Italian cuisine

Special to The Battalion

Sheila de Guzman

Sheila de Guzman

Sheila de Guzman

I love the smell of sautéed onions and garlic. It's a sign that something good is coming.

I am a Filipino who grew up with jambalaya, gumbo and beignets and went to Italy to learn how to make pasta and tiramisu; my life has been anything but bland. My collection of recipes is growing and pantry diverse. But, as I've discovered through my boyfriend (AKA my sous-chef), there are many who graduate college with only salt and pepper. My sous-chef even said he "didn't have time for spices." I get it. You're at Texas A&M preparing for your 9-5, but what about the after-hours? What about when you're so over dining halls, takeout and nuked food? If you know how to make magic in your own kitchen, then you don't have to go far for a good home-cooked meal.

So you don't know how to cut an onion like a pro? Great, neither do I! But, that shouldn't stop you from learning how to make simple staples and eventually work on your signature dish. Everyone needs to know some basics for an amazing dish. My goal is to help you impress your family, friends or even a future date by sharing recipes and bits of food knowledge that I have collected over the years.

To start off the series, I'll share one of my signature dishes: my All'amatriciana. It's a savory dish made with 4 simple ingredients: garlic, olive oil, tomato sauce and pancetta. You'll find many versions online, but I picked up this version while shadowing a head chef of a Roman trattoria. What's great about a signature dish is that you can recreate the same taste despite a change in environment or quality of ingredients; only you will know exactly how it's supposed to taste, so how can someone tell you it's wrong? Therefore, I will only give you general guidelines so that you can create your own All'amatriciana.


Bulb(s) of garlic

Olive oil

Your favorite pasta sauce (I use Traditional Prego)

Diced Pancetta (aka Italian Bacon is available at the HEB on Texas Ave in the fine meats section near Sushiya or ask for thick slices of pancetta at the deli and dice at home)

· Begin by smashing cloves of garlic, but do not remove the peel. The peel of garlic actually contains healthy antioxidants! Use as much garlic as you're comfortable with, but for reference, I tend to use about a whole bulb for just 14 oz. of sauce.

· Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a stainless pot or pan; do NOT use a non-stick pot or pan. A non-stick pot or pan will cause your sauce to not simmer properly and taste "sticky."

· Set the temperature to medium heat and toss in the smashed garlic cloves. Stir and let the cloves cook till they brown.

· Next, add the pancetta and cook the way you like your bacon: chewy or crispy. You may have to reduce your heat to allow for even cooking of your meat. Stir for even distribution.

· When the pancetta is close to your liking, take out the garlic. Then add the sauce. There will be a dramatic reaction, so slowly pour the sauce on the side, not in the middle of the pot. Continue stirring.

· Reduce the heat, put a lid on and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes. I usually use this time to cook my pasta to al dente ("just cooked", so it has a little bite).

· Boil water - add salt if you'd like - and cook pasta for about 7 minutes. You can use linguine, thin spaghetti or even spirals for this sauce, whichever you prefer.

o If you're not sure how much spaghetti to use, try using your Aggie Ring as a benchmark; put strands of spaghetti through a ring to measure an amount. After you try this trick out once, you'll be able to figure out how many "ring-fuls" you need next time. For 1 person, I tend to use about 1-2 ring-fulls of thin spaghetti.

· Before the 7 minutes is up, spoon as much sauce as you want into a bowl. I prefer light coat or "condimento," so I put about 2-3 tablespoons

· When the pasta finishes cooking, immediately take out the pasta and put it directly into the sauce. Do not wash or put oil on the pasta; the sauce will cling to the pasta better if put in directly, which will give it a better taste.

o Yes, this means I do not cook a large batch of spaghetti to heat up later. You can spare 10 minutes to boil water and cook pasta. Sometimes it's nice to be forced to sit down and enjoy a good meal.

· Toss the spaghetti for an even coat and either transfer to a plate or just eat it straight out of the bowl like me. Buon appetito!

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