A saucy tale

A saucy tale

It is not often that I prefer mashing tomatoes over learning how to pronounce a knotty word. Sometimes, I do. Because sometimes it is mighty easier to mash tomatoes, whisk the butter, pound the nuts and finely chop the parsley than taking lessons in how-to-speak-Italian, where you have to put the tongue to the teeth to make the 'd' more explosive, 'i' sharper and 'p' a little less forced'.

In Park Hyatt Goa Resort & Spa's De Luigi, the Italian restaurant, I was sitting with chef Franco Canzano to learn all about Italian sauces, but I could not concoct a perfect-pronunciation recipe. You think I am daft. Try saying funghi e piselli (sauce of mushrooms, bacon and fresh green peas) without faltering and tartufata (truffle sauce flavoured with Marsala or white wine and garlic) without sounding silly.

Balance of flavours

Names of sauces were getting addled. So, I returned to the basics. How to make the perfect Italian sauce, the sauce that keeps us from consuming naked, tasteless noodles just lying there in a limp tangle. "Perfect sauce? There are so many sauces in the Italian cuisine that there is no one perfect sauce. Italian sauces can be categorised according to region, dish, even weather."

Chef Canzano would know all things Italian - he is an Italian, who grew up in Argentina. Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna (hence, the name); carbonara in Rome (the name comes from the traditional charcoal workers); arrabbiata from south Italy; marinara and neapolitan in Naples; ragu reached Emilia-Romagna in the late 18th century. In Italy, the same sauce will taste different in different regions. For example, the pesto from Sicily will have loads of almonds because they grow some of the best almonds around.

Remember, the sauce rules. Think of the number five. Think of a sauce with  five ingredients or less (including olive oil and garlic, but not salt and pepper). Remember, the one sauce does not slather all pasta rule.

To each its own special sauce. Frutti di mare, the seafood sauce, is best paired with long pastas like linguini and spaghetti; carbonara with spaghetti; tagliatelle and pappardelle are the two fresh pastas that goes very well with bolognese sauce; large, ridged rigatoni goes well both with large chunks of meat in ragú Napoletano and fried pieces of eggplant in Sicily's pasta alla Norma.

Angel hair might be served with olive oil and parsley and linguine with tiny clams. Short tubular pastas match well with heavier meat-based or vegetable sauces, such as penne ai carciofi. Long, skinny pastas are best paired with olive oil-based sauces while shaped pasta such as wheels, farfalle and fusilli are perfect at catching heavy sauces.

Easy to make

The names of Italian sauces were still getting muddled in my head. I looked at the restaurant menu and guessed how much time it would take to make chicken tortellini on truffle-scented mushroom sauce, and spaghetti with aglio olio pepperoncino. Perhaps 30 minutes. "30 minutes? The best sauce is made fresh.

If all the ingredients are handy, 10 minutes is all you need to make the Italian sauce." True to the word, five sauces were on my table in 15 minutes flat. Chef Canzano makes one exception, though. He says the only sauce that withstands refrigeration well is the bolognese sauce. "Make 10 kgs of it and store it," Canzano says with a smile.

But if you are in a hurry, just pick a jar, open the lid and dunk your pasta in the readymade sauce. Not all store-bought pasta will pack an unforgettable aroma but there's a few brands that make it to the good-pasta list. There's the velvety, consistent, not majorly spiced Rao's marinara sauce, which makes it to rank 7 in Thrillist's nine best store-bought pasta sauce list.

Guy Fieri Traditional Old Skool pasta sauce tops that list for being "so tasty, so smoky, so alive with crushed red pepper and slow-cooked herbs, that it quite literally has soul". The other's on the podium are Prego Traditional, Barilla, Ragu, FunFoods pasta sauce, Mealfastrr Italian Neopolitana Sauce and Reggia Italian Pesto. 

Singer, songwriter Steve Albini said: "In heaven, after antipasti, the first course will be pasta." Which sauce will the angels serve the pasta with? Ragu Bolognese? Roasted tomato and almond pesto? Or a salsa alla capricciosa?

Know the sauce

Vongole: Clam sauce with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic.

Acciughe: Sauce of anchovies flavoured with garlic, oil and parsley.

Cacciatore: Meat and vegetable sauce flavoured with juniper berries.

Marinara: Sauce of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and basil.

Noci: Pounded walnuts and pine nuts with oil, garlic and chopped parsley.

Pesto: Oil, grated cheese, pine nuts, basil and garlic pounded into a paste.

Romana: Meat and chicken sauce with chopped mushrooms.

Aglio e olio: Garlic, olive oil and parsley.

Amatricana: Sauce of fresh tomatoes, chopped bacon, onion and garlic, served with grated pecorino romano cheese.

Umbria: A sauce of pounded anchovies, oil and garlic, flavoured with tomatoes and truffles.

Pasta alla Norma takes its name from Norma, a famous opera written in the early 19th century by composer Vincenzo Bellini. Because Bellini was a native of Cantania, Sicily, a chef in Cantania named his eggplant and pasta dish after the opera.

Carbonara Sauce

Ingredients:
Fresh bacon cubes: 80 gm
Egg yolks: 3
Parmesan cheese: 50 gm
Chopped parsley: 10 gm
Crushed black pepper: 5 gm
Cream: 40 ml
White wine: 10 ml
Extra virgin olive oil: 10 ml
Salt to taste

Method

* Saute the bacon in little oil till crisp and golden brown.

* Make a mixture of egg yolks parmesan cheese, crushed pepper, parsley salt and cream in a bowl. Whisk it nicely and keep it aside.

* When the bacon is crispy and golden brown glaze it with white wine and add the cheese and egg mixture to the pan. Stir for 5 second and remove from the flame to avoid coagulation.

* This sauce is very sensitive and delicate as it tends to curdle very fast if overheated. Drizzle olive oil on top. Serve hot.

Bolognese sauce

Ingredients:
Beef mince: 1 kg
Chopped onion: 100 gm
Diced carrot: 50 gm
Diced celery: 660 gm
Red wine: 100 ml
Tomato paste: 50 gm
Peeled tomato (pilati): 100 gm
Beef/chicken stock: 4 litre
Parmesan rind (trimmings): 200 gm
Garlic: 20 gm
Bay leaf: 3
Thyme, rosemary: 2 sprig each
Refined oil: 60 ml

Method

* In a broad cooking vessel, pour oil and cook onion, carrot and celery until translucent.

* Add the mince beef and sear till the water evaporates completely. Add tomato paste, stir continuously till the mince get dry and starts sticking on the pot.

* Then add red wine and let it cook till it becomes dry again. Add tomato pelati slightly crushed by your hand. Cook for 10 minutes.

* Add half a litre of beef stock and cook on a slow flame. Make a bouquet of rosemary thyme, garlic, and bay leaf and add to the pot.

* Keep adding beef stock little at a time and stir occasionally. Cook for 5 hours.

* In the end, season with salt and pepper.

Recipe courtesy: Chef Franco Canzano, Executive Chef, Park Hyatt Goa Resort & Spa

 

 

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