For our first cooking adventure, Nancy and I decided to stick to a recipe that was fairly basic, since we were just starting out as chefs. We figured we shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves. So when flipping through our Jamie's Food Revolution cookbooks, we thought that a pasta recipe would be a good place to start. The following is so easy, but so delicious, that it's a great recipe for beginner chefs:
Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheat's Fresh Pasta
1 1/2 pints ripe grape or cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
a small bunch of fresh basil (While Nancy had fresh basil, I couldn't find any in the grocery stores, so I used Litehouse Freeze-Dried Basil, which worked perfectly!)
1 pound fresh lasagna, defrosted if frozen (we both changed this; she used penne and I used ditalini)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pats of butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 ounces parmesan cheese
To prepare your pasta:
Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on size. Peel and slice the garlic. Pick the basil leaves off the stalks and put them to one side. Finely chop the stalks. Cut the lasagna sheets into 3 or 4 long strips and put to one side. Grate the parmesan.
To cook your pasta:
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a couple of lugs of olive oil and the garlic. Add the butter and let it melt. When the garlic starts to brown, add the tomatoes. Give everything a good stir, then add the basil stalks and half the leaves. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Drop your fresh pasta strips into the pan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the frying pan with a splash of the cooking water and half the parmesan. Give it a good stir. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
To serve your pasta:
Divide the pasta between your plates or bowls, or put the pan in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves. Sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan and the basil leaves, tearing any larger ones up. This dish is lovely with a simple side salad!
The great thing about learning to cook is that even though you should try to stick to the recipe as much as possible, there is always room for substitutions and switches. I couldn't find fresh basil, so I substituted it for freeze-dried. Nancy used fresh penne instead of fresh lasagna, and I switched out the lasagna for little round pasta tubes called ditalini. To add more protein to the dish, I also cooked up some chicken and added that in, another way our final dishes differed.
First step: Make sure all the ingredients are ready to go!
Off to a good start...
Pasta and sauce bubbling away!
Nancy's hard at work on her dish too!
Add a little parmesan cheese to taste...
The (delicious) finished product!
Nancy presents her finished dish, while I display mine and the recipe!
All in all, week one was a success! It really is an easy dish to make, with Jamie laying out the recipe step by step. One recommendation I would have, however, is that with any recipe, you should read the entire thing through once before you begin, just so you have an idea of what to expect, and aren't taken by surprise by anything that's in there.
Don't forget, you can try these recipes too, by picking up Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cookbook at a bookstore near you! Check back in a few days to see how Week Two of Transatlantic Tastes went!