In this month's PubChef - with the help of specialist Mediterranean ingredients company iB Food - we look at tips and ideas for creating perfect pasta.
Pasta is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which, like many other international cuisines, is now commonplace in the UK. Everyone loves pasta, and why not? It's a quick, easy dish and can be very filling, so people feel they are getting good value for money. In addition it's an excellent
base for a variety of vegetarian dishes and popular with children and teenagers alike. The longer pasta shapes, such as spaghetti are not as popular as they once were, especially in pubs. A long, fine pasta shape is usually complemented by a delicate sauce and can be messy to eat. Pubs are now sticking to shorter pasta shapes, such as garganelli or strozzapreti.
They can take a more robust sauce and can be baked off in the oven, like a lasagne, so are much more flexible. As far as gross profit is concerned, all the cost is in the sauce; the pasta,by comparison, is relatively cheap. If you choose a goodquality dried egg pasta, its porosity means the sauce coats it well - so you won't need as much sauce. Dried egg pasta also grows more per volume than any other type of pasta so a little really does go a long way. Gross profit with dried egg pasta can be anything from 75% to 85%, if used correctly.
Isabella Gambuzzi, managing director of iB Food, says: "Authenticity is very important to me. I believe it is also becoming increasingly important to customers. "If the choice is to have either a frozen ready-meal, heated in a microwave, or a home-made dish, which has been prepared on the premises by a creative chef who appreciates the quality of the ingredients and how to get the best out of them, I know which one I'd choose… and I think the public do too." iB Food has a wealth of innovative and new pasta recipe ideas on its website www.ibfoods.com
Dishes include tagliatelle with pumpkin and rocket, gnocchi with pesto and chicken, pasta in a wild boar sauce served between rondells of puff pastry and tagliatelle dello spazzacamino (chimney sweep's tagliatelle) made with black truffle paste. Many pub chefs are also choosing to make their own pasta, which can really help your menu stand out from the crowd.
Four-Colour Strozzapreti al Pesto Serves 4
Ingredients: 300g/101/2oz four-colour strozzapreti 100g/31/2oz pesto 30ml/1 fl oz double cream 80g/3oz grilled peppers 80g/3oz sun-blushed tomatoes 50g/3oz shaved parmigiano reggiano parmesan cheese
Method: Cook the pasta in boiling, salty water until al dente. Slice the grilled peppers and the sunblushed tomatoes. Place the pesto and the cream in a frying pan and warm gently. When the pasta is cooked, drain it from the cooking water and then toss into the pesto and cream sauce. Place the pasta into deep plates, garnish with the grilled vegetable mix and finish with the shaved parmesan.
Spinosini with Parma Ham and Lemon
Ingredients: 250g/9oz Spinosini 8 tbsp extravirgin olive oil Pinch of grated lemon peel 3 slices parma ham cut into julienne 40g/11/2oz freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano parmesan cheese 15g/1/2oz freshly chopped flat leaf parsley 1 ladle of cooking liquor
Method: Pan fry the parma ham in the olive oil. Cook the Spinosini in abundant salted water for two minutes, drain and add to the frying pan. Add the ladle of cooking liquor and cook for about 1 minute, then remove from the heat, add the grated lemon, parmesan and the parsley. Toss and serve at once.
Top tips for cooking pasta
Use a good-quality dried egg pasta as it remains al dente for longer and doesn't go soggy like other types of pasta.
Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water - we recommend 1 lt of water per 100g of pasta.
Keep the water at boiling point until the pasta is al dente.
Never be frightened to taste while cooking to check the texture.
Always toss the pasta in the sauce so it is thoroughly coated, never just serve the sauce on top of the undressed pasta.
Keep the sauce simple - a few good-quality ingredients provide a better flavour. Simplicity is best.
Dried egg pasta can be pre-cooked to al dente, strained (do not rinse in cold water as it takes away the flavour), tossed in olive oil and, when cooled, refrigerated until required.
Reheat the pasta by tossing in a sauce already heated and continue to heat through for a few minutes. Never return the pasta to boiling water to reheat.
Source: iB Food
Premier league pasta An artisan Italian pasta producer would like to see pub restaurant menus detailing the name and location of the pasta producer, in the same way wine is accredited. Vincenzo Spinosini, whose family has been making pasta using traditional methods and authentic regional recipes since 1933, feels that if this is done, people will be able to tell whether the product is authentic or not. Spinosini pasta contains a minimum of 33% whole fresh eggs from hens which have been fed on a diet enriched with natural sources of Omega 3 and Vitamin E.
Three flat long pasta shapes are available - fettucine, white tagliolini, and black squid-ink tagliolini - as well as Spinosini, a fine square spaghetti, which is excellent with seafood and other delicate flavoured sauces. Spinosini pasta is available from iB Food and costs £64.20 per carton, with each containing 20 x 250g packs. For more information call 0800 252522 or visit www.ibfoods.com
Pubs for pasta
The Eagle in High Street, Amersham, Buckinghamshire Head chef Stuart Schofield serves a variety of traditional pasta dishes, with the most popular being in a traditional carbonara sauce, seafood pasta (which includes prawns, mussels and white fish) and wild mushroom and sun-dried tomatoes with three-coloured pasta. Stuart says that his customers prefer a dish which uses authentic ingredients for that "homecooked food" taste.
The Cock at Ringmer, East Sussex The Cock holds a pasta night every Tuesday, where it sells a range of six different pasta dishes, cooked to order. Customers are offered garlic bread to start, a choice of pastas such as bacon and mussels in provençale tomato sauce, salmon and mushroom in a cream sauce, and pine nuts in a fresh basil and chilli sauce. To follow, there is a choice of dessert or half a bottle of Valpolicella or Frascati for £7.95 per person. Owner Joy Garnsey, says: "This is a relatively new venture, supported by good advertising, and we have already seen a significant increase in covers on an otherwise quiet night."
The Hare Arms in Kings Lynn, NorfolkAmong the pasta dishes on offer at the Hare Arms are Squid Ink black tortellini pasta filled with crab and ginger and served on a bed of roasted red pepper in a chilli and garlic sauce, and large ravioli filled with mozzarella, goat's cheese, black olives and tomato and coated with a creamy basil sauce
The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, Cheshire Among its dishes, the Goshawk pub features pasta linguini with sunblushed tomatoes, olives and rocket. The menu also includes woodland mushrooms on a bed of pasta and shaved parmesan.