The worst time to wait for food to cook is when you suddenly realize you’re already starving. The prep time stretches to twice as long and you consider settling for something blah. But blah sometimes generates waves of self-pity in me. –Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a particularly picky eater. I’d have my Tapsilog (saucy please!) any day of the week. Still, some voice in the back of my mind insists that I should at least put some effort in what I make for myself. So after temporarily holding back the rumbling stomach, I often settle for the fulfilling option that is pasta.
It is something of a skill for a person to dig around the refrigerator and find random ingredients that could go together. It’s a talent, if you don’t have much of a say in the grocery list.
Noodles are a staple in the house. And my favorites are plain ‘ol spaghetti and interesting ziti. It’s easy to explain why those two are well-loved. Spaghetti is a throwback to my childhood snacks of McDo and Jollibee sweet and meaty spaghetti in styrofoam containers. It’s practiacally a cultural thing in the Philippines, since lots of other people share the same experience. Ziti, on the other hand, reminds me of Sbarro’s baked ziti that I tried and loved as a slightly older kid. It looks so fancy, and feels more gourmet than macaroni. (Me and my superficial reasons…)
I’m sharing my pasta recipe/review today because I know that pretty much each person on this planet who can cook has their own pasta recipe. It’s a challenge to sort through the variations and find one that you like, but it’s also fun when you add a personal touch and truly make it your own.
For this recipe, I made use of baked ziti. And since the ziti’s already brought on the impression of gourmet, I went ahead and settled on some Clara Ole Pesto and Parmesan Sauce. (Who am I kidding, that was the only sauce on the cupboard that day: Challenge accepted.)
Frankly, when I make pasta sauce, I want a base that is flavorful yet neutral. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s important that the sauce ends up with a flavor that complements the herbs and spices you may want to add. You don’t want something that has already been seasoned to death that you will have a hard time bringing out the aromas and tastes of your additional ingredients. Clara Ole sauces are an example of what I’m describing in this paragraph. As a friend once put it, “Nahirapan akong timplahin ang Clara Ole.” (“I had a hard time getting just the right taste with Clara Ole.“)
For the record, nothing beats fresh pesto sauce. What came out of my tetra pack was an oily paste (albeit made with olive oil) that had a brownish-green hue. Even after shaking the pack continuously, the oil would separate from the sauce. Yes, it doesn’t sound appetizing.
I decided to use the oil to saute some onions. Then I added in the “pulp” of the pesto-parmesan. When the sauce was heated sufficiently, I added some dried parsley leaves and salt and pepper. Then I tossed the sauce with some ziti I had boiled earlier and topped the mix with sliced black olives from a jar, some feta cheese, and some garlic chips. Like I said, it’s a lazy pasta, so don’t expect a bulk of ingredients.
The overall flavor was meh because of the pesto sauce. You can’t have high expectations, considering that it has been preserved inside a tetra pack. There is some lantang gulay (limp veggie) taste. Using FRESH pesto sauce would make a huge difference.
The garlic chips were the saving grace. Having them in stock is a must for any Filipino kitchen because of their versatility. Pinoys love their garlic, and those chips can be used on anything ranging from sinangag (garlic rice) to soup to pasta. Personally, I even add garlic chips to cream cheese on top of my bread. It ends up tasting like a creamy, tangy garlic bread.
Moral Lesson: Garlic Chips = good. Pre-packaged Pesto = Bad.