Students, cook pasta like the professionals
By Nicole Correia,
Believe it or not, it is possible to burn pasta and perhaps this is inevitable for many, as it is often the first meal that young people are taught to make - after beans on toast, that is. From an early age many children of Italian families are taught how to make fresh pasta. Celebrity Chef Francesco Mazzei, was no exception, later growing up making wonderful pasta dishes - now head chef at L’Anima, an award winning restaurant in the heart of London.
I spoke to Francesco all about pasta, and more specifically, how to make it yourself. He explained the techniques he had learnt mixing and kneading pasta dough by hand: “It’s quite difficult to get a big lump of dough rolled out in one piece. You need a very long rolling pin to do the job properly.”
This is perhaps something that students today aren’t fully practiced in, even students with Italian families. Emmi Sara, an undergraduate at Leeds University, told theunipod that she eats pasta on average four days a week, and despite not making the pasta from scratch she makes a sauce with her Nonno whilst at home and defrosts it when she needs it in Leeds. You’ll find that at university your freezer will often be fuller than your fridge shelf and that keeping a balance between fresh food ingredients and frozen basics will mean you are never left with plain pasta (or dry bread!) as a meal.
Who would have thought that your bowl of pasta in the evening was part of something cultural at university? This was something that Marco Giovannelli, a university student, brought to my attention when I asked him about pasta in his life at the University of Southampton: “One of the things Italian students miss the most while studying abroad is the Italian cuisine”, which all of us can understand as we swirl our forks around a mound of spaghetti. Missing the homemade dishes inspired him to start up an Italian society, bringing together Italians and people who enjoy Italian culture ‘to satisfy their needs (as well as mine, of course!) and eat pasta!’ And there are so many types of it, too! Whether you’re a proud pasta Italian, a well-known chef or just a regular pasta-eating student, everyone has a favourite dish, and so many of them can be made from other ingredients knocking about in your food cupboard.
Francesco said his favourite dish had to be Pastachina, “‘which is literally a lasagne without any béchamel sauce, but red wine, tomato sauce, small meatballs and plenty of cheese.” Lasagne ingredients are bits you can store in your food cupboard cheaply, then use once you have bought the fresh ingredients, you’re ready to go. Tinned tomatoes aren’t expensive and there’s nothing to frown about using them. Indeed, Francesco uses them himself. Try and always keep a couple onions and garlic handy in your cupboard for pasta dishes like this. Apparently, too, you can’t go wrong with Pastachina, as it can be eaten hot or cold. He also recommended pan-frying any leftovers – “just as beautiful too!”
So, the headchefs are eating their leftovers too. Fantastico! Lorella Falzone, a pasta-lover and student at Hertfordshire University suggested tomato puree as her own student tip for cooking pasta sauce: “it helps improve the rich tomato taste” - and is another food cupboard find. She also adds some olive oil to the boiling water so the pasta doesn’t stick together, and adds it again once it’s on her plate, as well as adding a hint of parmesan when the pasta is nearly done.
Hopefully this tips will inspire you to some Italian delights. Buon appetito!