I don’t believe in recipes. I don’t think that great dishes can come out of blindly following recipes. Dishes which cry out your name. Dishes that linger in your mind long after the last bite. You can follow the rules but you can’t predict how a dish will turn out. Recipes can guide but should not define. The joy of cooking lies in spontaneity. In discoveries which you make on the way. In the changes that happen as you get to know your ingredients better. As you learn to enjoy each moment in the kitchen and move onto the next. You have to get under the skin of your ingredients, your cooking knives, your condiments and your sauces. You have to understand them. Appreciate them. Give in to them at times. There would be the occasional burnt daal on the way. The odd uncooked vindaloo. Over salted mashed potatoes. Or soggy noodles. But then, who said that every dish has to be perfect? It doesn’t have to be. It has to be you. Out of great chaos come harmony. In food. In relations. In life.
I wanted to make a creamy pasta for Kainaz on Friday. But I was dead beat after a day of irritants and disappointments. I didn’t want to cook. But needed good food. Amore and Kakori House came to the rescue.
I then slept though large parts of Saturday to prime myself to cook K’s pasta.
I remembered her mentioning ‘bow pasta’ last time. I picked up some farafelle from Sante at Pali Market, Bandra.
Then, on a whim, I bought ‘Hungarian salami’ (Rs 150/ 3 USD for 100 g) instead of chicken sausages. The meat turned out to be sharp, slightly sour, slightly salty … reminiscent of peperoni and Portuguese chorizo.
I decided to make the meat the hero of the dish. I thought of a mild cheese sauce which wouldn’t overpower the taste of the meat. I planned to season it with rosemary which was at home.
I opened the fridge and saw half a packet of tomato puree. That’s when I decided to shift from a cream sauce to a tomato sauce. Like a good housewife I didn’t want the puree to go waste. I also wanted to see how my tomato sauce would turn out without champagne! I had more a paste or thick sauce in mind. Not a milky or soupy sauce.
So here’s how the marriage of meat and pasta came about. Yes, a recipe 🙂
I heated two tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick pan. I then added a tablespoon of finely chopped garlic cloves to this and waited till the garlic became golden and gave out a lovely aroma. Next went in half a finely chopped tomato which was lying in the fridge.
I added 100 g of finely chopped Hungarian salami once the tomato began to soften. I let this cook till a bit of oil began to come out. I then added the tomato puree (100 ml). No champagne or corn flour this time. I stirred this for a while till the puree looked bright and red and cooked.
I added 250 g of boiled pasta. Last time K said that she felt that there was never enough pasta. This quietened her. It fed us both and fed us well unlike my usual 200 g.
I gently stirred the pasta and added a tablespoon of salt, half a teaspoon of sugar (not required if you use ketchup instead of puree) and a tablespoon of fresh rosemary.
I let this cook for about ten minutes as I took pictures. This led to the occasional unintended but nice crunchy bite of pasta.
I garnished the dish with two finely chopped chillies and a cube of finely chopped Amul cheese. A very mild cheese. The idea was to ensure that the cheese didn’t interfere with the meat. As K said, it didn’t.
The result was a nice dryish pasta with a spring in its bite. The Olive Oil spoke of sunny Sicily. The rich red meat of the cold of Northern Italy. The green chilly of the Bengali chef.
As good a marriage as any.