Monday, 20 June 2011

An Italian summer on a plate

                                a sunny day in Tuscany                 photo by Thomas Gast

Following the excitement of getting a pasta machine as a present, I couldn’t help myself and spent days with an Italian theme in my kitchen. With so many colourful vegetables in season now, I have the best of both worlds and I’m making the most of it.

I remember going to a food festival years ago and Giorgio Locatelli was there teaching some of his dishes. He cooked this mouth-watering Summer vegetable pasta. I never forgot it. Every Summer, I inspect my fridge to see what I can use, and make this recipe. It’s a last minute thrown together meal. You can add any vegetable of your preference here.

courgettes, carrots, peas, asparagus, tomatoes
courgete flowers and basil. Some of the ingredients
place them in all in a deep pan
If cooking fresh pasta, open the dough and pass it through
the pasta machine to make the tagliolini
sprinklle some pecorino cheese on the top and voilá!
Summer vegetable pasta
Serves 4
This combination of summer vegetables is full of flavours and nutrients. This is a nourishing and nutrititious meal, ideal for a light supper.

          Ingredients

If you are not making your own fresh pasta, you can use a good quality dry long pasta like spaghetti, tagliolini or linguini. But if you are, follow the steps here (http://margotskitchen.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-make.html). I used:
A glug of organic extra virgin olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
2 small courgettes, finely sliced (see pic above)
1 big carrot, finely sliced
6 asparagus spears, finely sliced
10 pods of fresh peas
10 small plum tomatoes, cut in half
4 courgette flowers
Fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tbsp of white wine
Sea salt and black pepper

I normally like to add spring onions and parsley too, but I had run out of them. You can also add any other herbs you like. Just create your own Summer vegetable pasta!

Method

Fill a large pan with water and bring it to a boil.

Heat another large pan and add a few glugs of olive oil. Add garlic and fry for 2 minutes (do not let it burn). Add one by one the courgettes, carrots, asparagus and peas. Sautée them well for a minute or so, then add the tomatoes. With the heat in high, add the wine and let it evaporate. The vegetables should be nearly ready. Season, cover them and let them simmer for 5 minutes. They should be crunchy and not over stewed. Now add about two ladles of vegetable stock or water and turn the heat completely down.

Take the dry or fresh pasta and add to the boiling water. The fresh pasta would cook for about 4-5 minutes (taste it for texture, it should be al dente). If you’re cooking dry pasta, follow the instructions on the package but start cooking it earlier.

Drain the pasta and stir it into the vegetable mix. Serve with grated pecorino or parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Enjoy!

Some of the ingredients and their functional properties

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis): contains selenium, calcium, zinc, copper and folic acid. It has some powerful compounds (indoles, isothiocyanates and sulforaphane) that promote cellular regeneration with anti-cancer properties. It is a powerful stimulant to the liver and kidneys. Studies have shown that asparagus protects the liver from the effects of the alcohol. It is a natural diuretic and helps to cleanse the arteries of cholesterol and is useful to control hypertension. It is used to alleviate menstrual difficulties. Caution: avoid eating asparagus when there is an inflammation related to the kidneys as it can irritate the organ even more.

Carrot: mentioned on this previous post

Courgette or zucchini (Cucurbita pepo): has a cooling and refreshing property. It is also diuretic, helps to reduce constipation and can be protective against colon cancer. It contains B vitamins, potassium, zinc and bioflavonoids. It helps reduce blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium. Its skin is a good source of dietary fibre.

Fresh Peas (Pisum sativum): It is a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat. It is a mildly laxative. Strengths the splees-pancreas and stomach and harmonizes digestion. Peas contain B vitamins, Vitamin C magnesium, Vitamin K, potassium, iron and carotenes.

Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) stimulates the regeneration of liver tissue, tonifies the stomach, purifies the blood. It helps relieves high blood pressure and headache. Altought tomato is an acidic fruit, it alkalizes the blood after digestion. It contains Lycopene, an antioxidant with anti cancer properties (organic tomato products like ketchups or sauces delivers three times more Lycopene than a non organic brand). It has been shown to increase its anti-cancer properties, especially when cooked or consumed with  olive oil, avocado or nuts. The carotenoids present in tomatoes are fat soluble and are well absorbed into the body with the fats mentioned above. Caution: Everyone should avoid  consuming a large amount of tomatoes in any one day as it upsets the balance of calcium metabolism, especially if you suffer from arthritis.

Till next week!

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