The world of Italian pasta is diverse. It is divided into two basic categories, fresh and dried, although the two are so fundamentally different that they should not be compared.
If you have ever made fresh pasta you know what an ordeal, and mess, that can be, but if you are fond of the delicate flavor and texture that results, you just might think it worthwhile. If it makes you feel any better 80 percent of pasta consumed in Italy is of the dried sort.
A real connoisseur of pasta will tell you that they can taste the difference in the shapes. That is far beyond my skill set, but there are some shapes I do prefer.
I tend to like the thicker shapes, I find them more toothsome and satisfying. Pappardelle is my all-time favorite, but it is hard to find, so I most often buy linguine and fettuccine, but rigatoni is pretty good, too.
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Try this simple recipe, but remember it is supposed to be about the pasta, not the sauce.
1 pound rigatoni
1 can best quality tomato sauce
1/2 yellow chopped onion
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
Red pepper flakes
1 cup good red wine
Lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Prepare the pasta according to package directions, drain, douse with good olive oil and set aside. Sauté the onion in oil, seasoned with red pepper flakes, for 5 minutes, add the garlic and basil and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the tomato sauce and the red wine and simmer for 30 minutes. Plate the pasta, add only 1/2 cup at most of sauce and garnish with lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The humble ham hock is a Southern tradition.
We use it for seasoning all types of peas and beans, and it just might make its way into a stew as well, but that is about it.
The Germans out do our petite ham hocks with massive, often smoked hocks that could easily feed three people.
How do I come about this information? I frequent the only German restaurant for many miles around and it is often on their menu, Cannella is in Bay St. Louis.
Try their schweinshaxe. You will find it delicious, and you will be bringing several pounds home as leftovers.
Here's what to do with those leftovers
2 cups cooked black eyed peas
1 chopped red onion
1 chopped bell pepper
2/3 cup sliced celery
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups chicken stock
Sauté the vegetables in oil for 10 minutes or so, then add the stock, 1/4 cup of the peas and the leftover schweinshaxe. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add the balance of the peas, simmer an additional 5 minutes, then serve with good cornbread or rice.