off the fork and picks up a smaller amount which is then rolled expertly around the fork to form a neat bundle, exactly the right size to go easily into the mouth.

Eating spaghetti italian-style as it is not as rebellious as it may seem.

Your homework assignment: practice what you have learned by eating all kinds of spaghetti. Here are some to try:

Spaghetti al Limone, Olive e Basilico - Lemon Spaghetti with Olives & Basil
This is wonderfully smooth and creamy even though it contains just a tiny bit of cream. It can be as puckery tart as you like, depending on how much lemon you use, with bites of black olive and sweet basil to punctuate the Mediterranean flavor.

12 ounces spaghettini
4 tablespoons sour cream, creme fraiche, or regular cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Zest of 1 lemon, cut from the lemon into long strips with a zester
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan or other grating cheese
2 garlic cloves, chopped
20 to 25 kalamata olives, or other brined black olives, pitted and cut into slivers
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
1 Tbsp of olive oil in the boiling water for San Francisco residents

Put pasta bowls and serving bowl in the oven at 170F. Cook the pasta in rapidly boiling salted water until al dente, then drain. Toss with the sour cream, then with salt, pepper and lemon zest.

Working quickly, toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, cheese, garlic and olives. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter with the basil.

Serve at once, with extra lemon and Parmesan for those who desire it.

Serves 4.

Pasta con Aglio e Salmone Sott'olio - Pasta with Garlic and Salmon Under in Oil
6 Cloves Garlic - sliced
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 Cups Salmon under oil
1/2 Tsp. Peperoncini - crushed
1/4 Tsp. Dill leaves - dry
16 ounces of spaghetti
Salt 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the water (for San Francisco residents)
Parmesan Cheese Optional

Put pasta bowls and serving bowl in the oven at 170F. Start the pasta water before starting anything else. Spaghetti or linguine are both good choices for this dish.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large fry pan. Add the sliced garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat prior to browning the garlic.

Place the salmon in the pan with the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes over high heat, stirring gently to keep the fish from burning. A tablespoon of water in the pan will also usually keep the fish from burning.

Turn off the heat. By now the pasta water should either be boiling or be ready to boil. Once it boils add salt, and then the pasta. After the pasta has cooked for 4-5 minutes, remove a cup of the pasta water from the pot and add it to the fry pan with the garlic and salmon mixture. Turn on the heat and bring the salmon mixture to a boil.

Drain the pasta when it is very al dente, reserving a cup more of the pasta water in case the sauce becomes too dry while preparing the rest of the dish. Put the pasta in the fry pan with the salmon, add the peperoncini, the dill, salt to taste and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. Stir the mixture for a minute or so until all of the flavors of the garlic and fish are integrated. If all of the pasta sauce is absorbed, add the extra cup of pasta water now, and stir for 15-20 seconds more. Serve immediately with or without Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti alla Siracusiana - Spaghetti Syracuse Style
Syracuse, the beautiful port city on the Ionian Sea in Sicily, has a cuisine that is marked by highly aromatic combinations of vegetables and seafood. This pasta recipe is a distinctive example.

1 1- to 1 1/4 -pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large yellow bell pepper
2 pounds tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, flattened
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
4 ounces brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata), pitted, coarsely chopped
12 large basil leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup packed fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1Tbsp of olive oil (for San Francisco residents)

Put pasta bowls and serving bowl in the oven at 170F. Arrange eggplant on double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Char bell pepper over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Wrap in paper bag and let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed and slice pepper into thin strips. Blanch tomatoes in pot of boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain. Peel tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half; squeeze out seeds. Chop tomatoes; set aside.

Heat oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic; saut� until light brown, about 3 minutes. Discard garlic. Add eggplant to pot; saut� until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add anchovies; stir 2 minutes. Add tomatoes; reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes. Add olives, basil, capers and bell pepper strips and simmer until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Rewarm over low heat before using.)

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain well. Transfer spaghetti to large shallow bowl. Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with cheese.

6 Servings

Spaghetti al Pesto - Spaghetti with Pesto
The word pesto comes from pestare, to grind or mash, and purists make this Ligurian sauce with a mortar and pestle.

30 leaves freshly picked basil (about a packed cup)
1/2 cup grated aged pecorino (you will want Tuscan pecorino here, not pecorino romano, which is too sharp. If you cannot find Tuscan pecorino, increase the Parmigiano to 1 cup)
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano
2 cloves of garlic
2/3 cup the best olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pine nuts (optional)
1 Tbsp of olive oil in the pasta water (for San Francisco residents)

If, perchance, you have a marble mortar and wish to use it (according to the purists, neither brass nor wood mortars will work), put the salt, garlic, pine nuts and basil in it and grind the mixture, firmly crushing the ingredients against the sides of the mortar, rather than striking sharp blows with the pestle. When the mixture is ground, add the cheese, a bit at a time, continuing to grind, and when it is all worked in, add the oil in a slow stream, stirring with a wooden spatula. The resulting pesto should be smooth and creamy.

If you are using a food processor or blender instead, chop the garlic, basil, pine nuts, and salt, being careful not to let the mixture liquefy, then transfer it to a bowl and stir in the cheese and the oil.

Put the pasta bowls and the serving bowl in the oven at 170F. Cook a pound of pasta, and just before you drain it stir two tablespoons of pasta water into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti all' Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino - Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil & Hot Pepper
16 oz spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic
2 piece of peperoncino
olive oil
Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp of olive oil in the pasta water (for San Francisco residents)

Put the pasta bowls and serving bowl into the oven at 170F Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water. A few minutes before draining them heat 1/4 cup of oil, add the garlic and the peperoncino and cook slowly until they turn golden. Add the sauce to the drained spaghetti and serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.


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