Wednesday, June 23, 2010

AUTHENTIC PASTA DISHES PASS THE 30-MINUTE TEST IN GIULIANO HAZAN'S NEW COOKBOOK

"In 2004, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that according
to a survey commissioned the the Italian National Research Council, one-third
of Italians would rather dig into a dish of pasta than have sex."
--from the Introduction of GIULIANO HAZAN'S THIRTY MINUTE PASTA

Well Americans love pasta too and sensing our carb phobia has finally passed, Giuliano Hazan delivers a diverse and tasty new cookbook devoted to pasta and all within 30 minutes.
THIRTY MINUTE PASTA: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes (Stewart, Tabori and Chang; $27.50; ISBN: 978-1-58479-807-1), is the kind of effortless and creative 'quick' cookbook that I like to keep close at hand for those nights when I'm not feeling terribly ambitious and crave something really delicious and soul-satisfying in a hurry.

Giuliano Hazan's has wonderful pedigree as the son of the legendary Marcella Hazan (and Victor too), and has accomplished much in the culinary world on his own. He has a cooking school in Verona, and won the IACP Cooking Teacher of the Year award in 2007. His first book, The Classic Pasta Cookbook, sold half a million copies worldwide. He regularly appears on TV (including the Today Show).

Do we need another book on pasta? We do when it comes to the variety of quickly prepared dishes Hazan presents here. He gives new currency to old favorites and manages to create new ways or variations to expand our pasta repertoire. Spaghetti with a Meatless Carbonara dispenses with pancetta, and in the process gives us a newer, fresher, and lighter version of this old classic. Spaghetti with Olives, Capers and Anchovies, omits tomatoes (Puttanesca-style) with breadcrumbs binding the sauce instead of the usual tomatoes. Broccoli Soup with Pasta is as easy as it is delicious and offers lots of flavor and the few ingredients needed make it an easy weeknight effort. There are four sauces with a pesto component: Classic Basil Pesto, Creamy Basil Pesto, Walnut Pesto and Parsley and Mint Pesto.

There are classics we love here too. I had to go to Rome to discover the joy of tucking into Spaghetti with Cheese and Pepper (Cacio e Pepe) and once sampled, I had to have it over and over again. Fettucine Alfredo, Fettucine with Spring Vegetables (known as Primavera--Hazan's rightly advises not to undercook the vegetables, which concentrate their flavor), Linguine with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella (Sorrentina), Orecchiette with Broccoli, Bucatini with Spicy Tomato Sauce (all'Amatriciana), are just a few of the best-known pasta dishes to be found here.

Intriguing and unusual combinations included Tagliatelle with Chickpeas, Spaghetti with Melon (cantaloupe), Spaghetti with Carrots and Fusilli with Butternut Squash. A favorite for me in this spring season just past is Penne with Asparagus and Prosciutto. This elegant pasta is rich and the addition of some of the water used to cook the asparagus gives it a more intense flavor.


Hazan discusses both dried and fresh pasta (and wisely enjoys both, side-stepping that dreary subject of preference) as well as the many shapes you'll find in your local market. He helps the cook set up their pantry including perishables, non-perishables, various cheeses, herbs, olives, and other Italian staples with one page devoted entirely to the proper way to cook pasta. From there on, Hazan organizes his recipes into categories: Pasta soups, and pastas with vegetables, seafood and meat. There are many beautifully styled photographs by Joseph De Leo, which would make the book an ideal gift.

GIULIANO HAZAN'S THIRTY MINUTE PASTAS is a book to turn to when you need to get a great meal on the table in record time. But use it only when you're in a hurry. Linguine with Crab and Arugula, begs to be prepared for company.

Penne with Asparagus and Prosciutto

This is one of our favorites in spring when sweet, meaty asparagus is in season. To infuse this sauce with a rich asparagus flavor, I save some of the water the asparagus cooks in and use it to deglaze the skillet.

3/4 pound asparagus

1/2 medium yellow onion

3 tablespoons butter

4 ounces prosciutto, sliced 1/8 inch thick

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 pound penne (short fusilli or egg fettuccine are also good)

(serves 4)

1. Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.

2. Fill a 10-inch skillet (or asparagus cooker) with water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.

3. Cut off the white woody bottom part of the asparagus spears, then peel the remaining bottom third. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water, then gently slide in the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is tender, 5 to 6 minutes, then lift it out and set aside. Save 1/2 cup of the water the asparagus cooked in.

4. While the asparagus is cooking, peel and finely chop the onion. Put the butter in a 12-inch skillet, add the chopped onion, and place over medium high heat. Sauté until the onion has turned to a rich golden color, about 5 minutes.

5. Cut the prosciutto slices into strips about 1/8-inch wide and 1-inch long. When the onion is ready, add the prosciutto and sauté until it loses its raw color, 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths and add then to the pan. Continue sautéing until the asparagus becomes lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the saved asparagus water and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated completely, loosening any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.

7. Add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, add the penne, and stir well. Cook until al dente.

8. While the pasta is cooking, add the cream to the asragus and cook until the cream has thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

9. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce and the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve at once.




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