Monday, July 20, 2009

Pasta Alla Norma

So I made a recipe from the aforementioned skillet recipe book.

The recipe itself was easy, and simple, with simple ingredients.

It did, however, take 3 hours from start to finish. I would like to say that's how long it took for all the chopping, dicing, mincing and other what-have-yous, but that would be a lie. It should only take about 50 minutes to do the recipe from start to finish (including prep).

The reason why it took so long? I was talking to my mother for an hour and a half during the prep work. And since she gets all frustrated when I do things while talking on the phone (I'm not allowed to get ice for my drink, chop things on the cutting board, or type on the computer). I'm pretty sure that 'using the food processor' goes under the list of 'things not to do on the phone while talking to your mother'. Actually, i'm pretty sure that using the food processor is one of the more benign things on that list, but you get my point.

So I had to entertain myself by boiling, icing and peeling some garden tomatoes that I needed for the recipe and measuring everything out in little bowls (it could have been worse, I could have yelled "BAM!" when I added the garlic). And taking pictures. Which I won't bother to show here because I am lazy like that.

After getting off the phone with my mom, I followed the recipe and properly pulsed the tomatoes until they were smooth. Then I cut up the eggplant (I didn't want to cut the eggplant earlier because a) see list of things I'm not allowed to do while talking to my mother on the phone, and b) eggplant starts to turn brown right after you cut into it), and put it in the pan and slowly browned until done. Which was really more like I didn't want the pieces to look like shit so I took them out before they were actually done. After pouring all the eggplant into a different bowl to sit around until they were called for, I cooked the garlic, and tomato pulse puree for a while before adding the requisite amount of water and penne pasta. Stir, cover and simmer. Of course, stirring was a bit difficult as the pan was full to within 1" of the top. Anyhow, simmer until the pasta is done, stir in the cheese and cooked eggplant. And serve.

See, easy peasy. As long as you use the right cheese. I just looked at the recipe before going to the store and saw "Ricotta Salata" cheese, but didn't bother reading the part that explained that Salata is the hard ricotta, not the soft stuff I'm used to. So I added the soft cheese instead of the correct cheese...which of course imparts a gritty/grainy texture. So there you go, I can't read directions. Never mind that I also only used half the amount of eggplant and a different type of pepper than called for, plus garden tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes instead of only canned, peeled, whole tomatoes.

Shawn said he thought it was great, and thought I was crazy when I said I would either use the correct cheese, or less of the soft cheese. In fact, his only complaint was that I didn't cook the eggplant long enough. but some of the problem there is that he's used to mushy eggplant and I can't do that--all my veggies must be slightly firm except for mashed potatoes (and even then, I'm told I like dry mashed potatoes because I don't like them to be too thin and watery). So yes, I think the next time I make this, I may just use the HEB brand crushed tomatoes (they really are like tomato puree as opposed to the name brand stuff which tends to have little tomato chunks in it), and skip the eggplant, unless I have it on hand of course. And since I ate some of the pasta before adding the cheese, it is do-able, but the cheese really does take it to the next level, but just not as much...or maybe mix the cheese with some milk.

On a side note, I hopefully will be able to grow everything needed for this recipe (except the pasta and cheese) next year in my garden since I have eggplant seeds, garlic heads, pepper seeds, and tomato seeds.


The Spiteful Chef said...

I'm the same way with vegetables. I like 'em firm. And I don't like loose mashed potatoes.

So the difference between ricotta and ricotta salata is that ricotta is just "recooked" whey from making other cheeses. They separate all the teensy curds that are left in the whey, and that's ricotta cheese. Ricotta salata, however, is made from whole milk, not whey. And salted, thus the "salata" part. Just for fun.

katina said...

Yeah, I figured Ricotta Salata was just salted Ricotta, thus the buying of the soft stuff.

Jon said...

So, you aren't going to plant some pasta bushes and a cheese vine? Then, you could do it all with homegrown ingredients.