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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Preparing perfect pasta

Updated: Oct 29, 2019

Pasta is a dish that is often introduced early in our childhood. The softness of the pasta makes it a great meal for a child who is cutting teeth. Our fondness for pasta carries on as we get older. It is also a great meal if you are on a budget. Pasta doubles in size when you cook it.

Often you see the words al denté associated with pasta.The translation form Italian is “ to the tooth.” You want pasta to have a firmness to it. When you overcook pasta, the softness leaves no resistance when you chew it. Correctly cooked pasta adds more texture to your completed dish.

Some people suggest that you add oil to the boiling water to prevent the pasta from sticking together. While it will prevent the pasta from sticking, it will also prevent your sauce from sticking to the pasta. The only thing you should add to the water is a decent amount of salt. This will add flavor to the cooked pasta.

This is one of my wife’s favorite dishes. She first had it at Drago’s restaurant in New Orleans. I have since recreated the dish so I can cook it for her whenever she wishes. For variety, you can substitute other seafood for the shrimp and crabmeat.

Shrimp and Crabmeat Pasta

2 cups Heavy Cream 1 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped 1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme, chopped 2 teaspoons Salt 2 teaspoons freshly ground Black Pepper 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed Red Pepper Flakes 1 teaspoon ground White Pepper 1 cup Green Onions, thinly sliced 1 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped 1/2 pound raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined 1/2 pound Crabmeat, picked thru for shells 1/2 cup shredded Swiss Cheese 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese 1 pound Fettuccine, cooked al denté

Pour cream into a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just about boiling. Reduce heat and add herbs, salt, peppers, onions, and parsley. Simmer 7 to 8 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in seafood, cooking until the shrimp are no longer transparent. Stir in the cheeses, blending well. Serve over pasta.

This is Creole Italian cooking at its finest. This is not your typical meat sauce recipe. It has more flavor due to the addition of the Beef Stock and Worcestershire sauce. It is also chunky due to the chopped tomatoes.

Pasta Creole

3 cups Egg Noodles, cooked al denté 1 pound Ground Beef, sautéed

Tomato Sauce 1/2 cup Butter 1 cup Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped 1 cup Celery, finely chopped 1 cup Onions, finely chopped 2 cups Tomatoes, chopped 1/2 tablespoon Paprika 1 teaspoon Dry Thyme 3 Bay Leaves 6 cups Beef Stock 1 cup Water 1/2 cup Cornstarch 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Melt the butter over low heat in a large skillet. Add the chopped vegetables, paprika and sauté until soft and slightly browned. Add the bay leaves, thyme, beef stock, and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Mix cornstarch together with enough water to make a thin paste then add to sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sautéed meat and cook for 5 minutes Serve over pasta.

This is my interpretation of Copeland’s Shrimp and Tasso Pasta. This simple but delicious dish is what is commonly known as Alfredo. The addition of the Tasso gives it that Louisiana flavor. It takes longer to cook the pasta than it does to make the sauce. I always keep heavy cream and Parmesan cheese on hand to whip up an Alfredo sauce.

Shrimp and Tasso Pasta

10 tablespoons Butter, divided 1 tablespoon Garlic, minced 2 cups Heavy Cream 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese 2 dozen medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined 1/4 pound Tasso, diced 8 ounces Bow Tie Pasta, cooked al denté

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté garlic in 8 tablespoons of butter for 3 minutes or golden brown. Add the heavy cream. Heat until the edges start to bubble. Slowly add the Parmesan Cheese and mix until well blended.

In a medium sauté pan, sauté shrimp and tasso in remaining butter until the shrimp are no longer transparent. Add shrimp and Tasso to the sauce. Keep warm for 3 minutes. Serve over Bow Tie Pasta.

You will want to keep Parmesan cheese to top your pasta dishes. I always keep a small wedge on hand to grate over pasta. It’s better tasting than the grated cheese you find in containers near the pasta.

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