Food Bytes "Pasta Passion" by Monish Gujral in Sunday Stadard ;ew Indian Express

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MONISH GUJRAL Last Updated : 15 Jul 2011 12:27:47 PM IST
I have always had a big appetite for pastas, not just any but some special ones. Pastas are not only easy to cook but when cooked with right ingredients can be a complete, non-fuss meal. With my quest to make this dish more simplified, besides being tastier, I have tried to experiment with some easily available fresh seasonal vegetables, complementing them with some herbs to infuse some invigorating aromas.
During my last trip to the US, I went to one of my favourite restaurants Le Cirque, where I had my usual fares—for starters white Asparagus and smoked salmon on toast. For main course, I had Poussin “under a brick”, with ginger vegetables Fricassee and Pasta primavera, American “springtime Pasta”. It first appeared on the menu at Le Cirque in the 1970s, and Sirio Maccioni, the restaurant owner, not only takes credit for it but was also quoted in 1991 in The Times, saying, “It seemed like a good idea and people still like it.”
With all my respect to Maccioni and his restaurant, is pasta primavera a good idea? Which is to say, pasta tossed with a whole lot of vegetables, spring or
not—broccoli, tomatoes, peas, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, green beans, you name it—and enough cream to kill any hint of freshness? I’m all in favour of pasta with vegetables, but I want them to be prepared thoughtfully.
So, just as spring vegetables were rolled out in the market, I set out to create several spring-vegetable pasta dishes that are made in a more traditional Italian way—simply, and in a skillet—with just enough additional ingredients to heighten the flavours. Consider this pasta primavera nouvelle—because nothing seems more authentic than tossing the vegetable of the moment with pasta and just little seasoning.
The technique to make any kind of pasta is simple. For all recipes, bring a large pot of water to boil, add two-three drops of oil, salt, then add 250 to 500 gm of pasta. (Vary the amount depending on your preferred pasta-to-sauce ratio.) When the pasta is tender but not mushy, drain it, reserving one cup of cooking
water. As for the vegetables, sauté them in olive oil in a large skillet until they’re just barely tender. Then add the pasta to the skillet and toss, pouring in enough of the reserved water to cook both the pasta
and the vegetables.
Although there are many shapes and varieties of pastas available, they are all made basically from the same dough. The different names are based on their shapes just like our dosa, uthappam, idli etc. Below are some the well-known categories:
Long extruded noodles:
Spaghetti, Spaghettini (thin spaghetti), Vermicilli, Bucatini (hollow spaghetti), Fusili (coiled rod-shaped), Pici (very thick, long, hand-rolled).
Ribbon cut noodles: Fettucine (broader, approximately 6.5 mm wide), Lasagne (wide noodles with fluted edges), Linguine (flattened spaghetti), Stringozzi (like shoelaces) fall under this one.
Short-cut extruded pasta: Calamarata (wide, ring-shaped), Cannelloni (large stuffable tubes), Gomito (bent tubes), Manicotti (large stuffable ridged tubes), Macaroni, Penne (hollow ridged tube of medium length cut diagonally at both ends), Penne rigate (penne with ridged edges), Rigatoni (large and slightly curved tube), Ziti (long narrow hose-like tubes).
Decorative shapes: Conchiglie (seashell-shaped), Croxetti (flat coin-shaped discs with coat of arms stamped), Farfalle (bowtie-shaped), Fiori (flower-shaped), Radiatore (radiator-shaped), Rotelle (wagon wheel-shaped), Rotini (spiral) are some which stick together.
Minute pasta: Alfabeto (pasta shaped as alphabet), couscous (grain like pasta), Fregula (bead like), Orzo (rice-shaped), Risi (smaller version of Orzo), stelle (star- shaped) fit together.
Stuffed pasta: Cannelloni (rolls of pasta stuffed), Ravioli (stuffed square-shaped), Tortelloni (stuffed round or retangular-shaped), Tortellini (ring-shaped) flock together under the stuffed category.
Irregular shapes: Gnocchi (round- shaped made with flour and potatoes), Spatzle (German pasta, round-shaped).
So many shapes, so many names but one thing is for sure: Italians love their pasta. So much so that they named them like we would name our kids. See box for some interesting pasta recipes. Try to resist the urge to throw them all together so as not to confuse your mind with a sudden blast of flavours of medley of vegetables .



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First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.