Pasta sauces come in a wide variety of different forms and may contain meat, vegetables or a combination of both. What they don't normally contain are the likes of chilies, bell peppers or anything particularly spicy. This experimental creation could perhaps be considered an Italian/Asian fusion dish, though with the emphasis very much on the European influence. The dish also differs from conventional pasta recipes by using the strongly flavored Italian blue cheese, Gorgonzola, as a garnish instead of the perhaps more traditional Parmesan.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 1 pound ground (minced) beef
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups mixed, chopped/sliced Mediterranean vegetables of choice*
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 red chili
- 14 ounce can chopped Italian tomatoes in tomato juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped basil leaves, plus extra to garnish
- 2 cups dried fusilli pasta swirls
- ½ cup (or as desired) coarsely crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
*The vegetables used in this recipe were bought already prepared and ready for immediate use in a foil tray pack from the supermarket. They consisted of red bell pepper slices, yellow bell pepper slices, small red onion leaves, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced discs of zucchini (courgette). This is very often a cost effective way of purchasing your vegetables as well as a labor saving option. If you can't get such a pack at your local store, simply buy your vegetables of choice and prepare in a similar fashion.
Peel and finely slice the garlic cloves. Seed and finely chop the red chili. If you have to prepare the vegetables from scratch yourself, that should also be done at this stage before you start the cooking procedure.
Put the ground beef in to a large pot and season with a modest amount of salt and pepper. There is no need for any oil or additional fat of any type as the melting fat in the beef will serve the desired purpose of preventing sticking or burning. Put the pot on to a very low heat to start with and break up the beef with a wooden spoon, stirring it well and continuously around the pot as it starts to cook. As the fat is released from the beef, the heat can gradually be increased to expedite the cooking process.
When the beef is evenly browned and sealed (this should take around three to four minutes at the most), add the mixed vegetables, garlic and red chili to the pot. Stir very well and continue to saute for a couple of further minutes until the pepper and red onion pieces are just starting to soften.
Pour the canned tomatoes in to the pot and stir well with your wooden spoon to fully incorporate.
Turn the heat up under the pot until the liquid element of the combination starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to the right level to just maintain the simmer and cook in this way for a further twenty minutes, stirring occasionally but well.
The amount of pasta included in this dish is of course variable dependent upon personal choice or preference but I have found that a coffee mug of dried fusilli is a good representation of a single portion. Two mugfulls were therefore required in this recipe.
When you are cooking pasta, it is vital that you do so in a large pot with plenty of water. Having insufficient water in the pot is what causes individual pieces of pasta to stick together as the starch is insufficiently diluted. Adding olive oil to the pot to prevent sticking is a common myth as all that happens is the oil simply floats on top of the water and plays no part in the actual cooking process. Salt the water well and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, stir briefly but well and reduce the heat to achieve a moderate simmer for eight to ten minutes, depending upon how much "bite" you want to retain in your pasta.
The chopped parsley and basil should next be added to the sauce, remembering to retain some of the basil as a garnish. Stir it through well and continue to simmer gently while the pasta cooks.
When the pasta is done, take the pot to your sink and carefully drain through a large colander. Allow the pasta to sit in the colander for two to three minutes to steam off and dry out.
Turn the heat off under the pasta sauce which by now should be lush and thick. Carefully taste it and adjust the seasoning if you think it to be necessary with some salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
Tip the pasta in to the pot of sauce, careful not to splash yourself with the hot liquid.
A wooden spoon is best used to stir fold the pasta through the sauce, gently and carefully so as not to damage any of the delicate swirls.
Divide the combined pasta and sauce between two serving plates with a large spoon.
It is best to use your hand to scatter half the Gorgonzola cheese over the contents of each plate and to subsequently and similarly scatter the garnishing basil. The plates should be taken to the table and served immediately.