Okay… I know I’m risking the wrath of The FOOD Network and millions of Mario Batali fans around the world, but I just have to post this. I disagree with some of his highly-touted tips for cooking and dressing pasta. And I think he left some important ones out!
Chef Mario Batali is one of a select few Italian Chefs who both is Italian and is an acknowledged expert on classic Italian cooking. That is, what the Culinary Schools and gastronomic authorities around the world consider ‘classic’.
This recent Yahoo! post, features an excerpt from a new book by the Editor in Chief of Food & Wine magazine in which Batali’s ‘Ten Commandments of Pasta’ plays the principle role.
I respectfully disagree…
For one thing, I disagree heartily with his enthusiastic endorsement of Béchamel (White Cream) Sauce for use with all Baked Pastas. It has its place, but it is not the be-all and end-all of toppings! For a start, it’s heavy, fatty and calorie-laden. Anyway…
Hand in hand with Batali’s love affair with Béchamel goes his distrust of good old, traditional grated and melted Cheeses.
“Cheese breaks! Ricotta [even] in the right hands tends to look wrong,” he exclaims. No disrespect to Chef Batali, but: Nonsense! I’ve used various Cheeses for years to top my Baked Pastas, Pizzas and other Italian goodies, and I’ve never had a problem!
Now. About Tomatoes: Batali says you must use fresh tomatoes for the best result. He claims that all kinds of ugly Tomato ends and trimmings and stuff go into Canned Tomatoes. I’ve used canned tomatoes for ages, for my Pasta Sauces and I’ve never been disappointed. On the advice of my Culinary School instructors – not to mention legions of famous TV food show hosts – I’ve used canned tomatoes because they are canned and preserved within a few hours of picking. They are picked at the peak of their ripeness, unlike supermarket tomatoes which are usually picked green and hard so they’ll travel better from their distant growing places. I have yet to get a supermarket Tomato that didn’t have a hard, white core. Yuk!
One really important tip Batali leaves out of his Top Ten list is to NOT rinse or oil your pasta before dressing it or putting it in the casserole. The starch on the surface of the Pasta will help sauce stick to it and, in the case of a Zitti or Penne Bake, help hold the whole thing together when serving.
Another thing: When serving Pasts with sauce, always use pastas with ‘fins’, like Rotini or Fusilli, internal compartments, like Orecchietti, or ridges, like Penne Regate. They’ll hold onto the sauce beautifully for the perfect bite every time!
~ Maggie J.