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Pasta – past its sell-by date?

Pasta is overrated.  There, I said it.

I eagerly await the hate mail.

But this basic flour and egg mix is simply a tasteless vehicle for sauces and other ingredients. Take it away from the dish, and all you’ve lost is a pile of chewy carbs.

I’ve tried it all over the world from America to Australia, hoping that I’ve been cooking it wrong, or been missing out on a technique.

But no, it’s still just flabby beige carbs. Waiters know it’s tasteless, with an endless stream of additional offerings.

You want Parmesan? Yes please! Chili oil? Yes Please! Black pepper? Yes please!

In these dens of blandness, the black pepper grinder is wielded like it’s unicorn milk, while Parmesan is delivered in portions that might satisfy a shrew.

Shape it, twist it,  boil it, fry it, it’s still just flour, salt, eggs and olive oil.

Americans go wild for it, but then this is a nation that counts ‘Grilled cheese’ among its most iconic additions to global cuisine (literally, a slice of bad, often processed, cheese, between two slices of dreadful bread).

If I eat spaghetti in a restaurant, I’m doomed to endure a shirt forever more flecked with seemingly indelible stains. Pasta is perfect food for the infirm, the elderly and those who can’t really be bothered to enjoy chewing.

If a friend orders pasta when we’re out, I secretly think less of them.

Even adding superb fresh ingredients to, or even in, the pasta ruins them. Fresh tomatoes boiled into a sauce just become a watered-down version of tomatoes. Add cheese, meat or vegetables to ravioli or tortellini, and then cooking requires that you boil the  flavour away.

Don’t even get me started on boxed macaroni and cheese, that student staple that honestly feels like you are eating out of desperation. Such boxed pasta ready-meals sum up everything that ‘s wrong with society: we’re so lazy, we can’t even be bothered to enjoy taste. We’re unimaginative, crave carbs too much and all the articificial flavours and colouring in the worst sorts of ready-made pasta lull us into such a soporific state we can’t even muster the energy to complain about lacklustre food.

The best pasta dish for me? Anything where you lovingly cook the sauce, topping or filling, and then throw out the pasta.

Italian cuisine is weirdly maligned by bland pasta dishes and American pizza recipes. The cuisine is littered with amazing ingredients, like fantastic fish, tomatoes, incredible cured meats, an amazing array of olive oils, pesto and cheeses…why limit yourself to a dish that feels like a post-apocalyptic survival meal?

*Prove me wrong – share your favourite pasta recipe with editor@thegreatfoodclub.com and we’ll cook it and rate it!

RECIPE: Grilled Cod with Caponata

Serves: 4

Cooking time: Around an hour

Below is a healthy, hearty, pasta-free dish that shows off the best of Italian flavours. Treat yourself to the best Italian ingredients you can find! Snapper or Monkfish would work as well as cod in this dish, and don’t be afraid to add a chilli or three to give it a bang.

From an orginal recipe found here

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 cod steaks
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 each red, orange and yellow bell peppers
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 medium eggplant, unpeeled
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp. red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. bottled capers

Procedure

  • Marinade:
  • Mix ingredients in a large ziptop bag. Add the fish and seal, turn to coat. Leave at room temperature while preparing caponata.
  • Caponata:
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and peppers, then sauté for two minutes, or until soft.
  • Add the garlic; stir for 30 seconds until aromatic. Add the eggplant and, stirring often, cook for two to three minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring twice, and cook for 12 minutes, or until eggplant is very tender.
  • Meanwhile, heat a ridged grill pan.
  • Remove fish from bag; discard bag with marinade.
  • Cook for 8 to 10 minutes in grill pan, turning once, until opaque at center.
  • Add raisins, vinegar and capers to the caponata mix. Cover and simmer for another five minutes to develop the flavours.
  • Serve the griddled fish with the caponata on the side.


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