Pizza Pasta: Two Italian To Resist

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Italy may be famous for its fashion and architecture, but more so for its cuisine. There are two Italian experiences that food aficionados cannot seem to get enough of; Pizza and Pasta. The endless ways these two can be created with is what truly sets these two dishes apart. You may choose to create a Tandoori Pizza or a Mexican Pasta, adjusting the ingredients to suit you own palate, and no one would bat an eye. That’s one of the reasons why these are two of the most readily available food items across the globe. You may not find a single French restaurant to satiate your Ratatouille needs within your city, but you’ll certainly find many serving a variety of authentic (or adopted) Pizzas and Pastas.

Back when I was a kid, I used to hate vegetables; what’s more, I used to detest cheese (can you believe this?). Pizza changed my life. I started enjoying these then-outlandish ingredients including Mushrooms, Olives and Jalapeños; mine was an instant love affair with Oregano. One of the first memories I have of my kitchen adventures is making Pizza at home; luckily, it turned out to be a smash hit with friends and family. There was no turning back after that, and it wasn’t long before I started relishing the rich, cheesy goodness of Pasta too.

My kitchen is my sanctuary and I love trying out new recipes. I often step into the kitchen with a specific craving, but there are these rare moments of insanity when I attempt to create something new. I still remember that balmy July afternoon some two years back; I came home from work and headed straight to the kitchen, only to be greeted by empty pots and pans. As my wife hadn’t cooked anything, I told her I’d try something experimental, something that would satisfy my Pizza/Pasta (a.k.a. P&P) craving. That memorable culinary escapade resulted in the masterpiece you are about to drool all over starting… NOW!

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Servings: 3 persons

Ingredients

  • 4 cups boiled pasta (I used Penne but you can use whatever you prefer)
  • 150 grams chicken breasts (cut into ¼ inch thick strips)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • ½ medium-sized onion (diced)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 pinch of oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Ajino Moto (Mono Sodium Glutamate – optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoon chili sauce
  • 4 tablespoon pizza sauce
  • 4 mushrooms (sliced)
  • 6-8 slices of pickled jalapenos
  • 3-4 olives (pitted and sliced)
  • ½ cup sweet corn kernels
  • ½ capsicum (medium) – diced
  • 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 6-8 tomato dices for garnish
  • 6-8 slices of garlic bread to serve on the side

Method

  1. Put pan on a stove and turn it on to medium
  2. Add olive oil to the pan
  3. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and onions to the oil and cook for a minute
  4. Add chicken and mushrooms to the pan and cook till the chicken is tender
  5. Add salt, pepper, red chili flakes, oregano, Ajino moto, chili sauce, and pasta sauce to the chicken and cook for a minute
  6. Add, jalapenos, corn, capsicum, olives, mayonnaise, cheddar and mozzarella to the sauce and mix well
  7. Turn the stove off as soon as the cheese is melted and stringy, as you don’t want to overcook the vegetables
  8. Gently fold in the penne pasta so that it is coated evenly with the mixture; patience is essential as you don’t want to turn it into a pulp
  9. Serve with a garnish of cheese, a dash of oregano, tomatoes, and a few slices of garlic bread on the side; I prefer using a cooking torch to give a nice char to the cheese

If you’re on the lookout for a rustic, delectable and hearty meal, this recipe fits the bill perfectly and satisfies your P&P cravings. Needless to say, you can add as little or as much of anything listed above to suit your taste; moreover, you can add a host of pizza toppings into the pasta, like pepperoni, sausages, minced beef, pineapples, etc. I assure you that this creamy, cheesy, aromatic dish is a “party in your mouth” just waiting to happen, so why not get started right away?

Buon Appetito!

Published in The Express Tribune (International Herald Tribune) on 14 April, 2016.

A Tale Of Two Pastas

With two kids constantly demanding your attention, it gets increasingly difficult to get into the kitchen to create something new. Yesterday was a rare occurrence and as soon as the opportunity presented itself (my one-month old son sleeping blissfully while my naughty 20-month old daughter busy playing with her grandmother), my wife and I ran straight to the kitchen. After a brief discussion, we decided to do something that would require very little time and effort, something like a simple Penne pasta, which we had NEVER attempted before. Since we had no recipe, we just wanted to go with our flavor profiles, i,e, our guts.

As with all couples, we had two different ideas; my wife wanted a red pasta with a basic tomato-oregano sauce while I craved for something (richer, creamier, cheesier) Fettuccine-Alfredo-esque. It all came down to the colors; white v/s red. I won her over by promising to increase the cheese content in the pasta so we started off with something that would, hopefully, taste like fettuccine. Half way through, my wife suggested we add the ingredients for the tomato-oregano sauce to the mix (win-win). What came out was surprisingly delicious, and mixing in some mushrooms and black olives just took the entire dish to a whole new level; to put it plainly, it was something worth sharing with the world. So without further ado, here’s a Penne for your thoughts:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups penne pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup mushrooms (sliced)
  • ¼ cup black olives
  • 2 to 3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 to 3 tbsp grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp pizza sauce [great substitute for ready-made tomato sauce]
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • salt to taste [be careful as it is already a bit on the salty side]

Method

  1. Boil pasta and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Put a saucepan on medium heat and add the olive oil to it.
  3. Once hot, add the flour to the saucepan and stir for 30 seconds.
  4. Add 1 cup milk to the pan and keep stirring till there are no lumps and the sauce starts to thicken.
  5. Add the mushrooms, the cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar, cream), the olives, garlic powder, oregano, pizza sauce and salt to the pan and cook for two minutes.
  6. If the sauce feels too thick (thicker than condensed milk), add up to ½ cup milk and mix well.
  7. Once the sauce is ready, add the boiled Penne pasta to the pan and fold it in carefully, so as not to break the pasta (something I forgot to take care of).
  8. Cook for a couple of minutes, making sure that all the pasta is completely coated with the sauce.
  9. Garnish with a pinch of oregano and some olives.

This unconventional pasta recipe serves THREE people, is ready in less than TEN minutes and needs to be served immediately as the sauce starts to coagulate due to the high cheese content. Try it out and do let me know how you liked it; tweaks and suggestions to make the recipe better are more than welcome.

Cheers,
Yousuf

p.s. This pasta is as Italian as I get.

p.p.s. Apologies for the bad photo quality; the battery on my camera ran out and I had to rely on the phone camera instead.