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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Italian Cooking Lessons


I have been making my way through a lot of classic Italian pasta dishes. I think that it is very important to be able to create these dishes in the most traditional way. YouTube is an excellent source for recipes and I have been spending a lot of time there wading through dozens of instructional videos for each of these dishes. Determining the most traditional recipe is a lot like triangulating a location. If you look at 20 videos of a particular dish you can narrow down the ingredients to the bare minimum. Italian cooking is about using a few high quality ingredients to create a very specific taste and texture. As I heard one Italian chef explain, the three most important things about Italian cooking are quality, quality, and quality.

I made an experimental version of bucatini all’amtriciana last night but I didn’t have the correct ingredients. Instead of guanciale (pork cheek) I used pancetta and instead of Pecorino cheese I used Grana Padano, two substitutions that would disqualify this as being bucatini all’amatriciana.  The next time I make this I will track down the proper ingredients, even if I have to fly to Italy to do it. Anyone who has eaten from my kitchen knows that my Spanish dishes are 100% authentic. I am trying to carry this culinary honesty over to the Italian dishes I am learning.

A key factor in many Italian pasta dishes is having good tomato sauce on hand. I make tomato sauce in bulk (but never enough) and freeze a lot of it in small containers. My tomato sauce is infinitely better than anything out of a jar or can and it is easy to make.  As I have said before, for me it is one of those un-improvable dishes and comes out delicious every time. This un-improvable tomato sauce will improve just about any pasta dish that calls for tomatoes. 

The next dish on my list will be carbonara.

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