This is a time where I've gone right back to basics and took inspiration from my heritage. Pasta has always been a part of my life, in every shape and form, in every manner of handling it, when you're Italian, then this is in your DNA.
Sometimes pasta can be swamped by it's sauces - they mask it's texture rather than compliment it. During my recent trip to Italy I rediscovered how often the most simplest things are the most flavoursome and the same can be said for pasta dishes.
The simplest sauce is often the best.
So I've gone back to a dish from my childhood, a dish I've carried through adulthood - it's basic but works because it's all about flavour and it's all about simplicity.
I've made one adjustment to it's original form, inspired in part by a dish I ate in Torino. The modification is the addition of sweet potato. Traditionally, pumpkin could also be used.
For One person:
100 grams dried linguine
about 25 grams of Butter, chopped into cubes
fresh Sage leaves, 8-10 depending on their size
half a Sweet Potato, peeled, and cut into small cubes
freshly ground salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cooking the pasta:
I shouldn't have to give instruction but I will. The most important part - use LOTS of water. I can't stress that enough. And you must salt the water. In some parts of Italy they will say that the water must taste like the sea, in relation to it's saltiness. I don't go quite to that extent but you must be generous in the use of salt. Pasta needs salt. Otherwise it will just taste unbelievably bad and unbearably bland. Add the pasta only when the water is at a rolling boil and stir immediately after you add it in. You want to keep the pasta moving and the water boiling, it’s these things that stop the pasta from sticking.
There's also no need to add oil to the water, or to throw it against ceilings or walls to see if it's done. Just taste it.
Cooking the sweet potato:
You can toss them in oil and roast them in oven till they are lightly browned or you can boil them until just tender and sauté them with a little oil in a frypan until slightly caramelised. If you do the latter, you can make the burnt butter sauce in the same pan.
To make the sauce:
In a shallow frypan, over low heat, drop in your cubes of butter and sage leaves, letting the butter slowly melt and the sage infuse. The butter will froth - just keep swirling the pan to help you control the colouring - you want the butter to slowly change colour and develop those little dark specks (caused by the separation of the milk solids). Take it off the heat if you think it's getting close. Add about three quarters of the sweet potato and toss through the sauce.
Once the pasta is cooked, strain and add to the frypan. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and then toss to coat thoroughly before serving. Sprinkle with the left over sweet potato cubes and a generous amount of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you're doing something this traditional, use the traditional ingredients.
Serve with a glass of red wine and you'll be back in Italy...Buon Appetito!