Don’t call me Paola. Or Palmiro.
I wasn’t Italian in my last lifetime.
Or many lifetimes preceding.
I say that partly because as a foodie and good cook, my culinary instincts, persuasions and palate don’t go there.
Lord knows I deeply appreciate and understand the crafting and cooking an Italian pours into a giant pot of tomato sauce on the stove all day, the simmering and tweaking until it’s primo perfecto!
As for the ingredients, flavor profiles and palettes and finer crafting of Italian cuisine, I’m a bambino in the woods.
Eyeballing or grabbing handfuls of dry pasta as a gauge to feed one or 10 is wasted on me. I’ve got to read the box or go online just to do that basic.
Ditto with boiling. There are so many contradicting opinions out there on simply adding oil to the pasta water! Add it. Here’s why. Don’t add it. Here’s why.
And since my guts-knowing and wise MamaMia! is effectively nonexistent, I’ve sadly got to seek and consider opinions of others with skills far greater than my own in the rudiments of cooking Italian.
Fortunately, I’m willing to learn!
That said, I’m an intuitive and instinctual cook and had a hankering for pasta for the potluck yesterday.
Not so fast!
First: I’ve no large pot to cook pasta.
I own exactly two pots.
One’s a small saucepan. Useful for boiling a couple eggs or in my case water for the morning coffee since I don’t own a kettle.
The other’s your standard skillet.
Not exactly pasta goods.
In my highly-honed McGyver think-outside-the-box nature — I can’t boil a proper pot of pasta but I can get myself out of any pickle with few resources — my mind went: aha!
My Aroma rice cooker/slow cooker/steamer!
My multitalented and only piece of kitchen equipment outside the two aforementioned pans from Costco just purchased for those very reasons — 1: it’s Costco and Costco = quality and 2. multipurpose. I hate having stuff — The Stuff You Own Owns You — and my internal minimalist Ms. McGyver’s ever drawn to one tool with multiple uses.
So my Aroma rice cooker took care of boiling the water for the pound of rotini pasta.
True, it was maxed out at 3 quarts. At the end of boiling, I needed to repeatedly sponge off the water emitted from the steam release that was collecting on top of the lid.
But hey, it’s a learning experience, cut me some slack! I’ve never used a rice cooker/crockpot to boil water for pasta before! Rice I get, pasta not so much, never mind in a crockpot!
With the fundamentals of boiling water for pasta addressed, the rest was downhill.
The grated Parmesan-Romano cheese, too from Costco.
Not that crap in the green can. Which I’ll never again use. Even as a soul with no recent past lives as an Italian and after having tasted the real stuff, I totally get that the “Parmesan” in the green Kraft can is crap and not worth your dimes
The butter and olive oil.
Note: I don’t do margarine. If you’re gonna cook, make it real. Genuine. Authentic. Margarine has no place in cooking or consuming.
The pasta’s cooked.
Oh yeah, another thing I don’t own: a strainer. You got pasta, you gotta drain. Fortunately my multitalented Aroma cooker again comes to the rescue. The steamer tray’s perfect for straining!
When it comes to the seemingly simplest task of cooking pasta, I adhere to online guidance of folks with far more Italian in their blood and energy field than I. Specifically this lady, Ms. Lidia, whose Italian-ness is far far superior to my own!:
I didn’t add oil to the pasta water, only (sea) salt. I also used the highly-recommended pasta water in the sauce.
In my saucepan, I add 1-1/2 cups of pasta water to about 6 tablespoons of butter, a couple garlic cloves, a splash of oil oil and nearly a cup of diced fresh chives that I cut with scissors.
In goes that sauce into the drained pasta in the Aroma crockpot. Stir.
Then the grated Parmesan-Romano cheese. (Bears repeating, not the crap from the green can!) About 1-1/2 cups ’cause I wanted a strong cheese and chives combo.
Now, as I’ve made clear, I’m not Italian by blood, instinct or past lives. Neither am I an Italian trapped in a Western body.
I cannot complain about the result. It’s a very simple, basic, tasty, pleasing pasta indeed. Note that fresh herbs make all the difference in any cooking.
Finally, my Chivin’ Pasta accented with fresh chives:
Pretty jivin’ for this io non sono italiano!