Rules of Thumb: Secrets to Italian Recipes II

Pasta Sauces & Preparations

porcini mushrooms and pasta

These are the rules of thumb when choosing to prepare a basic Italian dish. If you happen to be a wizard in the kitchen and can design something incredible yourself, by all means do so. But we seem to have to apply to some strict rules - on the count that many pasta sauces have been distorted and badly jumbled.

Pasta's Not Topped with Cheese

Believe it or not just because you are eating what is known as "pasta", does not necessarily mean that you may smother it in pecorino or Parmigiano. Just have a look below for an idea of what is not smothered in cheese:

  • Lentils, fish or clams-seafood
  • Porcini or other mushrooms
  • Pasta's made with olives & capers

Too Much Garlic & Onion: Just how much is too much?

You may not know that Italians do not use 4 or more cloves of garlic in their recipes. Most recipes have been tampered with through the years, as to cater to different cultures with different tastes outside of Italy.

Garlic is used in fish & seafood preparations (1-2 cloves).

Recipes which call for mushrooms as an ingredient usually have garlic added. Wild game and pasta sauces made with duck, often call for both onion and garlic. Onion is added to pasta Carbonara, and also too many red sauces. Most often onion is used in sauces which also call for celery and carrots...

There are plenty of sauces that do not call for neither onion nor garlic - like some crème sauces, lasagne, cannelloni (on occasion they use onion) and pasta's with a base of cheeses and those with butter. There are Bolognese sauces that do not call for garlic. Surprised?

Garlic with these:

All Seafood's, Mushroom pasta's, some wild game, pesto sauces. In seafood based pasta's white wine is used, and in meat sauces red wine is added.

Onion with these:

Roasted meats, Ragù's, sauces with egg, red sauces. There are numerous recipes in the Euro-Italian kitchen which add egg to their pasta's.

Here are some examples:

Tagliatelle in Egg Salsa

Boil Tagliatelle pasta al dente, then add it into a pan of melted butter- mix over low heat, and then add a mixture of: 3 eggs, anchovy and diced mozzarella. When the mozzarella begins to melt and the eggs begin to form a cream, add the pasta-mix and quickly serve.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Roman)

600g spaghetti, 3 whole eggs, 200g pancetta bacon (diced), 30g butter, 50g grated parmigiano, 1 onion (diced), 1 stalk of parsley, dry white wine (1\2 cup) and black pepper

Brown onion and bacon in butter. When brown add in the white wine and let evaporate slowly.

Beat eggs and add in: parsley, Parmigiano, and pepper. Boil spaghetti al dente. When done mix with egg mixture, mix well and serve.

Pasta Sauces made with Nuts is common in Italian cooking.

tagliatelle

Egg Tagliatelle with Nuts

  • 600 g. tagliatelle
  • 12 walnuts
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tbsp of tomato sauce
  • 5 tbsp of parmigiano cheese

This dish is a central Italian tradition around Christmas time.

Egg Fettuccine with Nuts

700g fettuccine pasta, walnuts or hazelnuts (in big pieces), powdered sugar, cinnamon, dash of bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients together

It seems that a good combination with veal is sage and garlic. Baby lamb is prepared with rosemary, sage and garlic when grilled. Veal can be prepared with onion or garlic, but the "Agnello" or lamb seems to favor garlic in the Italian recipes- unless being prepared with celery and carrots.

These rules of thumb are for several Italian recipes, and seem to be the ones most followed, but there are of course exceptions.

Vegetables in the Italian Kitchen

Interesting as we may believe, if we don't already know, Italians were not the ones to invent boiled vegetables tossed in a bowl of butter. They blanch some tough type vegetables for 3-5 minutes then simply add them into the "Italian pan" one that was formally prepared with a garlic clove or two and some olive oil. I remember having the joy of experiencing both as a child, and the first time I tasted my aunt's spinach that was cooked exactly this way with the garlic and oil, I couldn't believe that spinach could taste so delicious. Many, if not all, vegetables are prepared in this manner by Italians- though not all need to be blanched first. Some vegetables are cooked in oil with salt and pepper and simply sprayed with fresh lemon juice.

A Roman broccoli recipe calls for:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup of white wine

They dice the broccoli up into tiny pieces and let it simmer in the oil with the garlic. The wine is then added after a while and it is simmered some more covered.

They are big fans of the artichoke. They make them in all sorts of ways, stuffed, boiled, deep fried, baked in soufflé's and cakes.

The Roman way, as they call it "alla Romana" is a combination of artichokes, lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, and mint. Stuffed Sicilian artichokes are combined with anchovies and bread crumbs.

Beans alla Toscana are paired with:

  • Olive oil
  • Sage
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper

When any type of legume is prepared with tomato, they likely add onion, parsley, and celery.

Who ever heard of frying flowers of the zucchini plant?

I know I myself discovered this unique trick from my strange (as I fathomed) grandfather. He used to tell me to go out and gather the strangest plants that I had ever heard of. First it was the dandelions growing along the grass, and then it was to gather the yellow flowers of the zucchini plant. I couldn't figure out what for.

The Italians are great in the flower preparation - they use; zucchini flowers that are not so opened, egg wash, flour and oil. You just have to cut off most of the stems, and the filament, cover in the egg wash and flour and deep fry them. The way they make them in Rome is fantastic! Somehow they mix in mozzarella and anchovy, they are scrumptious!!

By Jackelin J.Jarvis