Quick pasta recipes

(by Marco Cagetti)

These are some pasta recipes that do not require any advanced preparation, and that can be prepared while the pasta is boiling. (that is, in less than 20 minutes).

The recipes are given for 4 very abundant portions.

Pasta ai quattro formaggi

Pasta ai quattro formaggi means pasta with 4 cheeses, and it's just that, pasta with cheese. The cheese is the only flavor, so you must choose tasty varieties. The smellier the better. May be you will want to ask before serving this to your East Asian friends.

In a large pan, bring water to boil, add salt (3-4 tbsp, but tastes vary. People can add salt later.) then cook the pasta as directed. Do not overcook. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200 and put the dishes for the pasta (and the serving bowl) in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Warm dishes are important to keep the cheese warm, otherwise it will immediately become solid and cold. Cut the cheeses in small pieces (the parmesan can be either grated or in small pieces) and mix them together. As for the quantity, it's up to you. I suggest at least 1/2 cup per person, but people may prefer more. You can put extra cheese on the table.

When ready, drain the pasta, pour it in the serving bowl, add the cheese, some pepper if desired, and mix. Handle dishes and bowls with a glove, otherwise you'll burn yourself. Serve immediately while warm. Note, the cheese should not melt completely; the dish must not look like macaroni-and-cheese. Note also that many pieces of cheese may tend to remain on the bottom of the bowl, so dig appropriately when serving. People can add pepper (strongly suggested) and extra cheese if they like.

Given the high fat content, this recipe is particularly good for the winter, with a glass of red wine.

Pasta col pomodoro

In a large pan, bring abundant water to boil, and add salt (see above for quantity of salt); when boiling, pour the pasta and cook as directed (do not overcook. The package should tell you how long to cook it). Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in small pieces. In a large frying pan over medium fire, pour the oil and fry the garlic cloves until slightly golden. (Whole cloves will give a milder flavor than cut ones). Do not burn the garlic; if that happens, throw away and restart. Then add the tomatoes and the spices (and the olives etc if you like), raise the fire, and fry until the tomatoes have dissolved and the sauce thickened. It should take no more five minutes (but it depends on the heat of the fire, it can vary quite a bit), and the sauce should be ready before the pasta. Be careful: since you are using high temperatures, you have to stir and mix continuously, or the sauce will burn.

When ready, drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan, frying it for 30 seconds or so. Serve immediately, with grated cheese if desired. For extra effect (and flavor) you can heat the dishes in the oven before serving. Sometimes, I also cut some tiny cherry size tomatoes in half, and add them to the sauce one minute before turning the fire off (they will not melt, they just have to become warm).

A slightly more elaborate version of this sauce is the sauce with cherry tomatoes and ricotta salata.

Ravioli col vino

In a large pan, bring water to boil, add salt (3 tbsp or more as desired), and then the ravioli. Cook as directed. When ready, drain the ravioli well, put them in the individual bowls (you can use soup bowls or bowl-dishes, not flat dishes, of course), and then add the red wine, one or two glasses each. Because of the wine, the ravioli should be eaten with a spoon. Drink all of the wine only if you want to get drunk.

As for the wine, you can choose your favorite red. Of course, you may not want to use expensive wines. But don't use jug wine either, or it will taste bad. A red wine in the range of 10-$15 should do. I have never tried, but I do not think that white wine would work. It is a recipe for the winter, when it's really cold outside. Incidentally, even though the recipe seems strange, there are several similar recipes, typical of farmers in Northern Italy (which is cold and humid in winter). For instance, my grandfather used to eat polenta soaked in red wine.