Fresh greens to zoozh up the red

1 11 2014

I HAVE played with my angel hair pomodoro recipe so often that it has come to erase whatever iota of doubt I may have had towards the theological concept of reincarnation.

 

My ANGEL HAIR POMODORO in one of its many incarnations, yet again.

My ANGEL HAIR POMODORO in one of its many incarnations, yet again.

I guess it is its simplicity that predisposes it to my fickle mindedness.  It calls for only a handful of ingredients – often always stocked up in my pantry and refrigerator crisper – that now it hardly feels like an actual recipe at all.  You can see just how often I have played with it by simply running a search in this blog.

Its latest manifestation calls for a generous sprinkling of fresh whole basil leaves.  This means cooking the sauce only up to the point when I will need to add the fresh basil leaves, which I would tear by hand (never chopped with a knife to prevent the blade from bruising this delicate herb).

What results from this change is a pasta dish with a balance so palpable that you’d savor the cooked goodness of fresh roma tomatoes that have broken down into the sauce, as the fresh basil leaves explode with freshness in your mouth with every crunch.

Each forkful of this pasta dish is the perfect balance of al dente angel hair, perfectly cooked sauce of fresh roma tomatoes, and perfectly crunchy fresh basil leaves.

Each forkful of this pasta dish is the perfect balance of al dente angel hair, perfectly cooked sauce of fresh roma tomatoes, and perfectly crunchy fresh basil leaves.

This is so good that I would never feel the need to reach for the wedge of Parmigiano–Reggiano and the vegetable peeler to shave paper–thin slivers of yumminess that can only come from hard, granular cheese from the area west of the river Reno.

It really doesn’t call for any added touch.

Having the basil still bright green adds to the enjoyment of having this angel hair pomodoro.

Having the basil still bright green adds to the enjoyment of having this angel hair pomodoro.

 

Of course, the requisite aerial shot of this edible work of art, a play of colors, textures, and flavors.  Parmigiano–Reggiano highly optional, totally unnecessary.

Of course, the requisite aerial shot of this edible work of art, a play of colors, textures, and flavors. Parmigiano–Reggiano highly optional, totally unnecessary.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

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The Blue Kitchen angel hair aligue pasta

26 10 2014

THIS RECIPE is so good it will make you want to reach for your cholesterol–lowering medication just by reading it.

But at the same time, it is quite simple that it wouldn’t drive you nuts to curl your culinary biceps (if there’s such a thing) a hundred of times just to build the muscle needed to whip this dish up.

Today’s six–ingredient fix is my The Blue Kitchen Angel Hair Aligue Pasta, the result of still having a stash of a bottle of The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue.  To someone not Filipino, “aligue” is simply crab fat, which if we’re being very specific, is not actually fat, but the heptopancreas, the innards that performs the function of both liver and pancreas.  Crack a crab open and it would be the stuff that lines the shell.  In lobsters, this is the tomalley.

Another one of my quick fixes involves a maximum of six ingredients.  This one features a new favorite bottled product – The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue!

Another one of my quick fixes involves a maximum of six ingredients. This one features a new favorite bottled product – The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue!

 

I made the acquaintance with The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue by way of a gift that found its way to the dining table at home.

I made the acquaintance with The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue by way of a gift that found its way to the dining table at home.

And to anyone Filipino or otherwise, I have to say that The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue is simply the best.  The operative word here is “pure”.  Topped off with just a tiny film of oil – it’s the perfect sunset orange hue, rife with the promise of almost buttery smooth goodness.  You taste the hint of saltiness – but not the salt.  They are online at http://www.thebluekitchen.com.

For this simple dish, all you need are

 

Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic

The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue

De Cecco® or San Remo® Angel Hair Pasta

Fresh Kalamansi (Small limes, or calamondin)

Millel® Parmesan Cheese (optional)

 

I add up to six tablespoons of Bertolli® extra virgin olive oil  to a heavy–bottom pan over medium heat.  I use that much oil as this sauce tends to be on the dry side, with just the pure aligue alone.  Using my handy IKEA® garlic press, I mince five large cloves of garlic directly on to the oil.  All I need is to infuse the oil with the essence of the garlic.  The moment I catch a whiff of it – which should be within mere seconds from when the garlic hits the oil – I add about three heaping tablespoons of the The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue.  The moment the whole thing comes back to a slight bubble, I squeeze in the juice of three fat kalamansi.  All that’s left to do is to tumble in al dente De Cecco® or San Remo® angel hair pasta, which has been cooked according to package directions.  Once the pasta is completely stained with the sauce, it is ready to serve!  This one doesn’t even call for a sprinkling of salt at all.

This next step is totally optional (as I am very old school about the use of cheese on seafood–based sauces), grate – not shave! – onto this, as much Millel® parmesan cheese as you like.  Enjoy!

This has got to be one of the yummiest pastas I've ever had!  I would sometimes eat this straight out of the pan, standing by the kitchen counter.

This has got to be one of the yummiest pastas I’ve ever had! I would sometimes eat this straight out of the pan, standing by the kitchen counter.

 

All I prefer to add to my sauce is a squeeze of these fat kalamansi!

All I prefer to add to my sauce is a squeeze of these fat kalamansi!

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Pasta as a judicious use of scarce resources

23 10 2014

THE THOUGHT of having breakfast fare three times a day frees me from the constraints of the orthodox timetable.  While it is to me the perfect excuse for all places that serve “all–day breakfast”, I find that the concept of freeing oneself from these constraints allow me to fling open the pantry and the refrigerator door and let my often scarce resources yield to my culinary creativity.

That, and feeling unapologetic for having pasta first thing in the morning.

My Mushroom Cream Pasta is obviously not timid, obviously not shy.  When I need an instant high, this is what I would OD ("overdose") on – fresh wild mushrooms in various states of doneness, swimming in cream.  Heady with the hint of garlic.  Kissed by salty goodness of parmesan.

My Mushroom Cream Pasta is obviously not timid, obviously not shy. When I need an instant high, this is what I would OD (“overdose”) on – fresh wild mushrooms in various states of doneness, swimming in cream. Heady with the hint of garlic. Kissed by the salty goodness of parmesan.

Today’s six–ingredient breakfast fix is my Mushroom Cream Pasta, the result of having a stash of

 

Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic

Fresh Heavy Cream

Fresh Cremini and Shiitake Mushrooms

De Cecco® Angel Hair Pasta

Millel® Parmesan Cheese

 

I add two tablespoons of Bertolli® extra virgin olive oil  to a heavy–bottom pan over medium heat.  Using my handy IKEA® garlic press, I mince five large cloves of garlic directly on to the oil.  All I need is to infuse the oil with the essence of the garlic.  The moment I catch a whiff of it – which should be within mere seconds when the garlic hits the oil – I tumble in the sliced fresh cremini and shiitake mushrooms.  I make sure that I keep the mushrooms – caps, stems and all – in one layer.  I allow the mushrooms to sizzle away, stirring only at the moment when they’ve given up most of their yummy juices.  At this point, I pour in the heavy cream.  If you’d ask me how precise the measurement is, I’d say, put just enough to cover the mushrooms.  The moment the whole thing comes back to a bubble, turn off the heat and tip this sauce over waiting al dente De Cecco® angel hair pasta, which has been cooked according to package directions.  Shave – not grate! – onto this, as much Millel® parmesan cheese as you like.  Enjoy!  (Before any one of you accuses me of not seasoning the sauce with salt – knowing well enough that any underseasoned food is vile – the cheese takes care of this needed flavoring.)

By the way, a word of caution along the lines of the orthodox, this time with regards to preparing vegetables.  While everything else calls for thorough washing under running water, please do not do this to mushrooms!  The best way to prepare them is to wipe them clean with a slightly damp cloth.

For the mushrooms I cook into the sauce, I'm perfectly fine with keeping the stems.  For the garnish on top, just before serving, I just use the caps.  By the way, do you notice those plimp cloves of garlic peeking from behind the earthy brown pile of umami goodness?

For the mushrooms I cook into the sauce, I’m perfectly fine with keeping the stems. For the garnish on top, just before serving, I just use the caps. By the way, do you notice those plimp cloves of garlic peeking from behind the earthy brown pile of umami goodness?

 

Six ingredients.  10 minutes to prepare.  Five (or so) easy steps.  One bowl of goodness.  You eat this and you will realize that the world is as it should be.  That all is good.

Six ingredients. 10 minutes to prepare. Five (or so) easy steps. One bowl of goodness. You eat this and you will realize that the world is as it should be. That all is good.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





My spaghetti alla carbonara

18 05 2013

THE WONDER of home cooking lies in its simplicity.  You fling open the refrigerator or cupboard door and just take it from there.

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_13

My spaghetti alla carbonara! Rich and creamy and yet, no heavy cream!

I feel that the cuisine that renders itself best interpreted at home is Italian.  Their food focuses on the simplest of ingredients, the easiest of preparation, but all leading to maximum effect.  A plate of pasta always seems so special.  And perfect for quieting down after–midnight hunger pangs.

Which is exactly what I’m doing right now as I write this.  I’ve just arrived from another long day at work.  And however tired I may be, I reckon that the 10 minutes total time I need to make my pasta–fixation–of–the-moment will be time well spent.

Having been cooking for close to three decades now, I know that by the time the pasta is al dente, I shall be reaping the rewards of my solitary dinner awash with the feeling of an incredibly indulgent spoiled child.

As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Spaghetti alla carbonara is a Roman invention.  So I find it quite respectful to cook it as the Romans do – which means totally devoid of the heavy cream that the Filipino version swims in.  Traditionally, spaghetti alla carbonara is made with olive oil, guanciale or pancetta, fresh whole eggs, equal parts of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano–Reggiano cheeses, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

Dried spaghetti usually takes 12 minutes to cook.  Since I always cook my pasta one to two minutes less than what the package tells me, I decide on 10 minutes.

This is how I make one portion.  As applicable, I indicate the brands I actually use or prefer.    Feel free to use yours.  Some are clearly substitutions (I don’t have guanciale or pancetta right now!).

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Refrigerator and store cupboard essentials to a most satisfying spaghetti carbonara!

 

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One whole egg when I’m less hungry. Two when I really am. Of course, two means I’m making enough for two portions, but to be consumed by only me. Haha! It is important to use UV-sterilized eggs. And oh yes, bring it to room temperature first.

 

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Regardless of whether I’m doing one or two portions, I use three to five rashers of Danish streaky bacon every single time.

 

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On this one time, I used exactly only three rashers.

 

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I’ve always loved De Cecco dried pasta which I believe is simply the best. But I’m pleasantly surprised to be enjoying Arrighi lately!

 

 

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I know that salt is salt is salt. But there’s something about MORTON® coarse Kosher salt that just makes any dish more delicious.

 

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MILLEL® remains to be my favorite parmesan cheese. I’d buy it in wedges which I’d snack on without ceasing. But whenever there’s no MILLEL®, there’s always Kraft® or Perfect Italiano™. Its flavor is bold but not quite strong.

 

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In my recipe I say “dice” the guanciale, pancetta or streaky bacon. But you can just simply slice it any which way you want.

 

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A serving portion for one needs about a quarter of a pound of dried pasta. That’s a quarter of a pack or box. To clarify, this again is a portion for one – make that, “one eNTeNG.” Two less hungry people can share this amount.

Bring water to a boil in a pot that is deeper rather than wider.  Add about a tablespoon of Morton® coarse Kosher salt (this is not the time to make your pasta water as salty as the Mediterranean!) and cook about a quarter pound of De Cecco®, Arrighi® or San Remo® spaghetti.  (I set my timer at five minutes so I can check the pasta halfway through.)

To a heavy bottom skillet on medium flame, add a kiss of Bertolli® Classico olive oil (“mild taste”) and three to five strips of SuperFresh® Danish streaky bacon that have been diced.  While the fat renders out, crack one large whole egg into a bowl and beat it until frothy.  In a separate bowl or on to a huge wooden cutting board, grate half a cup each of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano–Reggiano cheese.  Or, just cheat by using Kraft® 100% real grated parmesan cheese – nothing wrong with that.  Add the cheese (or cheeses) to the beaten egg and freshly crack lots of McCormick® black pepper into the mixture.  Stir to combine.

Drain the pasta when it is done, but set aside about a quarter of a cup of the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the egg and cheese mixture and quickly toss it well.  You’re essentially cooking the egg with the heat of the pasta.  To further emulsify the sauce, add the pasta water gradually – you don’t need to add all of it in.  Now, add the crisped streaky bacon, a splash of the rendered out fat (already mixed with that “kiss” of the olive oil), and toss all together.  Taste for seasoning.  As needed, you may add a little more cheese and black pepper.

Enjoy!  Didn’t I tell you that this can make you feel rewarded, spoiled, and incredibly indulgent?  Heaven.  I’m in heaven.

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_08

The ease of making pasta lies in the fact that the sauce will almost always be ready by the time the pasta is done. That is, “al dente”. For my spaghetti alla carbonara, I start rendering the bacon (fat) after I have plunged the dried pasta in the boiling water. From this point, total cooking time should be 10 minutes almost exactly!

 

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_04

Get ’em sizzling. To a heavy bottom skillet on medium flame, add a kiss of Bertolli® Classico olive oil (“mild taste”) and three to five strips of SuperFresh® Danish streaky bacon that have been diced.

 

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_19

Get it crackin’! While the fat renders out from the streaky bacon, crack one large whole egg into a bowl and beat it until frothy. To this, you add the cheese or cheeses. No hard rule as to how much, besides “as much as you want of equal parts Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano–Reggiano.” My recipes will never hold you under s tyranny.

 

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_05

See, sometimes I don’t even follow my own recipe. On nights when I would feel as over incredibly indulgent as lazy, I wouldn’t even mind beating the eggs until frothy before I dump the cheese and freshly cracked black pepper in. Clearly it works just fine. Just don’t start by whisking vigorously or you’ll end up with cheese all over your face.

 

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_06

This is the golden sunshine of a sauce, waiting to be hit by the heat of the pasta. This is quite “savory” – the cheeses are nutty, the egg creamy, and the freshly cracked black pepper oozing with boskiness. Yum.

 

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_10

Getting there. The pasta and the bacon are done. At this point, all you need to prepare for is to.. toss, toss, toss… and toss well! Make sure you did set aside a little of the pasta water! The starch that the dried pasta gave off to the water will help further emulsify the sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

 

Spaghetti_alla_Carbonara_11

I do beg you to please try to follow my recipe. BUT, nothing is keeping you from tipping the pasta over to the pot where the bacon rendered its fat. Again, one of those lazy nights. Haha! The only drawback of doing this is that the strands of spaghetti will be coated with the oil and fat, and to a certain extent, will make it a bit difficult for the (egg) sauce to cling to the pasta. But the result is delicious just the same.

 

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In keeping with the lazy mood I was in on the night I took this, I poured the sauce on to the already-mixed spaghetti and bacon. Then, I tossed like crazy.

 

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I tumbled the tossed pasta back into the bowl where I mixed the sauce. I have to say, this was such a delicious, scrumptious bowl I brought back to the bedroom with me.

 

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This was the last one I made. Just last night. Make that way past midnight! This bowl was the result of all the steps outlined in my recipe.

 

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I must’ve slurped my way through the spaghetti. Hahaha! It was so good.

 

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Spaghetti alla carbonara loosely translates to “coal miner’s spaghetti”. Like the other pasta I’m quite fond of, spaghetti alla carbonara has an interesting story. Legend has it, Italian men who work in the mines would whip this dish up quickly for lunch time. The generous sprinkling of black pepper reminds them of the coals. Hence the name. Hahaha!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Culina at Dempsey Hill

5 04 2011

Culina's De Cecco Capellini Crab Meat

I WASN’T told where the best pasta could be had in Singapore.

Towards the end of my first week, the answer seemed to be elusive.  I initially wondered why but later conceded that being in the mecca of food, I would be presented a number of options that would rival one another as to which indeed was the best.  So that would take time.  But Friendship bringing me to Dempsey Hill on Dempsey Road solved my seeming pasta conundrum.

“Ang swerte mo, eNTeNG.  Ako, one year na ako dito bago ako nakarating dito,”  (Good for you, eNTeNG.  I’ve been here in Singapore for a year before I even got here) my friend Clint blurted out as we alighted from the 10-minute cab ride.

“Well, mas love ako ni Friendship,”  (Well, Friendship loves me more) was all I could say, tongue-in-cheek.

It was already quite dark when we got there, but I didn’t miss the verdurous feel and laid-back atmosphere that struck me about Dempsey Hill.  Street signs pointed to establishments and tenants clustered in blocks.  While it would’ve been a lot easier to use these signs for what they were intended, we stayed on our adventurous path and wandered around.  We stopped for a few minutes in front of the complex directory, not so much to be able to make a decision but more like – in my case – to make humorous observations.

“Oh, I have to take a shot of Harry’s @ Dempsey Hill (for Harryboy).”

“There’s a Jumbo here.  I just ate at their Riverwalk outlet the other day.”

Jumbo! Harry's!

“Who in his right mind will eat at ‘The Disgruntled Chef’?”

The Disgruntled Chef?!

Our feet led us to Block 8 where we found Culina, an enoteca.  Enoteca is Italian for “wine bar” and is a place that often serves simple meals.  Since they also sell and serve wine, it’s like having two businesses in one retail space.  Often, enotecas would charge less, compared to other establishments, for both the food and the wine.  We accessed Culina from one of the side doors and the extensive wine selection was the first to greet us.  Immediately, like a subtle homage to enotecas on the Via Del Gesu in Italy, I was engulfed with the comfort that could only come from a small, family-owned restaurant that has a cozy dining room open only for a few hours for lunch or dinner.

Complimentary bread

 

The best bread! Crusty on the outside, fluffy and chewy on the inside. I was willing to pay for bread this good!

 

I would only have extra virgin olive oil with my bread.

 

Friendship prefers a mix of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We started off with the complimentary bread, and with the first small piece torn off from all that crustiness, didn’t feel the need to even consider having appetizers.  A bread has never had me at first bite.  Until, Culina’s.  The bread was that good!  We were able to charm our way to getting a few more, but I won’t reveal here exactly how many so as not to get any of the wait staff in trouble.  (Though I did come close to offering to pay for everything we had.)

The Pasta Menu. They had me at "De Cecco"!

The explicit mention of the dry pasta brand “De Cecco” on the menu got me instantly sold to make my entrée pasta.  I’ve always loved De Cecco and have referred to it here, and here.

My favorite pasta dish in Singapore!

My first choice, “Penne Crab Meat” had exactly the sauce I was lusting after that very moment – crab meat and arugula salad with spicy tomato sauce, except that I wanted it on capellini (angel hair).  It wouldn’t hurt to ask the chef if he’d consider.  And true enough, he obliged me on my simple tweak to their menu offering.

The crab meat was plentiful and was so fresh and sweet!

 

I asked for some more of the baby arugula! Yey!

 

Before I totally devoured the pasta, I had to dump additional baby arugula onto it.

 

Only my remaining sense of propriety prevented me from licking this dish!

The serving portion that arrived at our table was huge.  Expertly twirled to give more of an imposing height than spread, each strand of the capellini was suffused with the red tint of the tomato sauce, flecked sparingly with bright green julienne of basil than with crushed red pepper flakes, belying the intensely gratifying heat that would surprise the uninitiated to the wonders of “al arrabiata.”  The crab meat provided unassuming, underlying tones of sweetness that would coat the tongue after the arrest of heat, seafood so fresh it could very well have come from fresh lump crab meat caught and picked by a fishmonger himself.

For a refreshing crunch, a generous crown of baby arugula salad sat perched on top, its succulent leaves bursting with peppery goodness that was more nutty than spicy.

My Winter Dream Tea on ice, infused with the essence of ginger!

I knew I ended up telling Friendship that what I was having was, hands down, the best pasta dish I had come across in Singapore.  I was gasping for breath from both the excitement of my discovery and the enthusiasm of my declaration that to calm me down, I would take sips of the Winter Dream Tea on ice that I ordered.

Culina, I shall return.

Friendship had the De Cecco Tagliatelle Wild Forest Mushroom.

 

Clint had the most tender, most scrumptious Steak Sandwich!

 

The cherry tomatoes on Friendship's plate crossed over to mine. And were so welcome!

 

The house water was San Pellegrino?! Hahaha!

 

One of the many blue "Christmas" trees that lighted up Dempsey Hill that night.

 

Truly, an unforgettable dinner at Culina with Friendship and Clint!

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Surprising finds at Rustan’s!

15 05 2009
Rustans Finds - Giglio Provolone Cheese

Surprising find #1! - GIGLIO PROVOLONE cheese

I KNOW this will not be surprising finds for others.  But they are to me!

 

I finally found provolone cheese…” formed part of my super excited text message to Superman the moment the sales associate at Le Gourmet at Rustan’s Makati offered to me their thin disc of provolone cheese, which she lovingly nestled on the palms of her two hands.  It felt almost like a sacred offering to me.  And I guess rightfully so!  I mean, I hadn’t been living under a rock but for the life of me, all my efforts to look for provolone cheese here in the country…  had been an exercise in futility!  I’ve been to delis in Makati and Alabang – nothing!

 

But last Monday night proved to be serendipitous (Note:  Batman – that’s one of your fave words!  Hahaha!).  After negotiating the pedestrian lane from Glorietta 4 to Rustan’s, I turned the corner, found myself outside looking in to the coffee shop below, and saw a middle-aged American guy instructing someone at the coffee shop deli counter how huge a wedge would be sliced from a wheel of brie cheese.

 

And then it occurred to me!  “How come I’ve been coming here often and never noticed the deli counter in the coffee shop!”  So I went straight ahead to the counter, was greeted warmly by one of the personnel, and was presented with GIGLIO provolone cheese – the first time I’ve ever gotten a positive response to asking for it!

 

I chose a 200+-gram disc that sold for about 280 pesos.  Kind of affordable for high quality cheese!  I happen to have loved provolone.  And at one point, it was the only cheese I’d have in my mushroom and cheese omelet – for a year-and-a-half’s worth of breakfast!  On my Philly cheesesteak, that’s the only cheese I would have too!

Rustans Finds - De Cecco Spaghettini

Surprising find #2! - De Cecco Spaghettini

Still in the Rustan’s supermarket area, I made another discovery.  A very very very late discovery.  I was just supposed to pick up a pack of San Remo Angel Hair pasta when out of nowhere I saw the familiar blue-and-yellow pack of De Cecco pasta, “Spaghettini” to be exact.  This brand, for me, is actually one of the best dried pasta ever.

 

I’ve been searching for this for so long too!  I’ve even come to the point of asking the staff at Italianni’s at the Greenbelt 2 restaurant strip if they would sell me some.  I didn’t even know if they actually use the brand.  They just happened to have some packs on display at what I would call as cupboard shelf tops near the ceiling.

 

So having made this other serendipitous discovery, I had to throw in a couple of packs to my basket.

Rustans Finds - Pomodoro

The product of my two surprising finds! YUMMY!

And with these two “discoveries,” I just had to make myself the simplest of pasta dishes, using only what you see in the picture – one (just one!) plump roma tomato, fresh basil leaves, and De Cecco spaghettini – together with lots of fresh garlic, exactly seven dashes of cayenne pepper, extra virgin olive oil (seven swirls’ worth around the pan) and freshly grated Giglio provolone cheese instead of the traditional parmesan!