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Pasta Fresca - New Old Favourite


Pasta fresca (translation: fresh pasta; fresh pulp) is both a reference to the sauce, and to the speed at which this dish can be delivered to the table.  New old favourite is what pasta fresca becomes with the help of a few simple chef tricks.

The sauce, while bursting with layers of fresh-picked flavour, is simply peeled tomatoes put up in glass jars, (though quality canned italian tomatoes work well also), crushed then heated quickly (just to boiling then removed from the stove, covered) together with some mashed confit garlic and its infused oil, plus a few generous rubs of oregano or basil leaves.   You will need:

  • 2 quarts (glass jars), or 2 28-0z (828 ml) cans peeled whole San Marzano or plum tomatoes.
  • confit garlic in olive oil (4-6 cloves each in its own teaspoon of oil), or garlic-infused olive oil
  • fresh or dried oregano and/or basil
  • dried red chili flakes (optional)
  • sea salt for the pasta water
  • 1lb (454) grams dry bronze-cut* pasta - we like papardelle
  • extra virgin olive oil to finish (we prefer Domenica Fiore)

Pasta Fresca with Hatch Chilis 325x225Mix it up:  For a bit of heat and contrasting colour, add thinly sliced  fire-roasted hatch or other hot peppers.  For a touch of sweet, add fire-roasted sweet red peppers.

*Bronze-cut pasta is made in Italy using artisanal methods and bronze dies to extrude the noodles.  The result is a lighter-coloured noodle with a translucent white sandpapery 'tooth' that grabs onto sauce and olive oil.   Almost all pasta today is made using teflon dies that produce a smooth finish, which while attractive, can resist sauce. Bronze-cut pasta is slightly more expensive, but in our book - well worth the investment.

Tip:  To make this recipe go even further for a crowd, or satisfy kids who love their noodles nearly naked, add organic chicken or vegetable stock to the crushed tomatoes in their juice, before boiling.  All of that goodness will be absorbed by the pasta and the kids won't be the wiser.

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Pour the tomatoes in to a large saucepan (large enough to hold the tomatoes and pasta, with room to spare) and crush them to pulp, with clean hands.  If using canned tomatoes, remove any hard bits of stem and basil leaves as well.  Mash 4-6 cloves of confit garlic against the side of the pot, and stir the galic and oil in to the crushed tomato.   Finger-rub/crush a tablespoon or so of fresh-dried oregano and/or basil into the pot.  Add a pinch or crushed chili if you please, and taste for salt.  Correct theseasoning if needed, though if using excellent quality tomatoes, they should taste near-perfect on their own.  Turn the heat to low-medium, cover and heat gently.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (it should taste like the sea) and add the bronze-cut pasta. Return the water to a boil and estimate the cook time to one+ minutes shy of al dente.  For ultimate results, it is important to under-cook the pasta noodles.

A minute or so before you expect the pasta to be cooked  as decribed above, bring the tomatoes in their juices to a boil quickly.  The mixture will be very watery, which is what you want.  Reduce the heat, cover (to prevent evaporation) and simmer until needed.

When the pasta is slightly undercooked, drain it quickly, shaking in its own steam until dry.  Do not rinse.   Quickly tip the pasta in the hot tomato and tomato juice mixture and mix to distribute.  The dry, hot, thirsty pasta will drink up the garlicky tomato juice and blush ever so slightly pink.  Finish by drizzling and folding extra virgin olive oil through the noodles.

In under 15 minutes you can put an exquisite new old-fashioned dinner on the table.  Shaved or grated peccorino is lovely, but this dish stands on its own as is.

Submitted by:

C@H Kitchen