Pasta comes calling
“It is not as difficult as I imagined it to be,” said a student
When Vincenzo Bellini, the Italian opera composer, first staged ‘Norma’ in Sicily in 1830, little did he know that the opera would inspire the creation of something that would be consumed by millions.
Some say that a chef in the island was so moved after watching the opera that he created ‘Pasta alla Norma’ in honour of Bellini.
Another legend has it that a Sicilian writer, Nino Martoglio, after tasting this pasta for the first time, out of admiration, compared it to Bellini’s opera.
“And the name stuck on ever since,” quipped Franca Cornelli, who along with her friends Silvana Rizzi and Alberto Pesani were in Mangalore to conduct an international workshop on Italian cuisine at St. Aloysius College.
At the event was a group of highly enthusiastic students, hovering around as the three Italians showed them how to make a variety of pasta sauces and a pineapple cake.
Some basic rules of Italian cooking were explained to the group at the start.
“It is very important that the sauce is plentiful. Otherwise the flavour will be lost. For instance, if you are cooking 500g of pasta then make sure you have 500g of sauce to go with it,” said Cornelli.
According to Pesani one must always put salt in the water while cooking the pasta. “Boil the pasta as indicated on the label. Nigatoni may take more time to cook as compared to Spirali,” he said to the students who were helping him cook the pasta till it was al dente , which is a tad undercooked.
“This is the first time we are seeing how Italian food is being made. I always thought it was a difficult process but this seems simple enough. I’m definitely going to try the pineapple cake with cream,” said M. Shrithi a student of M.Sc. Food Science and Technology.
At the end of the demonstration the pasta with zucchini sauce and ‘Pasta alla Norma’ emerged as the winners.
“We call it (Pasta alla Norma) the lyric pasta because of the history behind it. The flavour is brought out by the basil that is added to it. That’s the secret ingredient,” said Rizzi.
How to make ‘Pasta alla Norma’:
·2 large eggplants
·1 tablespoon dried oregano and chilli flakes
·4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
·a large bunch of fresh basil
·1 teaspoon vinegar
·2 cups tomato purée
·salt and freshly ground black pepper
·450g cooked pasta of your choice
·Salted ricotta or parmesan cheese, grated
Slice the eggplant and cook in olive oil until golden brown and tender. Heat a tbsp olive oil and cook the garlic along with the tomato purée, oregano, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Add the eggplant to the sauce along with vinegar and basil. Toss in the pasta. Garnish with cheese and basil.
Originally published at www.thehindu.com on February 8, 2014.