Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pasta: when nothing else will do

There are times in life when you crave simple foods. Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Pure and simple pot roast doused in Worcestershire sauce. A great poached egg and buttered toast for dipping. And plain pasta with a simple sauce. The last one has been elusive to me for a while until I saw an episode of a Nigella Lawson show where she made the most dreamy and simple pasta dish. As a bonus, it's a great meal to make when you're alone, rushed for time, or have very little in your fridge (or all of the above). Here is my take on that recipe:

You'll need a handful of thin pasta like angel hair or capellini. I say handful here because I mean to take some (as much as you want) and prepare it as you would any pasta, in boiling salted water.

For the sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil (or butter if you're adventurous)
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp basil
salt & pepper (lots of pepper)

In a small saucepan, add a few drops of oil and put it over a low heat. Then add the yolks and whisk like crazy. The yolks will change colour a little and become creamy. Whisking continuously, drizzle in the remaining oil until it all becomes emulsified and cohesive. Add the seasonings and cheese, whisk and toss with your still-warm pasta immediately. If you wish (or have some on hand) squeeze some lemon into the sauce before mixing it with the pasta. This will make you dish just like Nigella's lemon linguine.

By keep the temperature of your pan low and whisking constantly, you'll keep the eggs from scrambling. At the same time, the heat you do give the pan, as well as the heat from the pasta, will be enough to coddle the eggs enough so they're not raw.

This is a creamy pasta sauce that is soothing and satisfying. It doesn't keep well so make just enough to eat at the time of preparation.

As with the lemon juice trick, you may experiment with this basic sauce to your heart's desire. Add cream for an extra decadent treat, sun dried tomatoes, chilies, more herbs, scallops or shrimp, etc.

For some tips on separating your eggs, see this. You can also freeze your egg whites if you have nothing to do with them right away. And for more on whisking:

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