Pasta with Oven Roasted Vegetables

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I often get ask the questions “why are there so many different pasta type? Isn’t pasta all the same?”. The answer is, unsurprisingly, that each pasta shape is cleverly designed to serve a specific purpose, and, no, it is not all the same. You try talk a roman into matching amatriciana sauce with farfalle? You  are likely to get cursed at! How can you not know that only bucatini and rigatoni will do? By the same token, ask a genovese to replace spaghetti or trofie with orecchiette, to be lavishly coated in emerald green pesto sauce and he will tell you he’d rather set his own hair on fire than commit such blasphemy. Indeed, we do take the matter of pasta seriously in Italy. Each shape is suited for a particular type of sauce. Shellfish love spaghetti and linguine, penne is heavenly with a simple fresh tomato sauce and fusilli, the famous spiral-shaped pasta, is a perfect vehicle for chunky and rustic sauces, such as this one: oven roasted vegetables, rendered sweet by the addition of a little vincotto and the irresistible piquancy of extra-virgin olive oil.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 celery sticks, chopped,

1 green pepper (capsicum) cut into small chunks

3/4 shallots cut into quarters

2 garlic cloves, skin off, bashed with the back of a knife

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of  vincotto (replace with balsamic vinegar if hard to find)

salt to taste

1 lb of uncooked pasta (fusilli or rigatoni work well with this sauce)

basil leaves

percorino cheese (omit for a vegan, dairy-free option)

How to

1. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl, add the oil, vicotto (or vinegar) and a little salt. Toss to combine and place the vegetables onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

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2. Bake in a preheated 180C  (350 F) oven for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly blistered. Set aside to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate if not using straight away. The vegetables will keep well in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Drop in your pasta and cook al dente, according to instructions.

4. Drain the pasta, but reserve 2-3 tablespoons of pasta cooking water.

5. Toss the pasta in the tray with the vegetables until well coated, add a little pasta cooking water if too dry.  Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

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6. Top with freshly grated pecorino cheese and a few basil leaves. Serve hot, or at room temperature as a summer pasta salad.

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Pumpkin Seed Wholemeal Bread Rolls

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I was overjoyed when my friend Alessandra, the talented woman behind Dinner in Venice, asked me if I could write a guest post on her blog. I had been inspired by her writing, her photography and her honest quest for the authenticity of Italian food since I started my own blog back in 2011. Like Ale, I am an italian-born woman, recently migrated in an English speaking country (Australia) and, just like Ale, I have been fascinated and enamoured with the bounty of local produce and diverse cuisine my new home-land had to offer. But, after migrating, I could not help missing my Bella Italia, the very scent of it, it’s flavor. My most unsatisfied carving was bread, real bread,  Il pane. Fragrant, crunchy and bronzed, with its inviting crackly crust and a moist and airy crumb. I have learnt to make it at home, from slow-prooving sourdoughs to yeast-risen ones, for more immediate gratification. And everytime a loaf is baking in my oven, I can simply close my eyes and smell my beloved Italy from my sunny Sydney kitchen.

INGREDIENTS, makes 6-8 rolls

2 cups of wholemeal (wholewheat) flour

1 cup of strong baker’s flour (or plain, or 00 flour)

300 ml (1-1/4 cup) of lukewarm water mixed with 1-1/2  tablespoons of dried yeast

1 teaspoon of honey or barley malt syrup

2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons of salt

milk for brushing

2-3 handfuls of pepitas or any seeds you prefer

HOW TO

1. Place the flour in a large bowl, add the water and yeast, honey (or barley malt syrup) and oil.

2. Knead onto a floured bench for 3-4 minutes, then add the salt and keep keading for 3-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and soft.

3. Rest the dough into a floured bowl and cover with a tea-towel.

4. After 30 minutes, stretch the dough to shape a rectangle, then fold it into three and onto itself. Place the dough back in the bowl. Repeat a second time after 30 minutes. Folding the dough will ensure the softest, moistest crumb.

5. Prove the dough in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.

6. Shape he dough into 6-8 rolls and place them closed together onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Brush the top with milk, or buttermilk and top them with pepita seeds. Rest the rolls covered with a tea-towel for 30-45 minutes. In the meantime bring your oven to 200 C (390 F)

7. Bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes or until crusty and bronzed and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool at room temperature before eating.

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Pasta Bake

This pasta dish tastes as good as it looks.

A generous amount of al dente pasta, layered with melting mozzarella, oven-baked sweet tomatoes, oregano, Parmigiano and crispy breadcrumbs.

What’s not to love about it?

It’s a family favourite and you will find most of you at the table will be fighting over the crunchy pasta bits of top!
It is the ideal meal to prepare if you have left-over pasta or left-over sugo, or both.

The other day I cooked a pork stew and I intentionally cut off the bones of the ribs to add to a garlic and tomato slow-cooked sauce to have the following day.

We Italians don’t waste anything when it comes to cooking!

All I had to do yesterday was boil up some pasta until just before al dente, as it will keep cooking in the oven, mix the sauce through, throw in a good amount of bocconcini (any melting cheese you have in the fridge will do), Parmigiano, dried oregano, black pepper.

Ingredients for 4 people

500 ml (2 cups) of tin tomatoes

250 ml (1 cup) water

2 garlic cloves, bashed

3 pork rib bones

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

400 gr (3/4 packet) of Fusilli or Rigatoni

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 cup of mozzarella cheese

1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup of parmesan, grated

1/4 cup of dried origano

salt and pepper to taste

How to

Sautee’ the garlic in oil, add the bones, the tomatoes and the water and bring to the boil. Turn th wheat down, add 2 teaspoons of salt a 1 bay leaf and slow cook for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

Drop in you pasta and cooked until 3/4 done.

Pour the pasta onto an oven dish generously smeared with sugo (tomato sauce) and dusted with bread crumbs. Cover with tomato sauce.

Top it with halved tomatoes, more Parmigiano, mozzarella, dried oregano and more coarsely chopped bread crumbs.

I covered it in foil and baked it for 20 minutes at 200 Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), then uncovered for a further 15 minutes to create a crunchy crust.

My teenager niece and nephew polished off their plates so well I needn’t have put them in the dish washer…

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