Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How to pack flavors in your pasta - Semolina pasta with soy chorizo

I like noodles, but there are times I really need spicy, hot asian noodles instead of Italian pasta. As a good Southeast Asian, I enjoy my food, packed with bold, strong flavors. Especially, when you are talking about carb-filled dishes like noodles, too many good flavors can only mean extra-good. Thus, sometimes I do feel a little bit dissatisfied with Italian pasta because usually the sauce seems to just coat, rather than flavor, the pasta strands. Of course, Italian food is known to highlight fresh ingredients and simple, un-muddled flavors, which, by the way, I dearly love. But, sometimes, I just crave for the flavors that my mom used to force-feed me, and there is nothing I can do about it.

In anticipation for my birthday, I visited a great Italian restaurant in SoCal, and ordered their vongole, where raw pasta strands are cooked in the juices of clams. Then, I realized a game-changer trick in the pasta cooking  - when pasta strands are cooked IN the sauce itself, they thirstily soak up all subtle and not-so-subtle flavors from the broth. In that bowl of vongole, there was no doubt that the chewy, herby, and almost-oceanic pasta itself is the star. I felt like I just fell in love with someone from high school that I used to hate.

After forcing myself back into reality, I decided to try my newfound concept on a simple pasta dish – semolina pasta with paprika. The dish is embarrassingly simple and easy to make, but has maximum flavor and texture. I used bite-sized semolina pasta pieces because I just love their golden color and savory nuttiness once toasted. The bite-sized noodle pieces are toasted slowly in paprika-infused butter until they turn blonde. Then, I added vegetable stock to allow noodles to soften and take up all the flavors. Finally, the dish is finished in the oven so that the miniature pasta can curl up at the edges and become crispy. 

Although the recipe is minimalist, the reward is not. It is nutty, fatty, spicy, yet feels fresh and crunchy – everything I want in a bowl of noodle. But, I think I secretly enjoy this recipe because I don’t have to wait for the water to boil to cook my pasta. The results are a faster dinner and fewer dishes to clean - an ultimate win for a lazy cook like me.I feel like my birthday just comes early.

Semonlina pasta recipe

Ingredients
  • About 20 oz. of bite-sized semolina pasta
  • 6 oz. of soy chorizo (you can buy from Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 3 stalks of green onions (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 teaspoonsof mushroom powder (optional)
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Instructions

  • Melt the butter in the olive oil.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degree.
  • Add in chopped green onions, and garlic. Crumble in soy chorizo pieces. Let the ingredients infuse the oil by cooking under medium-high heat until chorizo bits give out ruby red paprika (about 5 minutes). You can substitute green onions with regular onions. I was just lazy to peel and chop an onion.
  • Add in pasta, and stir thoroughly to coat the pasta pieces with the infused oil.
  • Let the pasta toast in the oil for about 8 minutes by stirring constantly. But, be gentle. You don’t want to tarnish the beautiful strands by breaking them.
  • Add in the vegetable stock, and cook covered until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • Add mushroom powder, paprika, salt and pepper.
  • Uncover the lid, and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the top is thoroughly browned.

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