Thursday, 24 January 2013

Kitchen Essentials: Pasta


Who doesn't love pasta, right? There are so many different varieties. Different shapes, sizes, flavours, textures... whole wheat, gluten-free etc. The possibilities when it comes to pasta are endless. Pasta is an essential in my kitchen, and for a lot of others, with good reason.
Pasta in History

Popular legend has it that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy following his exploration of the Far East in the late 13th century; however, we can trace pasta back as far as the fourth century B.C., where an Etruscan tomb showed a group of natives making what appears to be pasta.
The Chinese were making a noodle-like food as early as 3000 B.C. And Greek mythology suggests that the Greek God Vulcan invented a device that made strings of dough (the first spaghetti!).
Pasta made its way to the New World through the English, who discovered it while touring Italy. Colonists brought to America the English practice of cooking noodles at least one half hour, then smothering them with cream sauce and cheese.
Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing the first “macaroni” machine to America in 1789 when he returned home after serving as ambassador to France.
The first industrial pasta factory in America was built in Brooklyn in 1848 by, of all people, a Frenchman, who spread his spaghetti strands on the roof to dry in the sunshine. (source)

Here's why you should definitely keep a stock of pasta in your kitchen:

  • It's cheap. If you're on a budget or looking for a cheap weeknight meal, pasta is a definite go-to. You can find many varieties of local and foreign dried pastas at the grocery for under TTD$10.00. The higher quality pastas are a little more pricey, but still very affordable.
  • It's filling. Carbs is a good way to keep you full for a good amount of time. With all the possible add-ins for pasta (anything goes great with pasta), you're sure to have a hearty meal that will be very satisfactory.
  • It's quick and easy. It take fifteen minutes or less (based on the type of pasta) to prepare a batch of pasta. Thicker pastas would of course take more time to cook, just as dried pasta add a few more minutes compared to fresh pasta.
  • It's healthy! Depending on your preparation of pasta, and the variety you choose, pasta can be a very healthy meal. Wean yourself on to more whole wheat/grain pastas, add lots of fresh vegetables and herbs in there, and you've got yourself a healthy meal in no time.
  • Fresh pasta is easy to make, and tastes delicious. Homemade pasta may seem a bit scary for some, but there are many easy recipes for fresh homemade pasta that are always worth the effort. Many varieties of kitchen equipment are now available for making pasta and fresh dough.
  • The possibilities are endless! There are so many recipes out there for any type of pasta you'd imagine and as mentioned before, pasta goes great with anything! Meats, cheeses, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, oils... what can't you put into pasta. When you have something prepared and run out of serving ideas , pasta it is! 

Here's a few recipes I have discovered for pasta, pasta sauces and complete pasta dishes, that I'm sure you'll love too.
  1. Jamie Oliver's Fresh Homemade Egg Pasta - There's really nothing that can compare to homemade pasta... and it's easy to make it your own!
  2. Homemade Potato Gnocchi - If you've never made homemade gnocchi, you should definitely give it a try. It's easy to prepare and takes hardly any time at all. Season it to your liking and those soft pillows of pasta will be divine.
  3. Spaghetti a la Carbonara - One of my favourites, most definitely! It requires minimal ingredients but delivers maximum flavour. It's amazing how easy it is too!
  4. Aglio e Olio - It translates to garlic and oil which are the star ingredients in this pasta dish. It requires very few ingredients but that definitely does not compromise it's taste. For such a simple pasta, quality ingredients are best, but it results in a light, refreshing and gratifying pasta.
  5. Chicken, Ham and Cheese Penne - Pasta is a great way to use up leftover ingredients, just as the writer did for this recipe.
I will, without a doubt, be posting more pasta recipes that I have tried, and those of my own. My Pinterest  page is loaded with great recipes I have found and pinned, including those of numerous pasta dishes. Special sections are dedicated to cheap dishes requiring very few ingredients as well as healthier alternatives including vegan and gluten-free options. I may have a bit of a love affair with pasta, but I am attempting to opt for healthier pastas such as the whole wheat and homemade kinds.
Very often, even when I eat out, I choose pasta as my meal. I would always recommend the alfredo from Abraham's Grill Hut on Caroni Savannah Road which is divine! And affordable. For more deluxe dining, try Angelo's on Ariapita Avenue! There are a lot of other great places out there, but that's just to name a few.
If you'd like some great pestos to whip up a delicious meal at home in minutes, check out Del Mano for a great variety of local, organic pestos. I personally love the sweet pepper pesto with a bit of garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes for a nice kick. Delicious!

I'll always keep some pasta on hand, will you?

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