Plenty of Pasta

When thinking of chametz, many folks have the same thought — we love our pasta! And please don’t confuse pasta and noodles — there is a difference! Pasta is made from flour and water while noodles almost always contain eggs. Other dry pasta shapes do not. By federal law, a noodle must contain 5.5 percent egg solids to be called a noodle. So without egg, a noodle really isn’t a noodle — it’s pasta.

Pasta is believed to have originated in the Middle East and was brought to Italy by Arab traders. Pasta is even mentioned in the Talmud, referred to as “itriyya” or boiled dough. However, in 2005, Chinese archaeologists claimed to have found the oldest noodles in the world. While this find is disputed by some experts, noodles have been proven to have been part of the Chinese cuisine for almost 4,000 years. Some credit Marco Polo with introducing noodles to the West; in his travels to China he brought noodles back to Italy to add to his country’s repertoire of pasta. So while the history of pasta may be confusing, its popularity is definitely not in dispute!

Top-quality pasta is made from durum wheat. Most durum wheat grown in the U.S. is grown in North Dakota. American-grown durum wheat is considered among the best in the world and is primarily used by the pasta-manufacturing industry. Durum is high-gluten wheat, making it too tough for cakes and bread but perfect for pasta.

Always cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Never overcook. It should be firm to the tooth, or “al dente.” Overcooking pasta will make it mushy and starchy.

Most kids will eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It comes in so many shapes and sizes, making pasta appropriate for countless sauces and recipes. This recipe is sure to become a family favorite!

Pasta and Mushrooms with Parmesan Crumb Topping

For the crumbs:

3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from leftover challah

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 cup parsley, checked and chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided

For the mushrooms:

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)

1 cup hot water

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/4 pounds fresh white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, checked and chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup milk

1 pound farfalle (bowtie) or fusilli (corkscrew) pasta

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch or other 3-quart glass or oven-to-tableware dish.

Spread out crumbs in a shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, then toss with garlic, parsley, olive oil, pepper and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

Soak porcini in boiling-hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes.

Drain porcini in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve soaking liquid, then rinse porcini. Pat dry and finely chop.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion and garlic, stirring, until onion is golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in chopped porcini, reserved soaking liquid and milk and simmer 1 minute.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente. Drain in a colander, then transfer to baking dish and stir in mushroom mixture and remaining cheese. Sprinkle evenly with crumb mixture and return to the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crumbs are golden. Serve immediately.

Mmmm … hearty appetite!


 

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to peppermill@hamodia.com. This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.