National Pasta Day is Oct. 17, and I’m here to give you a few tips and tricks to make the most of that other-worldly delicacy. According to the National Pasta Association — yes, that exists — Americans eat 2.7 million tons of pasta every year! Therefore, it would almost be a cardinal sin to not have a day dedicated to the Italian food.
Now, I’m in no way, shape or form Italian, so it’s up to you to trust the word of someone who is mostly German to comment on pasta, but believe me, it’s one of my favorite foods both to eat and to make. Like other Americans, I enjoy what Italians have brought to the U.S., especially their cuisine. So, let’s get into the importance of pasta.
Whether fresh or dried, pasta is a great way to make a dish a meal. Pasta, while incredibly cheap, is rich in carbohydrates which we all need for energy. However, the way you prepare it is just as important as the energy it gives you for your day.
Much like Mexican cuisine, there are fundamental differences between the purely Italian version of pasta and the Italian American versions. The main differences include the use of red sauces, which were largely created in the U.S. In fact, that whole plate of marinara sauce and meatballs on top of spaghetti was created here. Traditional Italian dishes, when compared to their American cousins, are much lighter.
Traditional Italian dishes usually incorporate fresh produce, including bright red tomatoes, balsamic vinegars and olives oils, herbs, meats (including their famous pork related delicacies) and seafood.
When paired with these Italian flavors, pasta may seem like the backup, but it is just as important to have perfectly executed pasta. Therefore, here’s a pasta recipe that will stand out no matter what you pair it with.
1 ½ cups all purpose, unbleached flour
½ cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. After you’ve mixed the dry ingredients, make a large well in the center of the flours and add the olive oil and eggs (including that yolk).
Take a fork and start whisking the wet ingredients inside the well vigorously. When the eggs are starting to look completely mixed start moving your fork to the outer edges of the well, incorporating the dry ingredients little by little. When you have mixed all of the dry ingredients into the well, dump the mixture out onto a wooden cutting board. It will be slightly craggy.
Now, here’s where the real work starts. Begin kneading the dough by pushing the dough ball away from you until it nearly breaks. Then, take your palm and roll the dough back towards you, until the dough rolls over itself. Continue this process until the dough is smooth and incredibly taught. Pushing and rolling the dough back onto itself creates those strong gluten strands and a layered product.
When you have a smooth ball of pasta dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. When the dough has finished resting, take it out of the plastic wrap and work it a little bit to get workable again. Now you’re ready to make whatever pasta you plan to make.
Eggs are incredibly important for getting the flavor and that traditional yellow color, so use very fresh eggs. The fresher the egg, the more orange the yolk and the more yellow your pasta will be.
When you’re rolling out the dough and cutting it to shape make sure you coat the dough in either semolina or all-purpose flour constantly, or else it will stick!
Now, maybe you’re at a loss for what to do with that beautiful lump of pasta you’ve just created. Well, I’ve got you covered with this simple yet flavorful Aglio e Olio recipe. In fact, this recipe is so good, that even Scarlett Johannsson couldn’t keep her hands off of it when filming the movie “Chef.” This recipe is adapted from the official website of the “Chef Show”; however, it is changed a little bit to make the process easier for a home chef.
Aglio E Olio
1 pound your freshly made spaghetti
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced (get out your razor blade if you have to, wise guys)
2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
¾ cup fresh Italian parsley, minced
¼ cup parmesan, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt heavily and begin boiling your water for the spaghetti.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Fry the garlic in the oil until it’s just about brown. Remove from the heat immediately. Add the red pepper flakes.
Boil your spaghetti until it is al dente, then drain. Heat the saucepan with the garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat once again. Add the pasta and use tongs to get the pasta completely covered in the oil. Add the parsley, parmesan and lemon, mix until it is all incorporated.
Serve the pasta in a bowl with a topping of parm and red pepper flakes.