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The DEFINITIVE Guide to Standby meals, the ITALIAN WAY!
Snacks and Standbys
Member Name: luigi0778
Snacks and Standbys
Date: 04/08/09, updated on 04/08/09 (129 review reads)
Advantages: Healthy alternatives to ready meals or takeaways, Economical, Fast and Easy to prepare
Disadvantages: None, unless you like wasting money.
Sadly, many of todays mothers across the developed world, have lost this skill, apparantly todays mothers work harder, feel more tired, and have less time. Which is rather odd, as my mother walked to work, had four kids, worked a double shift in a manual job, and still cleaned the house, played with us, and fed us all. Also, unless im mistaken the day has always consisted of 24hrs. Thankfully, she now takes it much easier, unless I visit.
As I grew older and my interest in food grew, I noticed that far from being some magician, or grand chef, my mother just had a few basic (sorry mum) cooking skills, the bare essentials in the cupboards, and what she classified as her snack and standby repotoire.
So next time your short on time, or have bare looking cupboards or fridge, instead of reaching for the phone to call for a pizza, have a go at one or more of these high speed but healthy meals, for you and your family. You might also save a penny or two.
You will notice that when in some recipes I list fresh Herbs, I will add a *, the explanation for this is below.
*All leftover fresh herbs can be chopped, bagged and thrown into the freezer. They can be kept there for a few months, and used straight from the freezer. They will taste far superior to dried herbs, and work out alot cheaper! This also prevents wastage, as you are not letting them go old sat in the fridge.
You will also notice, I have omitted the obvious standby meals such as salads, but if your going to object. Then add some lettuce leaves, tomatoes, sliced cucumber, radishes and spring onions, into a bowl, and throw on some olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice, season and your done.
Pasta, the original Fast Food!
In many ways Pasta is the original, Italian fast food. It is healthy (relatively), is very fast to cook, and is the perfect carrier to a host of sauces and other ingredients.
Pasta, and Tomato Sauce,
Let me start by saying, Tomato Sauce is easy to make. Please stop wasting money by buying ready-made sauces. You can create any of these yourself with no trouble at all. Once made, you can freeze it for 6 months, or store it in the fridge for 2-3 days no problem. To be honest though, I think most people buy them because they have never tried to make the sauce themselves, but you can definately do it! Trust me..
The Easiest Pasta Sauce in the WORLD! Honest!
Fry some chopped onion and garlic in a pan, in a little oil, when soft, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon or two of Tomato concentrate, some italian herbs, salt and pepper, and cook for between 10-30 minutes. That is it finished.
Some more ideas:
-If you want it smooth, use Passata instead of Chopped tomatoes.
-Add some chopped chilli, black olives, and capers, and it becomes a simple Puttanesca Sauce.
-Or try adding some Spinach to the basic sauce,
-Or try with some sliced red Peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, or artichoke hearts too.
As a meal:
- Pour over a pan-fried steak, or pan-fried cod fillet, add some black olives and capers, and you have a very basic, "Pizziaola" style steak/fish.
Ok, now the below sauce is NOT quick to make, but once cooked it can be stored and having some of this in the freezer, is a great standby for anyone to have.
The Best Tasting, Smooth, Basic Tomato Sauce in the WORLD! Honest!
2 cheap, beef frying steaks,
2 garlic cloves, diced up
fresh parsley chopped,
1 bottle of Passata.
2 Tablespoons of Tomato Puree
1 teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs (dried)
Salt and Pepper,
Pinch of Sugar,
-Get two pieces of cheap Beef, frying steak, lay one flat on a board, into the middle of it, put some chopped garlic, some chopped fresh parsley. Now roll the steak up, and tie it up with some cotton (yes, any colour is fine). Repeat this process for the second steak. Nothing hard so far right? The rest is even easier.
-In a pan, heat some olive oil on a medium heat, and place the rolled steak inside, heat gently, colour the meat (not brown though) next add two tablespoons of tomato puree, stir in for a few minutes, then increase the heat slightly. Next add a bottle of Passata sauce, add some water equivalent to an equal volume of the bottle you just added.
-Stir the sauce, add salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 3-4 generous grinds of pepper), a pinch of sugar, and add the herbs, stir.
-Now reduce the heat to simmer setting, and cover the pan with a lid, and leave alone for 1 and a half hours, or longer. Go away and do something else, in Italy people would traditionally start making a sauce on Sunday morning, and during this period they would go to Church, or clean the house.
-Remove the lid, stir, and then increase the heat slightly, and cook until the sauce reduces to your preferred consistency. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
-Serve sauce with cooked pasta, I recommend Penne, and serve with grated parmesan over the top.
The leftover sauce, can be cooled and frozen for later use, or left in the fridge for a few days if you want to eat pasta again. This sauce can be the base for Lasagna, or for Canneloni. The cheap steak within the sauce, can be eaten, and normally even a cheap cut will taste great if cooked for hours.
If that is all a bit much, here are some more quick Pasta options which include:
Pasta e Patane (Pasta an Potatoes) In Italy, the hard working southerners, just can't get enough of those carbs, so sometimes they serve them together. Fry some diced celery stalks, carrott and onion until soft, then in a measuring jug make a weak chicken stock using boiling water from the kettle, add to the pan, throw in a half can of chopped tomatoes, some diced potatoes cook for 5 minutes, add some pasta to almost upto the water level. Cover and cook until pasta and potatoes are soft. Check the water level during coooking, and stir quite often. Season to taste, and serve.
Pasta con Agli, e Olio (Pasta with Garlic and Oil) I have mentioned this recipe before in a review, it is just basically cooked spaghetti, tossed into a flavoured oil. To make the flavoured oil, heat some olive oil, throw in some garlic, colour it slightly, closer to burned than you would normally or else it will taste of nothing. Then add some chilli flakes, or ideally an Italian dried chill chopped up, and after about 5 minutes toss in the pasta with a handful of chopped parsley (flat-leaf). Note! for some reason, UK Chefs and a few of the Italian Chefs that are here, have decided that Italians throw pasta into the sauce always and only this way. Basically it makes no difference, so feel free to add the sauce to the pasta.
Pasta e Pezzeli, (Pasta and Peas) There are lots of ways of making this, however a very quick cheats version is to do it like this! Make a weak chicken stock, add to a pan, throw in a half can of chopped tomatoes, some frozen peas cook for 5 minutes, add some pasta to almost upto the water level. Cover and cook until pasta is soft, check it once in a while, top-up with water if needed, and stir to make sure the bottom isn't sticking. Nobdoy likes a sticky bottom! Season to taste, and serve. This dish can be ready in less than 15 minutes.
Pasta e l'uovo, (Pasta and Egg) Cook some spahetti, drain. Put back into the pan, and add some butter, and egg, keep stirring until the egg is cooked. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese. I can remember eating this more than once when I was a kid. With it being a one-pan dish, and ready in under 10 minutes, I can see why my mother liked making it.
Pasta con Burro (e Formaggio), For some reason, alot of Italian immigrants took an unnatural bizarre, liking to Dairylea slices! Probably because Italian cheeses were not commonly available here at the time. An clearly Dairylea must share some similarity to an Italian cheese. So it is not surprising that this product, somehow got incorporated into our childhood meals. Actually, this is probably as close to ready-made meals as we got. So it was a real treat at the time. Basically this meals consists of cooked pasta (any shape) served with butter and parmesan melted into it ( which is fine as it is, as a quick snack). Then however, a Dairylea triangle or two gets melted into it too. (I have not eaten this for about 10 years, but I do remember this and if memory serves me well, it tasted nice).
2 Options for Bruschetta
To most Italians, this is just a cheap and simple snack. It is quite strange to see this being sold on resturaunt menus at quite a premium price. It is very easy to make, no harder than making cheese on toast, and is alot more healthy for you to eat. No matter how tired I am, I still manage to rustle this up as a snack for my friends when they are hungry. Do not be scared of using alot of Olive oil, it is extremely healthy for you. My grandad is 98, and he has had it every morning since he can remember, poured over fresh warm ciabatta, (the same way we would use butter), thats before spending the day drinking red wine, looking at the ladies walk past, and smoking packet after packet of cigarettes, go figure!
Prep Time : 2 minutes, Cooking Time: 5 minutes,
Extra Virgin Olive oil,
Sliced Ciabatta (but you could use any real bread, but not the ready sliced bagged stuff)
Salt an Pepper to season,
Slices of Mozarella (Optional 1)
Balsamic Vinegar (Optional 1)
Tinned Cannelini Beans, Crushed with a fork, (Optional 2)
-Chop some fresh tomatoes into a small dice, seeds, skin, everything. (Forget cutting those huge beef tomatoes into neat slices, that is not for Bruschetta).
-Mix a tiny pinch of salt into the chopped tomatoes, this will extract excess water, and improve flavour, and now add torn (or chopped) fresh basil leaves.
-Brush some Extra Virgin Olive oil onto both sides of the bread, and drop the bread onto a hot grill pan, or under the grill if you don't have one, and toast.
- When the bread is toasted, you have a choice of rubbing garlic onto the bread, for a subtle hint, or if like me you love garlic, crush/finely chop the garlic and mix into the chopped tomato mixture from earlier.
- Onto the bread add a tiny extra drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and then add the chopped tomato mix, so that they cover the bread, not too thick.
- Throw the bruschetta under the grill for a few seconds, and drizzle with a final drop of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and season with salt and pepper.
Instead of the plain Bruschetta as above, you can make this more substantial by adding a layer of mozarella cheese. The addition of the balsamic really helps to contrast the milkyness of the Mozarella, and in my opinion is essential.
- If you wish you could now heat some BalsamicVinegar in a pan until the quantity you add, reduces to a syrup consistency.
- Place a slice of Mozarella onto the tomato, and grill again until it softens.
- Drizzle the Balsamic reduction you made, over the top (not too much, it is very powerful).
Not everybody loves tomatoes, or just for a change, you could use Cannelini beans in lieu of the tomatoes. Mash them up a bit, and paste them on. Do not use, the basil in this case, also you can cut back the use of salt, as flavour enhancement is not required so much.
Minted Pea and Ham Soup
Most people will have frozen peas in their freezer, they are an outstanding ingredient and wether a nice accompaniment to a meal, or a meal in themselves, they are a fantastic standby to have at your disposal.
Prep Time: 2 minutes, Cooking Time: 20 minutes,
1 teaspoon of Vegetable Oil,
1/2 onion chopped,
Frozen Peas, (around a full cup per person, as a rough guide)
Chicken Stock (1/2 stock cube, quite dilute or it will over power, enough to cover the peas by about a cm or two)
Fresh chopped mint* or a couple of teaspoons of dried mint.
Ham (chopped up) Alternatively you could use Pancetta, or Bacon, or go Veggie and omit this altogether.
Salt an Pepper to season,
-In a deep pan, heat a few drops of oil, and throw in the onion and cook until softened/translucent.
-Add the frozen peas straight from the freezer.
-Make a dilute Chicken Stock with boiling water from the kettle, and pour this over the Frozen pea mix, until you cover them by about a cm or two.
-Leave to simmer gently for 10-20 minutes.
-Meanwhile fry the ham, bacon or Pancetta, until crispy and set to one side for garnish.
-When almost ready, add the chopped fresh mint, or the dried mint and either use a hand blender, or a liquidizer to make a smooth soup.
-Continue to heat very gently, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste.
-Serve into hot bowls, and drop a few of the crispy Pancetta/Bacon/Ham into the bowls.
-Serve with warmed crusty bread, or croutons, and enjoy!
-You could add a swirl of cream to finish, or just blend some cream into the soup to make it richer.
-It sounds horrendous, but left over brussel sprouts make an equally nice soup too, just don't add the mint.
THIS REVIEW IS WRITTEN EXLUSIVELY FOR DOOYOO'S USE, NO PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS REVIEW IN WHOLE OR IN PART, WITHOUT MY CONSENT IS GRANTED. IF NOTICED ELSEWHERE PLEASE INFORM ME.
Summary: My definitive guide to being lazy, but eating deliciously and healthily.
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