This week I was lucky to catch renowned Tuscan Chef Francesco Lagi for a culinary demonstration at George Brown College during its Viva Italia! Cucina festivities. Celebrity chef Lagi spent a good part of his demo showing how to make the perfect pasta at home.
Chef Lagi made the art of Italian pasta-making look easy, effortlessly putting together a couple of beautiful and elegant pasta dishes in front of the crowd in only an hour – all from scratch!
My salivating mouth made me try making fresh stuffed pasta almost immediately after the demo, even without a pasta machine!
Like a masala dabba (masala box) is to an Indian, a pasta machine is to an Italian. Chef Lagi said every Italian household owns a pasta machine and fresh pasta is the only way to go.
Even though a pasta machine is a quicker route to homemade pasta, I was not deterred to do some rolling by hand. It was suggested rolling pasta on a well-floured marble surface should do the trick, and indeed it did!
Whenever I’m trying a new recipe, I usually turn to a favourite cookbook of mine for reference – The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl. It seems this culinary ‘bible of a book’ always has the recipes I’m looking for with detailed step-by-step instructions and cooking tips that do wonders for the novice cook.
Fresh pasta ingredients = flour (I used soft whole wheat chappati flour), egg, sea salt, a little water. Pulse in the food processor. Dough should be pliable and not dry. Roll out a thin as possible. Using a pasta cutter, make into rounds.
Stuffing = 2 varieties. I made one with Curried Sweet Potato Mash and another with a seasoned masala ricotta cheese filling.
Boil pasta for only a couple of minutes – do not overcook! I was surprised when the chef said the pasta should only be cooked for a couple of minutes as it will further cook in the sauce.
Curry Leaf Indian Spiced Tomato Sauce
1/8 cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ red onion, chopped
10 Arvinda’s Curry Leaves
1 can (796 ml) diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. Arvinda’s Curry Masala (use 1 ½ tbsp. for bolder flavour)
1 tsp. sea salt
Method: On medium heat, gently heat olive oil. Add garlic and onion and fry until fragrant, for a couple of minutes. Add Arvinda’s Curry Leaves and fry for one minute. Add diced tomatoes (with liquid reserve). Simmer for a couple of minutes. Stir in Arvinda’s Curry Masala and sea salt to taste. Gently spoon in pasta and toss for a couple of minutes. Serve hot and enjoy.
The pasta was beautifully soft but not overcooked, tasted fresh and wholesome and in my opinion was worthy to please even an Italian guest at the table!
For those of you who like spicy flavours try this pasta sauce. It’s quick, easy, fresh and subtly Indian. I’ve been known to add turmeric (or curry powder) to all my pasta sauces for good measure, but this recipe using Arvinda’s Curry Masala was more intense. The buttery soft pasta mingled with the ever so lightly spiced tomato sauce had a balanced flavour that kept me coming for more. I was way too happy with this night’s dinner!
Bonus – If you reduce this sauce until it thickens, you can serve this as a tomato chutney alongside pakoras or bhajias (vegetable fritters). This was a hit in our lentils class this week!
A teaspoon of: Gigi D’Agostino. Listening to: I’ll Fly With You.