Friday, August 14, 2015

Layered Delight: A Italian pasta story with recipe



















The first time I encountered pasta was back in the 80s, when I was still a teenager; my mother's eldest sister had paid a visit to Italy and brought back quite a few bagfuls of edible souvenirs including packets of pasta in myriad shapes. It was the time when pasta was practically unheard of amongst the middle-class Indian masses and the handful of Italian restaurants prevailing in the scene were Indianized pizza-pasta joints. I fondly remember my mother and my 'maasi' whiling away the day in the kitchen trying to recreate the taste which my 'maasi' savoured in Italy. The efforts cannot be termed futile, as it ended up opening up a whole new cuisine to me and my siblings, but lack of authentic ingredients hindered the achievement of that tang which my 'maasi' was craving to relish again.

Fast forward to 2015 and the 80s seem like a pre-historic era gone by. Pasta is something which has become a pantry staple. Infact, it is not at all unusual to see kids declaring that they want a particular pasta with a particular sauce for dinner that night. Still, the memory of that day is etched in my memory and will be, forever. I remember, that, after the fail attempt at recreating pasta, my mother came up with unique and out-of-the-box ideas to use up the pasta brought over by my 'maasi'. So when Del Monte sent me a packet of pasta and allowed me the liberty of experimenting with the pasta; my mother, my maasi and that day from the 80s came rushing back to me and left me with a recipe which proved to be a sure hit among my family.

The carefully baked succulent capsicum just explodes with juices as you dig into the dish, paving way for the cheesiness of mozzarella, the tang from the tomato sauce, the bite of the sweet corn and finally the heartiness of pasta, all topped with a sprig of fresh basil to shower some freshness and cut through the richness. Interested to know the recipe? Read on...


Ingredients

For Pasta boiling:
  • 200 gm. Pasta
  • 2 glasses of Water
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
For Sauce:
  • 1/2 kg.Tomato
  • 2 tbsp chopped Garlic
  • few chopped Fresh Basil leaves
  • Salt to taste 
  • 1/2 tsp crusted Pepper 
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tbsp cooking vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
For Stuffing:
  • 4 large Capsicums 
  • 4 large Tomatoes 
  • 2 tbsp sweet Corn
  • 1 cup of Tomato Sauce
  • 8 tbsp Grated Cheese
  •  1 finely chopped Onion
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp mix pasta masala 
  • 2 chopped fresh Basil leaves

Method

For Pasta:
  1. Put water, vegetable oil and 1/4 tsp of salt in a wide pan, let it come to a boil.
  2. When the water starts boiling, put pasta in it and cook until al dente.
  3. Drain the pasta in a colander and set it aside.
For Sauce:
  1. Firstly, put tomatoes in boiling water and let the skin crack. 
  2. Once the tomato's skin is cracked, remove it and let it cook down. 
  3. Once it has cooled down; peel the tomatoes, dice them and purée them in a blender or a food processor.
  4. Now, take a saucepan, put olive oil and garlic.
  5. When the garlic starts to get light brown, add the tomato purée, a teaspoon of sugar and salt to taste.
  6. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened up and one cannot taste the rawness of tomatoes any more.
  7. Turn the gas off and let the sauce cool down a bit before proceeding.
  8. Now, mix the pasta with the sauce.
For Stuffing:
  1. Preheat an oven at 220 Degrees.
  2. Hollow out Capsicums and Tomatoes. To do that, just cut the top and run the knife vertically in the interior.
  3. Put a layer of pasta mixed with sauce (layer one).
  4. Put a layer of chopped vegetables (layer two).
  5. Put a layer of grated cheese (layer three).
  6. Now, put the stuffed capsicums and tomatoes in a baking dish and bake at 175 Degrees in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the capsicums and tomatoes look roasted enough and the top layer of cheese has molten down beautifully.
  7. The dish is ready to be served.
Tips:
  1. This dish makes for an amazing party food or when hosting anyone, as it is very easy to make.
  2. If you wish, you can repeat the whole layering process twice or thrice to make the dish more presentable.

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