A good number of us love pastas, we love the feel of the sauce, the flavors that explode with every passing bite. And during special occasions we like to flaunt our culinary skills by concocting special pasta dishes for our guests.
But if I can just ask you to indulge in the culture of Italy even just for a moment you will appreciate and discover the reason why Italian cuisine stands out in the grand stage of the global culinary arena.
By choosing the right ingredients for your pasta dish, you will level up your culinary expertise and trust me, you will be lauded for it.
Instead of using ordinary local tomatoes or popular tomato sauce / spaghetti sauce, I implore you to use imported Italian tomatoes, canned or fresh. You will immediately notice that there is a world of difference especially if you use the canned variety, pre-chopped already.
The canned product comes with its own juice or tomato sauce that when added to your dish will bring you closer to that genuine Italian feel. Just make sure to check the label for expiration and quality guarantee. Also, don’t be shy about using tomato paste and tomato ketchup. Yes they’re sour but it will heighten the taste of your sauce by packing in that real tomato experience.
Penne with pesto sauce, sun-dried tomato
and sautéed tuna
Herbs and Spices
Italian cuisine utilizes a lot of herbs and spices that most Mediterranean countries commonly use and is very popular in that region. The first and most important herb you can procure and utilize for your dish is fresh basil. That sweet, unique flavor of basil complements the tomato sauce perfectly.
Drop a few leaves of fresh basil when you’re done cooking or when you’re about to serve your dish on the table. The dish will still be hot enough to cook the leaves and when you place it on the table the aroma of the basil will entice everyone with much gusto and delight.
You can also use dried oregano and thyme for your recipes, other herbs and spices include rosemary, sage and marjoram. But be careful not to put too much, you don’t want to overpower your food with all that pungent albeit wonderful aroma. When it comes to spices, a little goes a long way.
Local brands of cheese are usually cheddar cheese. The one that easily melts can be likened to mozzarella but it’s actually not. You need to level up your pasta dish by trying out new types of cheese.
If you venture out into your local grocery store or supermarket, you can easily find parmesan cheese. This dry hard cheese gives your pasta recipe that distinct salty and nutty taste. Parmesan has a gritty texture that will propel your dish into new dimensions.
Mozarella is also a good kind of cheese if you are making penne, macaroni or baked spaghetti. Other types of cheese include Gouda, Romano and Provolone – they may be a bit expensive and hard to find, but if you have access to those members only superstores I’m sure you will find a good deal there for savory, authentic continental cheese.
Italian imported Ingredients
If you find your way inside one of those fancy stores that sell imported products, may they be canned, bottled or stored in a box, you might want to try out some of these fancy ingredients: capers, olives, olive oil, fresh mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and meats like Italian sausages, peperoni and Pancetta (Italian Bacon). Authentic carbonara uses Pancetta and parmesan, no cream.
If you have a recipe that utilizes any of the above mentioned ingredients, then I suggest you invest. They may be a bit pricey but I guarantee you they are well worth it. You can store them anyway if you don’t use the whole bottle at once, so you can make more in the future.
Italian ingredients include anchovies,
capers, olives, pepperoni and pancetta
Level up your pasta experience by experimenting on making new kinds of sauces. You can derive by searching online what a Veloute is, or a Béchamel sauce and Alfredo sauce. There are online videos that can assist you in making these types of sauces and it will be worth all that fuzz. Also, try making pasta using Pesto sauce. Pesto can be easily bought in the grocery store where you can purchase a bottle of this green, heavenly-scented, herb centered sauce. It is an enchanting type of sauce that is as versatile as it is very delectable. If you want to make your own pesto, again… refer to those videos.
Don’t buy expensive wine to cook with, it won’t make much of a difference and it will only hurt you financially. Try instead looking for boxed wines that are specially packed for cooking. When you use wine in your sauces it definitely adds a level of sophistication that will make your guests go “uummmm”. Wine is added at the height of the cooking process when you need to deglaze your pan with a liquid or when the sauce is hot enough for you to add the wine and cook the alcohol away.
When using these delicious ingredients please follow the recipes closely. The more you cook, the better you will become, the more successful your dishes will be. To this, I hope you enjoy your culinary journey into the wonderful world of pastas and I wish you luck, I wish you all the best.
Spaghetti Bolognese made with imported tomatoes
As an added bonus, I would like to share with you this simple Bolognese recipe you can easily cook at home:
500 gramsGround Pork
3 TbspOlive oil
4 Tbspchopped white onion
2 Tbspchopped garlic
3 Tbspwhite mushroom
3 TbspTomato Paste
3 TbspRed wine
2 TbspAll-purpose flour
1 cupsoup stock (chicken or beef)
400 gramsCanned Italian Tomato (chopped)
5 pcsFresh Basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Cheese: Cheddar and Parmesan to taste
Ensure the ground pork is clean by pouring water over it and straining in a sieve
To cook the sauce, use a sauce pan or a medium-sized wok, heat before putting the oil
Sauté in olive oil the onions and garlic, add the mushroom, cook until light brown
Add the ground pork and cook properly, cover the pan if possible
Mix the pork with a wooden spoon every few minutes to even out the cooking
After 5 minutes, mix in thoroughly the tomato paste, cook for another 5 minutes
Deglaze the pan with red wine, let cook properly and incorporate into the meat
Sprinkle flour all over the meat mixture, cook for a minute
Slowly pour over the soup stock and mix thoroughly
Cook over medium heat for another minute before adding the canned tomato
Add the oregano, thyme, salt and pepper
Cook further for another 10 minutes
Prepare your choice of pasta: spaghetti, penne, fettuccini, follow cooking instructions
Put your cooked pasta in a mixing bowl
Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the basil, lightly toss to incorporate all components
Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with two kinds of cheese
Chef JP is an entrepreneur in the food service industry and a part-time TESDA accredited trainer for competencies like Cookery, Food and Beverage and Front Office NC II. He previously worked in the hotels and restaurants as a cook but now concentrates on managing their family’s business operating food establishments for private and public clientele.