Pasta special: yes, I have made fresh pasta dough from scratch, but it's not noted among my greatest achievements. More practice needed and the future will tell. I don't usually waste time with fresh pasta from supermarkets either, good quality dried pasta is more than serviceable.
Pasta fresca or al forno? I love them both, could eat pasta every day to tell the truth, if only I could... And before anyone mentions spiralisers, NO - you can't slurp wilted, ridiculously shredded zucchini and pretend it's linguine.
Fresh pasta needs to be dressed sparingly with the sauce you fancy - or simply pesto. Let's make it at home - not many things easier than that. And then stir it into freshly cooked linguine with bits of smoked salmon. Or mix the fresh pasta with cheese - Gorgonzola will dissolve into sauce effortlessly in this dish of fettuccine with fennel. Linguine alle vongole is another firm favourite so let's cook the clams, simply, with garlic and white wine. Note: mussels can be cooked in presicely the same way, just a bit more hassle scrubbing them.
Pasta al forno (*sighs with pleasure*): the classic is lasagne but I prefer it vegetarian, with spinach and ricotta. Any other pasta bake works on a few simple principles: cook pasta. Mix with the flavouring ingredient. Add cheese copiously. Bake. Here's penne with leeks and mushrooms and here - tomato and aubergine fusilli.
There's one more way of cooking pasta but it's such a fusion Italians everywhere might shudder: potsticker style. Check it out - just watch it, it's addictive.
What's for dessert? Why, of course an Italian cake must follow a pasta dish, and the yoghurt cake (torta 7 vasetti) is easier than most cakes. So much so that its French version is called 'the toddler's cake'.
To finish in the same flavour, try your hand at this coccodrillo ciabatta: unlike most ciabatta recipes I've come across this is doable and produces the most wonderfully airy 'slippers'. Enjoy your panini. Alla prossima settimana!