Sunday, September 30, 2012

Five Colors of Spaghetti Sauce



It was mentioned in in the last post that food is inexpensive if bread or pasta is central to a meal and if the bread or pasta is prepared at home from flour. It is only when wheat is processed further into bread or pasta and bought from a store that the price goes up. Admittedly bread or pasta from a store is convenient but the one made fresh at home not only costs less, it is also healthier by far. Eventually the choice depends upon the circumstances of each individual.

One way fresh pasta or pasta fresco is made in our home is by kneading a half and half mix of semolina and flour, rolling out into pancakes and then cutting strips of it with the help of a ruler and sharp knife. If you wish you could add an egg or two to the original mix but it is not necessary. The egg would be nicer if hard boiled, cut into slices with an egg wire cutter and used as a garnish. The cut strips are then dunked into salted boiling water and boiled for a few minutes until just right to eat. After the cooked pasta is drained you might consider adding a little butter, olive oil or a spoonful or two of hot oil in which finely chopped garlic has been added and fried. Cilantro leaves or sprigs of Parsley may also be used as a garnish on top of the red sauce (not shown in photo)

Bread or pasta provides carbohydrates and many other essential nutrients but it needs something along with it to make the meal fully balanced and delicious. Spaghetti requires a sauce unless it is eaten like noodles as in the orient and then it has to be fried further with seasonings, vegetables and something for the protein like meat, tofu or mushrooms. Here are my own recipes of pasta sauce in five different colors. Marco Polo brought pasta to Europe from the orient but he did not bring in the recipes, therefore the Europeans invented the sauce. It has now gone international and here are some international recipes of the sauce.

RED: Let us skip the recipe for the red tomato rich pasta sauce since that is the most common one and you already may have a better recipe for it. It is often enriched with ground red meat. For those who do not eat red meat you may wish to try red kidney beans instead. The beans must be pre-soaked overnight and then steamed in a pressure cooker until fully soft. Drain, mix it in the red sauce and let simmer for five minutes before serving with the spaghetti. The precise proportions are not given here and you would have to use your judgment for the proportions just as we do.

WHITE:  To prepare this sauce, fist prepare a traditional white sauce. It is prepared by heating a tablespoon of butter in a pan, adding a table spoon of white flour and then slowly adding warm or hot milk and stirring on a slow fire until it has the right consistency. Not too stiff and not too thin. Add salt to taste and then add to it sliced button mushrooms and let simmer for five minutes. Instead of mushrooms some ricotta cheese may be added. Milk, mushrooms and cheese all provide the proteins necessary for a healthy dinner.

YELLOW: This is simply a variation of the white sauce. When the sauce is nearly done add in a tea spoon of turmeric powder and then grate in some cheddar or Gouda cheese. Let simmer for a few minutes before serving

BROWN: This sauce is for red meat eaters, especially those who have some left over roast meat and the traditional gravy that goes with it. First prepare a brown sauce. It is prepared the same way as the white sauce but the flour is browned in the butter before the milk is added. After the brown sauce is prepared mix in the left over gravy and slices of roast. You might consider replacing the milk with just plain water for this recipe. There will be protein enough in the meat and a dash of Worcestershire sauce or a pinch of MSG will add taste.

GREEN: This is the healthiest of the spaghetti sauces. Get a bunch of spinach leaves; wash thoroughly in lots of water. Then leave on heat in a covered pot for a few minutes until steamed and soft. Let cool and then run it in a blender to prepare the spinach cream required in the recipe.

For the sauce take a couple of medium sized onions and a few cloves of garlic. Peal and chop finely and then fry in butter or clarified butter (Ghee) until brown. Mix in the spinach puree and some tomato puree for additional taste along with a pinch of salt and simmer for a good ten minutes. Before serving you may add tofu or fresh unprocessed cheese (paneer) bits to the mix for protein.

Paneer or fresh cheese is prepared easily at home by adding a spoonful or two of vinegar to rapidly boiling milk so that the solid coagulates. This kind of cheese does not melt or stretch on cooking or even deep frying like Tofu because of the coagulant and high temperature used in its preparation. Drain and mix it in the sauce. It will have a crumbly texture like ricotta cheese but will not melt. If you prefer cubes instead then the drained paneer has to be pressed under a weight for a day or so and then it may be cut into any desired shape. You need not throw away the water from the milk. It can be used in soups and breads.

SERVING DINNER:   

The spaghetti and sauce can be served separately or they may be served in individual plates. First put some spaghetti on the plate so that the spaghetti comes up to the edge of the plate. Then spoon over the sauce so that most of the spaghetti is covered leaving an uncovered ring on the side. Add a sprig of parsley, celery or cilantro in the middle as garnish. For additional effect there can be a circle of wire cut slices of a hard boiled egg especially if the protein portion of the sauce is minimal or missing.

The spaghetti dinner is not a fully balanced meal yet. In order to do so a side dish is required of steamed vegetables or a green salad. The side dish should be served in a separate plate and can be had before, in the middle or after dinner. Or, if you wish to do as the ancient Romans did and get a sound sleep here is a salad that will produce sound sleep if consumed after dinner. Mix in lettuce, chopped celery and bits of water cress if available with grated carrots for the sleep promoting salad. Sprinkle in some crushed hazelnuts, a generous handful of flaked almonds and a handful of mung bean sprouts if available. Use all or some of the ingredients as mentioned here. All promote good sleep. Add a dressing of your choice to the salad. One with some sour cream in it is excellent or simply a little olive oil (Vinegar is not nice on carrots for most).

HEALTH NOTE: 

A complex carbohydrate diet i.e. not high on sugars, is good for health for all persons except those who are overweight or obese. the latter must cut down on carbohydrates and fats to increase vegetables and proteins. Some persons have allergy to gluten in wheat, they may then explore other grains such as rice, corn etc. One can have the same spaghetti dinners by replacing wheat pasta with thick rice noodles too, widely available in super markets and Chinese stores.

2 comments:

Rebb said...

Sounds delicious, Ashok. I don't think I've actually made a homemade white sauce. I'll have to give it a try.

I've made a clam sauce with canned chopped clams using the recipe on the can itself. It’s prepared with olive oil, lots of garlic—I use the whole bulb—dried basil, dried parsley, a dash of pepper, the clam juice from the canned clams, and the clams. Sprinkled with parmesan. Yum! It’s one of my favorites.

ashok said...

The clam sauce Sounds absolutely delicious Rebb. Hope you try the sauces mentioned in this post too, they are simple. One can add crab meat or tuna from a can to the white sauce too if one is fond of sea foods instead of the mushrooms or both.