Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Olive Mill Pasta

What I've learned over the years cooking with the kids, is that they like to cook. NOT washing and cleaning up, rather chopping, peeling, sauteing and stirring. So, I've let them. It has the added side effect of ownership of the dish. Adding this spice or that ingredient, but not that one! Ultimately, they can't reject trying and eating something they've cooked.

One of the easier dishes to make together is Olive Mill Pasta. The dish requires you to cook the pasta like you would risotto by sauteing the base, adding the pasta uncooked, then slowing adding the chicken stock and lots of stirring. It is a little labor intensive, but three sets of hands or more can work on the dish together - based on how small the hands who are stirring.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium-small onions, minced
1/4 pound uncooked potatoes, peeled and cubed into bite-size pieces
About 5 cups chicken stock, you can use a mix of stock and water or even water and bouillon cubes
Box of pasta, preferably wheat pasta which holds up slightly better
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A vegetable of your choice - I've used Fennel, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Carrots - something the kids eat
1 garlic clove, peeled and diced
Fresh basil or oregano (could be dried, just rub it between your hands before you put it in to release some flavor)
3 ounces/1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add 1/2 the butter. After the butter melts, add onions and potatoes and cook until they begin to brown.

2. If small hands are helping, determine who will start as stirrer and who will be the first pourer of stock. The first pourer should grate the cheese, if you have Parmigiano-Reggiano.

3. Add pasta to pan, stirring to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Add fennel/mushrooms/carrots, garlic and basil or oregano. Add enough stock to come half way up the pasta. Stirring pasta often until stock has mostly evaporated. Add more stock while continue to stir.

4. If smaller hands are helping, switch the stirrer for the pourer after 9-10 minutes since much stirring is required.

5. Continue adding stock occasionally to always keep some liquid in the pan. Pasta should be al dente after about 18-20 minutes.

4. Fold in cheese and the rest of the butter. Have the helpers sample and ask if it needs anything. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Put into bowls and bring over the Parmesan to be added to top if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

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