Italian Obsession Chapter 1: Pasta al Pesto

Anyone who knows me over here knows that I'm in love with Italians. I have an unhealthy infatuation with their language, food, culture, and charm. It's ok though, because my friend Harriet shares this obsession and that's how I'm going to justify it. I don't care if you're a total douchey douchelord, if you call me "bella ragazza" you have my undivided attention. Yeah, that's how bad it is. Somebody find me a therapist.

I work with several Italian girls and am friends with some Italian boys from Sardinia who I have forcibly appointed as my teachers. Luckily, they have all been enthusiastic about my determination to learn all there is to know about their country and culture.

One of the loveliest Italians I know, Giulia, left the hostel a week ago, but I want to give her credit for being so patient with teaching me the language and showing me new pasta recipes every week. FYI Americans: we are doing pasta SO wrong. Alfredo is not a real thing. Neither is spaghetti and meatballs, or bolognese. Carbonara is not made with cream (it's made with raw eggs). You never put cheese on seafood pasta. Tortellini only goes in soup.

When Giulia left, we obtained Cristina, who is one of those people who has such passion for her country and the most positive, uplifting energy about her. She's quickly taken over as my teacher, which brings me to the point of this blog entry...

I had the best vegetarian pasta I've ever eaten last week and I need to share this recipe with you.

One of my Thursday duties is to make pasta for all the guests and Cristina helps me because she's the expert. We decided to make a veggie penne pesto with tomatos, cheese, and olives. This is one of those recipes you need to alter is based on your taste and the number of people you're feeding, and we happened to be feeding 30.

Start by chopping up the tomatoes, black olives, and cheese. Don't use a really strong cheese like gouda or parmesan or cheddar... find "just a block of cheese" in the words of Cristina. We used a white Spanish cheese called manchego curado.

This is Vicki, a German friend who had been at the hostel since I arrived. She went home Friday. She was my fourth friend to leave within a week. I don't really cry often, but all the loss got real when she left.

This is Vicki, a German friend who had been at the hostel since I arrived. She went home Friday. She was my fourth friend to leave within a week. I don't really cry often, but all the loss got real when she left.

Cristina!

Cristina!

After chopping all of the things, throw it all in a mixing bowl. We added the pesto in small amounts. The kind we used was the consistency of a paste, so we added hot water little by little to make it creamy before pouring it into the mixing bowl. Now, I'm not sure what brand of pesto in the states is equivalent to the one we used, so I'd say just find one without any artificial bullshit in it.

Does not look glamorous, but trust me...

Does not look glamorous, but trust me...

Boil your pasta water. I know this seems like common sense, but I've seen this done the wrong way so many times, which results in soggy pasta. If you aren't aware of how to correctly cook pasta, do it like this:

  1. Fill your pot with water. Use 1 liter of water per 100 ml of pasta.
  2. Salt the water until it tastes like the ocean. Ya.
  3. Boil the water. Water needs to be at a full boil before adding pasta.
  4. Add the pasta. Look at the package the pasta came it -- there should be two different cooking times... time it for "al dente", which is usually 6-8 minutes. "Al dente" literally translates to "to the tooth", which means it should be slightly firm to the bite, but still soft. Does that make sense?
  5. Drain the pasta.
  6. Bravissimo.

Add the sauce mixture. No, you do not cook the sauce. The hot pasta will slightly melt the cheese and that's all you need.

YASSSS!

YASSSS!

We had appoximately 30 people tell us this was the best pasta they've ever had, and these people were not vegetarians.

Mayke this pawstaaaa dewd!

Another Italian food anecdote: when you take a piece of bread to mop up the remaining sauce, it's called "la scarpetta" (the little shoe):

Unless my plan gets messed up, I'm moving to Italy in January. I gotta.