Monday, May 6, 2013

Naked Lunch

There are many many Italian recipes that rely not only on precise timing but the absolutely best of ingredients.

That's because they are naked.

They barely consist of an ingredient or two and would easily be spoilt if the timings are off. Also, unlike a lot of recipes they are not "salvageable". A mistake is the same as guaranteed failure. In fact, they are frequently given as a test to budding chefs to see how well they cope with pressure in the kitchen.

However they are far from difficult.

They are shockingly easy if you understand the logic and get a good grasp of the timing and they are best enjoyed with a glass of excellent wine at a solitary lunch away from all pressures (like serving food to other people.)

Easy except for the pressure of timing, of course!

The recipes come from all over Italy. Butter dominates in the North. Olive oil in the South. There are passionate arguments on both sides and much heat is generated but not enough light so the CC will skip these meaningless arguments in favor of the recipes themselves.

What is common to all of them is the logic of pasta making and the excellence of the ingredients — kinda obvious given that there are so few to start with.

Boil the heavily-salted water. When it comes to a boil, add the pasta (almost but not always dried for dishes of this nature.) Get the timing right. Start making the sauce at precisely the right time so that the pasta will be ready in time for the sauce. Add a ladleful of the pasta water to the sauce (which is how the salt gets into the sauce.) Toss everything together and serve at once.

It's like a dance relying on perfect timing.

Spaghetti Alio e Olio (Roman)


6-8 cloves garlic (minced)

chopped red chilli pepper (optional)

6 tbsp olive oil
black pepper
chopped parsley


Sautée the garlic in olive oil at low heat till golden. Be very very careful as it has a tendency to burn. (= FAIL!)

Add a splash of the pasta water, a generous amount of black pepper, and the spaghetti. Toss everything together.

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe


2 tbsp "fat" (butter or olive oil)
1 clove garlic (smashed)

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
4 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp chopped rosemary


NOTE: the amount black pepper is not a mistake. The name means "cheese and black pepper" and if you desire black pepper then black pepper it shall be!

Heat up the butter or olive oil. Add the garlic and let cook gently until golden but not burnt. (= FAIL!)

When the pasta is done, add everything else with some pasta water and toss together.

Pasta con Burro e Salvia


4 tbsp butter
10-12 sage leaves

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano


NOTE: This recipe is best with fresh pasta because the butter brings out the rich taste of the eggs in the pasta.

Heat up the butter and let it cook at low heat until it is golden but the milk fat solids have not burnt (= FAIL!)

Toss in the sage leaves and fry for a few seconds. More and they will burn. (= FAIL!)

Toss in the pasta, the cheese and some pasta water if needed and serve at once.

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