A busy lifestyle is one of the most cited obstacles in the way of preparing a meal that we are proud to serve our families. Canadian chef Stefano Faita is all too familiar with the challenges surrounding balancing a hectic schedule and pleasing a hungry family. On busy nights, Stefano turns to pasta as a simple meal solution he knows the entire family will love. Following are some tips from the Barilla line of pasta to take the guesswork out of this meal:
• Follow the cooking times on the package. It’s also a good idea to try the pasta just before draining to make sure that it suits your taste. Pasta has been cooked properly when it is more tender on the outside, yet still firm on the inside. In authentic Italian cooking, this is called “al dente”.
• Drain pasta immediately after it is done cooking: Drain pasta into a large colander and toss it gently to remove excess liquid. The pasta should remain moist, but not dripping wet.
• Always save ½ cup of the cooking water: It may be needed to dilute the sauce or to sauté the pasta with the sauce before serving.
• Don’t be afraid to undercook your pasta: In fact, in Italy, pasta is usually undercooked in the water by about three minutes. Pasta is then transferred to a sauté pan with the prepared sauce and cooked with the sauce for an additional three minutes—allowing the pasta to absorb the flavours of the sauce.
• Add sauce and serve immediately: Even when pasta is drained, it is still cooking, so the sauce should be added quickly. Pasta should be served hot. In Italy, very little sauce is used with pasta—just enough to coat it.
• The finishing touches: To top off the pasta, you can garnish with freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, ground black pepper or extra virgin olive oil.
The next time you’re looking to create a great-tasting meal in a hurry, tap into your inner chef and try this spaghetti with shrimp recipe courtesy of Barilla:
Spaghetti with Shrimp, Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes
Serves up to 4
1 box (454 g) Barilla spaghetti
1/3 cup (75 mL) extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 shallots, minced
1 lb (500 g) peeled, deveined shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
1 lb (500 g) asparagus, cut on diagonal
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
2 cups (500 mL) grape tomatoes
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the extra virgin olive oil. Sauté shallots for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add shrimp and asparagus and sauté over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
Add wine and cook until almost all is evaporated. Add tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for one minute more.
Drain pasta and toss with the sauce. Gently stir in basil and remaining extra virgin olive oil before serving.
More tips, recipes and information can be found on www.Barilla.ca.