Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pasta alla Yobbo Grande

I am part wog. In fact, 51.25% Italian* by my maths, which is majority ownership by most measures. Pasta was the first thing I learned to cook properly, and if a clueless pre-pubescent muppet can learn to make decent spag there's no reason you lot of scruff can't either.

Now you'll see a lot of pasta served in a lot of poncy nosheries swathed in complicated creamy sauces and drowning in oil... see, nah. That's not how we roll. Pasta is simplicity. Good ingredients combined correctly is everything Italian cooking is about. Emphasis on good. Almost everything good in Italian cooking is based around good quality olive oil and good quality garlic. Likewise pasta - the Home Brand stuff might be a buck cheaper but the proper Italian stuff is Worth It. Head to your local Italian deli and stock up on the unpronounceable genuine article. Or if you're unlucky enough to live in a Godforsaken Anglophile white-bread backwater like Tamworth, Ballarat or (ahem) New Zealand, wait until Barilla comes on special at Woolies. Fresh pasta is great but not really worth the massive premium over top notch dry stuff in my rarely humble opinion - unless you make it yourself of course.

Breakfast of champions
Bacon and eggs? How about spaghetti carbonara? Forget the cream sauce. Leave that amateur crap to Fasta Pasta. Believe me, this works. Particularly as a hangover cure.
300-500g good pasta - any shape but fettucine or tagliatelle would be my picks
200g bacon, chopped into matchbox slivers
3-4 free range eggs (depending on size), warmed to room temp
heaps of grated parmesan
ground black pepper
1-2 crushed cloves garlic or jar-derived equivalent
splash of olive oil (just enough to dampen the garlic)
Heat the oil and the garlic, fry the bacon until it begins to 'reduce' (i.e. the fat renders and liquifies). Cook the pasta. Beat hell out of the eggs, throw in the parmesan, grind a bunch of black pepper through it. Drain the pasta, then quickly thro the bacon and oil, and the egg and parmesan at it. Stir like buggery. The egg will cook just enough and the cheese will melt just enough to serve as a just-creamy-enough sauce. The single most beautifully conceived concept Italy has produced since Maria Grazia Cucinotta.

Something a bit more complicated
For a basic tomato-based sauce, panfry your new best friends olive oil and garlic with finely chopped onion, then simmer through a can or two of chopped tomatoes. That sounds so simple as to be trivial but I promise you it ain't. You can use that simple sauce as the basis for all manner of death-defying acts of derring-do, or even derring-don't-but-sounded-good-anyway. Such as:
  • Panfry peeled prawns (or calamari, or even marinara mix) at ludicrous temp in olive oil, garlic and chilli (teaspoon or two each per 300g ocean bounty) - as dry as you can keep it, don't let them stew in excess liquid - then add your pre-simmered tomato base and freshly cooked pasta for astonishingly good garlic chilli prawns. If this doesn't get you laid you are rubbish and should join a monastry, if only for the beer.

  • Thicken up your sauce with half a jar or more of commercial pasta sauce (Dolmio et al - it's not cheating, honest) for a bit of extra body in a spag-bol-on-steroids - 250g each beef and pork mince, some portabello mushrooms, and a good cupful of drinkable red, preferably something smooth and round like a cab merlot. Remember - and I do mean this - never to cook with wine you wouldn't be prepared to drink. If it tastes of arse in the glass, it'll taste of date on the plate.

  • Tonight's effort (for those taking notes): 400g premium beef mince, bit of bacon, bit of chopped Milano salami, panfried in olive oil, set aside. Do yer tomato sauce thing - two cans of chopped tomato, rinse can residue out with glass or so of red, use remainder of red to improve own world view. Cook pasta. Throw together. Grate parmesan thereover. Eat. Write about it on internet.

  • Don't be afeared of playing around with your combinations and your variations. Try adding olives, more chilli and spicy salami for a punchy arrabiata style sauce. Or more tomato and roughly torn-up fresh basil. Or Romano cheese grated into the simmering sauce to smooth out the sharp tomatoey edges. Just don't try on everything you've bought at once, like the culinary equivalent of a Double Bay trophy wife.
Good luck with it, and as the Italians say... [makes series of obscure and possibly obscene thrusting gestures before being led away by La Polizia]

The Doctor is OUT.

*There was a Swiss-Italian great-great-grandsomething somewhere on the old man's side. Apparently.


  1. Sounds beautiful - I'll be trying the chopped beef one this weekend!

  2. And I like the Yobo style - as U mentioned - date on plate + remainder of red to improve own world view. Nice!

  3. If you have your own eggs, as i do, then you need to make pasta, especially with duck eggs.

  4. Yup home made pasta pwns everything. The woggy farmer rels from up The Channon way make their own. Fantastic stuff.

  5. Hey, Yarbo-that pasta omelet thing sounds like a bit of all right. And homemade pasta is the best-if not that, then the most local variety one can get.

    D'you make lasagna, then?

  6. Can do. Lasagne, cannelloni (bit more stuffing around though - literally) - just knock up a white/bechamel sauce (or buy one), get some decent mozzarella in, Win to the power of More Win.

  7. Pasta has got me more action than pity or smooth talking. The ladies sure do love a bloke who can bang a half decent pasta & salad in front of them.
    Just beware the precendent or you'll end up cooking %90 of the time for next 15 years.
    Ask me how I know.
    twitch twitch

  8. My Carbonara always includes mushrooms when they're available (simmered with the bacon and shallots) just because... erm, they're available. Some chopped parsley, coriander or for the win the thing that's halfway in between (a stuttering neuron says it's called french parsley, but I wouldn't depend on that) tossed through at the end when it's off the heat helps keep it fresh too.

    I'd get into pasta making more - hampered by a need to cater to gluten-freeness which is not a thing I recommend attempting with your average pasta machine.

    My poor-starving-student share-housing trump card was making my own pizza bases. You'd roll a pizza worth of base out, slap it in a hot, oiled cast-iron pan, add paste and toppings while it was on the heat, finish with cheese and once the bottom was starting to rise whack the whole thing under the grill. You'd have just time to roll out the next one while the first cooked, perhaps bantering a little and doing some exaggerated base-twirling in the air like a comic old-school pizza chef.

    The other (BBQ) party trick was to hand out leftover pizza dough for people to make flat shapes (as with playdough) to throw on the barbie. These would rise and make a pretty decent pan bread.