By Nancy Caivano
Pasta and Risotto are thought of as Italian foods—for good reason; they are. What people may not be aware of is that there are many ways to prepare these versatile dishes with flavors other than Italian.
For example, take Lo Mein. This Chinese dish is essentially pasta with meat and vegetables. It's a different kind of pasta, (made with rice flour, not wheat) with different flavorings, (soy, ginger, and lemongrass) and different vegetables (bok choy, water chestnuts) — but it is still a pasta dish. It shows how versatile pasta is as an ingredient, and how many different cultures can adapt it with their own special flavors.
I have taken two pasta recipes and two risotto recipes and given them each a unique flavor from different cuisines. You'll see Irish, Latin, Oriental and French influences in all the recipes — plus a proper English dessert. These dishes really bring forth extreme versatility of pasta and risotto. By themselves, as ingredients, pasta and rice are neutrally flavored, taking on the characteristics of the other ingredients or sauces that they are combined with. The following recipes show that even though they might be Italian by birth, they can have a totally different kind of nationality.
For our pastas, we tour Latin America and the Orient. First up, we have Lime Chicken and Mushroom Pasta, a refreshing pasta bursting with flavor. Golden sautéed chicken is combined with mushrooms, red bell peppers and tomatoes, and a blast of lime juice, to form a light sauce. The scent of this dish is unreal. The lime juice gives it a nice Latin accent, and would go perfectly with a frosty margarita. Our other pasta, Pasta with Pork, Broccoli and Almonds takes its flavors from the Orient. Fresh pork tenderloin is sautéed and combined with aromatics like onion, garlic and ginger, plus broccoli and other vegetables in a light wine sauce, and finished with parsley, scallions and crunchy almonds. It's a nice change from take-out. You can substitute rice noodles for the linguine for a true oriental experience.
Our risotti this month take us to two totally different cuisines. One is known for its intricate sauces, techniques and richness, while the other is known as peasant food, and is not known as a particularly varied cuisine. The first risotto, Risotto with Cabbage and Sausage is as Irish as it can be. I use real Irish sausages, crisp fresh cabbage and a touch of tomato for this luscious dish. The Irish sausage, or "Bangers" as they are known, add a unique flavor and texture to this dish. This recipe will definitely be a "keeper." Our other risotto takes us to France with Risotto with Morels and Apples. I saw this combination in a French cookbook and thought it would make a wonderful risotto. The morels compliment the tart Granny Smith apples perfectly, and the dish also contains fresh asparagus for another lively flavor note. I use cracked black pepper here, as I think it really peps up the apples and mushrooms. I also use Calvados instead of wine in this risotto to bring the apple flavor home. This dish makes a fabulous first course or light supper entree.
Our dessert this month is an easy English dish. It isn't traditionally one of their desserts or "puddings", as it is usually served with tea. I, personally love them for dessert and try to have them often. These English Scones are a revelation of flavor, whether served plain or with a dollop of jam and cream. I think you'll find yourself making them over and over, and varying the ingredients to change the flavors.
I hope you enjoy this little culinary tour and recipes. They really demonstrate that pasta is a lot more than spaghetti, and risotto can be much more unique than the standard saffron variety.
This page created June 2000
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