I understood the true meaning of al dente during my recent trip to Italy. “Firm to bite” really is just that. Who would have known I have been over-cooking pasta all these years?! Today, I share two simple spaghetti dishes inspired by the highlight dishes of our trip.
But first, a few tips on getting that pasta perfectly al dente + scroll down for a series of images from our trip…
To cook pasta, first, weigh the quantity of pasta per head. A general rule of thumb is 60g to 80g a person for dried pasta and 100g to 120g for fresh pasta. This depends on the quantity of toppings involved, for the simple dishes below, go for the higher pasta weight.
Bring a large pot (at least three litres) of water to a rapid boil. Add ½ teaspoon of salt per litre to the water, and immediately follow with the pasta. Cook for 6-8 minutes (10-12 minutes for gluten-free) until a sampled piece of pasta is al dente (remember, firm to bite). Drain in a colander and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Spring Pesto with Broccoli Shoots
- A bunch of broccoli shoots, about 200g (or 1 small head of broccoli, stalk included)
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- A pinch of salt
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Small bunch of flat-leaf (Italian parsley), about 50g
- 30 g grated parmesan or pecorino, or 1-2 tsp miso paste for a dairy-free option
- About 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to season
- Cooked spaghetti to serve - directions above
Wash the broccoli shoots (if using a head of broccoli roughly chop), and place in a small saucepan with the water and salt. Cover and steam briefly for three to four minutes, just until the shoots turn a vibrant green. Drain and cover with cold water to refresh while preparing the remaining ingredients.
Thoroughly drain the broccoli shoots in a sieve, then place in a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and parmesan or miso. Process briefly to combine, then with the machine going, drizzle in the olive oil until a rough paste is achieved. The aim is to have a thick dollop-able sauce if it's not then add more oil. Season to taste.
Spoon the pesto into a jar and store in the fridge for up to three days.
To serve, cook the spaghetti as described above, then fold through two heaped tablespoons per person. Serve with grated parmesan and olive oil.
Ligurian Spaghetti with Mussels
- 30 g butter
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 16 mussels or 24 cockles
- A splash of white wine
- A twist of freshly cracked pepper
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Cooked spaghetti for two people - see directions above
In a wide, shallow pan such as a wok, melt the butter over a moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes. Dial up the heat and add the mussels or cockles and a splash of wine.
Clamp a lid on and cook, shaking often, for five minutes until the mussels open. Add the cooked spaghetti and a generous grind of black pepper, and toss to combine. Heat through then tip on to two plates, squeeze over lemon juice and serve immediately.
*Recipes first published 25 September 2019 on Stuff.co.nz.
Images from Italy – August 2019
All images by Ana Galloway.
Starting in Venice
Then to a magical night in Verona
Cinque Terre coast
And finishing in Florence for a cooking class.