Pasta e Ceci

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by hawkflight, Sep 14, 2017.

  1. hawkflight

    hawkflight

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    Hello everyone. I'm a casual chef looking for advice on my pasta e ceci.

    The way I normally make it is to boil two boxes of penne pasta, drain it, then add two tablespoons of chopped rosemary, a couple cloves of garlic, two cans of chickpeas, some olive oil, and some shredded cheese. Recently, I've taken to adding some pine nuts and finishing it with truffle salt, which has made all the difference in the world, as well as crushing the rosemary and garlic in a mortar and pestle and adding the olive oil directly to that, allowing the rosemary and garlic to infuse the oil. I just had a few questions about how to make this dish even better.

    Question the first: Truffle salt. Should i continue using it as a finish, or should I add it to the olive oil early? I've heard truffle is highly fat-soluble, infusing the oil with its natural ... truffleness. (Is that a word? It is now.) So I'm wondering if it's best to infuse the oil along with the herbs and garlic.

    Question the second: Should I add a leaf or two of bayleaf to the mixture? Maybe crack it and add it to the oil mixture, then taking it out before adding the oil mixture to the pot?

    Question the third: I've been considering adding chopped tomatoes to the dish, but I honestly don't know how to go about doing that. The last time I tried, the tomatoes just ended up a soggy, mushy mess instead of the crisp pearls of slightly-acidic juiciness that I was anticipating. Did I add them too early? Should I wait until the dish is finished then just add the chopped tomatoes at the last minute? Or even better, to the bowl as it's being served? And how about when there's leftovers, which there will inevitably be?

    Hoping to hear some professional opinions on this. I may not be an professional myself, but I do take great pride in my work, especially when I'm serving it for others.
     
  2. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    It is unclear how your dish is coming together. Are you cooking this infusion of oil/garlic/herbs? I think that's how I would go about it. I would heat the oil with the garlic and some chili flakes and you could add the tomatoes here so that it becomes a bit of a sauce. You could put the bay leaf in there too although if I were making this dish I would use dried chickpeas and I would cook them with bay leaf and then discard.

    If you like the truffle salt continue to use it as you have been. I wouldn't add it the infusion because heat will kill it.

    Welcome to cheftalk. How many people are you feeding with so much pasta?
     
  3. hawkflight

    hawkflight

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    Hi! Thanks for the welcome. I'm just feeding myself and my two parents, and sometimes my grandma. But we're on a budget, both monetary and temporal, so we like to make a lot of food and have leftovers ready for the next day or two.

    To clarify, I cook the pasta, take it off the heat, drain it, and add the rest of the ingredients (the herb/garlic oil mixture, cheese, etc.) directly to the pot of naked pasta and stir them in. While we do like the cheese nice and melty (it melts from the radiant heat leftover in the pasta, obviously), we don't like to make a sauce out of it. That's one of the biggest attractions of the dish to us -- it's not saucy, so the texture and flavor of everything comes through clearly. But it also makes working with fresh tomatoes a challenge -- too much abuse and they just get all mushy and unappetizing.

    I'm unsure how you mean to heat the oil. Do you mean just put it in a pan with the herbs and garlic and cook it until it becomes fragrant? Because I hadn't thought of that, thanks for the tip. I can't really add chili flakes though -- my mom and grandma are sensitive to spicy things, which makes cooking here a bit of a challenge. And wouldn't the spiciness of the chili flakes completely overwhelm the truffle anyways?

    P.S.: I would love to use dried chickpeas myself, but sadly, i just don't have the time or skill to work with them at the moment. :(

    P.P.S.: For clarification, it's black truffle salt, not white truffle salt. Because I do know that matters.
     
  4. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Yes, put the oil in a pan and add the garlic, herbs and whatever and heat it. You can heat it slowly and it will infuse the oil with flavor much more so than what you're getting now. The way you're doing it is more or less like making a pasta salad, and it's the way we serve pasta with pesto - cold pesto gets stirred into the hot pasta and the heat releases the flavors of the herbs/nuts/raw garlic.

    I suggest heating the oil instead. This way you can infuse more flavors into it such as bay leaf, tomatoes, garlic etc. It is as simple as heating up some oil and flavorings in a pan and then tossing the hot pasta into that along with some pasta water or in the traditional case of your dish, some cooking liquid from the chickpeas. This liquid emulsifies with the oil and creates a "sauce". We're not talking puddles here. So cooking the "sauce" and tossing into it the pasta to briefly cook is called marrying. I think you will get a better and more flavorful result this way because bay leaf needs either a long time or heat to release its perfume. And rosemary is hardy and will release more perfume with heat as well.

    Understood about the chili. I add it because we like it but it's optional.

    Truffle salt - black or white - is simply meh to me. If you like it use it but I suggest using it as a finish, don't bloom it in the oil because the heat will kill it.
     
  5. Italian Scallion

    Italian Scallion

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    Instead of using diced tomatoes try tossing in small cherry tomatoes for the last minute of cooking, just to warm them up. They should stay crisp bombs of flavour.
     
  6. hawkflight

    hawkflight

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    So, I made it again tonight, using the tips you guys gave me. Three things I learned.

    1. People here prefer their pine nuts unroasted, and I honestly agree with them. They have a slightly sweeter, more buttery flavor when not roasted.

    2. When using fresh rosemary, use more than when using dried or semi-dried (packaged) rosemary, as it's less strongly-concentrated.

    3. Don't be afraid to let the tomatoes cook for a minute. I took them off the heat pretty quickly because I was afraid they would get mushy, but they maintained their integrity quite well.

    I'll make it again next week, correcting for these matters, and see how it turns out.