Angela Hartnett’s warming winter pasta dishes
FLAVOURS OF ITALY Angela Hartnett’s favourite recipes are the ultimate in cold-weather comfort food – and they might deliver a pang of nostalgia, too
Iwas fortunate to grow up making pasta from scratch with my Italian grandmother, who would tip out the flour and the eggs ad occhio, or by the eye. There was no weighing of anything – it was totally instinctive.
Like most things, making pasta improves with experience. It’s about knowing that it’s not too wet and not too dry. And it sounds silly, but you don’t need to be afraid of it – you can really batter, mould and knead that dough. Practising until you get it right is the key. Because I’ve been doing it for 40-odd years, I find it very relaxing and therapeutic. For rolling, I tend to use my Imperia pasta machine at home, a model that’s popular throughout Italy.
That said, I cook with dried pasta, too. For certain sauces, dried is actually better: in a lovely spaghetti with clams, say, the starch in the dried spaghetti helps the sauce to stick.
The sauce to pasta ratio is important to get right. For Italians, the pasta itself is key to the composition of the dish, and it’s not necessarily all about the sauce. Sometimes I see double the amount of sauce needed, with the pasta swimming in it, which isn’t really the way to do it. And it should be all tossed together – not served with the sauce sitting on top.
When it comes to pasta shapes I’m a traditionalist, and I do find that certain sauces go with certain shapes – I don’t suddenly want to do a prawn sauce with rigatoni, for example, because in my mind that shape needs a meat sauce. Spaghetti and linguine work better with light fish or tomato sauces, and pappardelle (quite thick in width) suits a heavier, meatier sauce, but ultimately you can do whatever you want!
The cavolo nero used in the tortellini overleaf has a wintry flavour that is delicious with nutmeg, garlic and chilli at this time of year, but you could use spinach, kale or any other leafy greens. And the pasta e fagioli – my ideal Sunday night supper if I’ve got beans leftover from something else – is a traditional peasant dish which smacks of winter in northern Italy. Different regions have variations of it, and it’s hearty and nourishing, like ribollita. If I’m in need of feeling like my grandma is giving me a big hug, it’s the perfect dish to make.
Certain sauces go with certain pasta shapes, but ultimately you can do whatever you want!