Lessons In Simplicity – Smoked Trout Pasta
My smoked trout pasta has been part of my kitchen repertoire since the day I devised it when living solo overseas and finding nothing more than a couple of capsicums, leeks and a smoked trout fillet in the fridge. While I never doubted the combination would work, I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it tasted. The leeks and capsicums were sliced thinly and sauteed slowly in olive oil to bring out their natural sweetness and the smoked trout flaked and added to the cooked down vegetables with a few capers and the zest of a lemon. Tossed through the linguini it was finally dressed with nothing more than a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; no Parmesan cheese needed.
I think we can sometimes be too bound by our love of a tomato based sauce and lots of Parmesan cheese or the addition of cream to make a creamy sauce to coat pasta. I love pasta dishes that don’t dictate the need of a sauce and instead rely on the brilliant seasonal taste of a vegetable and good quality extra virgin olive oil. Broccoli orecchietti, a classic pasta from Southern Italy, relies on nothing more than broccoli, anchovies, garlic, chilli and olive oil, with Parmesan a great but optional extra. Pasta with double peeled broad beans, garlic and pecorino cheese and olive oil is another simple unsauced pasta but probably the simplest of all is spaghetti aglio e olio, spaghetti with garlic and oil. I wonder how many Italians rely on that dish when the fridge is empty. One memorable pasta dish I had in Sicily actually had a dry, crunchy topping of fried breadcrumbs flavoured with onion and saffron and this was a restaurant meal, not a late night boozy need for carbs. What confidence it takes to chalk that up on the blackboard. Flavour is everything in these types of dishes, so rather than swamping an el cheapo pasta with a thick, cheesy sauce think about using a good quality dried pasta that actually has a nice, discernible flavour and then match it with one or two key ingredients. Keep it simple and don’t be afraid to pour a good glug of extra virgin olive oil on top of your plated pasta; it’s the perfect lubricant for pasta and your arteries.