How to cook like an Italian

Inside the pasta drawer

I was looking this morning at this pasta I brought home from Italy, made from farro. I found what sounds like a delicious recipe for this particular kind of pasta, or for a whole wheat pasta, from Pino Luongo and Mark Strausman’s book, Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen. A great book, by the way! Anyway, the sauce is simple-you just saute alot of garlic in EVOO, add some crushed or whole San Marzano tomatoes, and some red hot pepper flakes. It’s so simple but it goes so well with a hearty farro or whole wheat penne. What a delicious Sunday lunch we are to have today! Molto bene!

Anyway, it got me thinking about all the pastas in my kitchen. Did I mention I keep a pasta drawer?

It may sound crazy to have a whole drawer dedicated to just pasta, but it works for me, and it worked for my mom. My mom’s drawer was even larger than mine-twice the size! But the point is, we both like to keep all kinds of pastas and shapes of pasta on hand. You never know when you may feel like long spaghetti or tiny ancini di pepe for your zuppa.

I was at Rachael’s house once and someone asked her how you decide which shape to use when. The answer makes sense-you want to have a pasta that will work with your sauce. So if you are making some kind of sauce that is chunky, like a Pasta ala Norma or a Puttanesca, you want to use a short pasta with ridges so the pasta shape and size matches the chunks, making it easy to grab pasta and sauce in the same forkful.

Rachael’s Tuna Puttanesca uses penne pasta

Conversely, if you have a smooth Carbonara or a red sauce, for example, with big meatballs, a long, thin spaghetti works well as the sauce will literally coat the pasta and the meat is so big anyway, that you’ll be eating that separately.

As far as ingredients go, you mainly find semolina dried, fresh pasta, whole wheat pasta, farro and rice pasta. You can try to use them interchangeably, but here are some Rachael dishes she has created for the semolinas and whole wheats:

Whole wheat pasta recipes:

Roasted Cauliflower Penne with Rosemary Cream

Pasta with Hazelnut Spinach Pesto

Caeser Style Spaghetti

Regular, dried semolina pasta:

Roasted Caprese Spaghetti

Sweet Red or Yellow Drunken Pasta

My version of the Pino and Mark dish, made with farro pasta:


12 Responses to “Inside the pasta drawer”

  1. Becki says:

    I have a question realted to pasta.
    I want to know how to cook with dry (uncooked) pasta
    for a recipe I have for Mostaccioli.
    Any suggestions?

  2. jasen says:

    wow nice site interesting

  3. Denise says:

    I worked a 3rd shift for the last 8 years, so I always slept during the afternoon. Due to a massive layoff with our company (somewhere around 9000 employees when they are finished) I have been able to watch daytime TV..so I recently became aquinted with Rachaels show…And I love it! She seems so down to earth and compassionate. I also love to watch her cook…so effortlessly! I have never been much of a cook. Alot of the out of the box kinda stuff…I wasn’t taught much about cooking. Which is ironic since my Mom made great bread, canned every summer, had perfect gravy and all that sorta stuff…she was too busy trying to take care of the family, I was too busy being a kid….Watching Rachael’s show has inspired me to want to learn! I have spices now that I’ve never purchased before (it’s a start right?..lol) She uses things that I’ve never heard of or can’t find in my area….so is there a way to know if I can make a substitute for something the recipe calls for and it still be ok? I just don’t know what I’m doing….!!! Help I’m like a beginner!!! Any tips?

  4. wendy says:

    Okay…where can I find the weekly spaghetti that uses whole wheat pasta and tons of shallots???? I saw it on the show 12/3/08 and I bought the ingredients and cannot find the recipe. Please help!!

  5. Lauren says:

    Hi Wendy. Have you tried using the ‘weekly roundup’ section on the website? Just click on Food at the top of the page on the home page, then Weekly roundup, then find the date you want using the previous or next buttons and you should find it.

  6. Lauren says:

    Hi Denise. Rachael has a great cookbook out that might help you. It is Express Lane Meals- a 30 minute meals cookbook. You will get an idea of what to keep on hand and what to buy. I have a copy and you can buy one right on the website. In regards to substitutions, well, there are some ingredients you just can’t substitute no matter what. I’d say the rule of the thumb is just cook what sounds good to you or that you like but have a bit of a sense of adventure and try something new every now and then. Hope this helps. Happy cooking.

  7. Lauren says:

    Hi Denise, again. Substitutions could be dried herbs for fresh but use less as they are concentrated, frozen veggies for fresh, vegetable oil for EVOO but you lose the flavor( I wouldn’t say that to Rachaels face though-LOL). Some recipes are designed for only one ingredient, like say beef or seafood and can’t really be interchangeable without messing up the whole recipe and the end result in terms of taste. The taste and flavor are the ultimate goal in most cooking. Good luck and happy eating.

  8. Dorothy Todd says:

    I made the Cherry Bars (submitted by a user on 11/17/08) and it was’nt until I started the mixing I noticed the recipe ingredients states “1/4 cup all purpose flour” and the Preparation state “mix together 1 cup flour”. I used the 1 cup, but still readers need a clarification if it’s 1/4the or 1-cup. They were VERY, VERY GOOD.

  9. nilu de silva says:

    dear rachel ray ireally enjoying your programs.iam a srilankan lady who came to ca reasontly.it is very difficulties to live here.every time when i see your programe i dream aout your kitchen wear.raychel could you please help me to get one of you kitchen wear and a two burner griller.in this christmas season,jeasus is the reason of this season…i hope my dream will come true. god bless you.mery christmas..nilu

  10. Mary Overhalser says:

    What is a great recipe for sweet saugage and potatoes. HELP

  11. Edith says:

    I was looking for the recipe that was on earlier this week of the no cheese lasagna. I couldn’t find it. I also tried to do a search for it, but didn’t come up with it.

  12. susan ridolphi griffin says:

    Denise
    It is a good start~! I started the same way, with trying new herbs & spices. I was not always a success. I will forever be the Mom who made pine-sol chicken, aka, my 1st experience with rosemary~! I have learned a bit since then. I read a lot of books and found practical advice from friends, and any mentor I could pin down. I live in the south, and fell in love with the simple stuff we do here. I was a nurse and Italian, and I worked with all these great women who made the best pound cakes, and collard greens, cornbread, you get the picture? They would write down recipies,and talk me through them and I would show up with a lemon 7-up sponge, instead of the confections they purveyed. They would laugh at me~! I tried to make collard greens, cooked them for hours and my boyfriend said he would rather eat yard clippings. They had a good laugh over that one. They said girl, don’t you know if the greens are tough, add a pinch of soda? It works. This year my daughter made collard greens, that were so amazing, she’s 27, a new Mom and a killer cook, those greens brought tears to my eyes just then, they were so good~! Hang in, you will get it~!

Leave a Reply