Recipe: Tallarines verdes (Peruvian pesto pasta)

This is a revised version of the tallarines verdes recipe I posted several years ago. What’s the difference? This recipe is closer to my aunties’ recipe and features gluten-free pasta.

Like tallarines blancos, this dish was in rotation at my aunties’. The difference is that for a long period of time I didn’t like the pesto sauce but loved the white sauce. My uncle was the opposite, so on pasta day only one of us was happy. Obviously, I grew out of my pesto aversion and now love it.

Once again, I didn’t get to ask my auntie Sumi for the original recipe before she passed away. I have tweaked the current family recipe to approximate the taste I remember. My aunties used penne, I used fusilli because I think this shape works better with pesto.

Tallarines verdes (Peruvian pesto pasta)
Yield: 2-3 servings

Tallarines verdes

Ingredients

  • 1 (250g) pack gluten-free pasta, preferably fusilli (I used San Remo pulse pasta)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup English or baby spinach
  • 75g queso fresco or feta cheese (I used goat’s feta)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to pack instructions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.
  2. Process or blend basil, spinach, cheese and parmesan, adding a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water to achieved desired thickness. Season to taste.
  3. Return pasta to pot, coat with sauce (heat a bit if needed) and serve with a side salad.

Recipe: Tallarines blancos con atún (pasta with white sauce and tuna)

This is one of the dishes that were in rotation at my aunties’ but I never got sick of it. In fact, it was one of my favourites. Sadly, I never got the original recipe from auntie Sumi. This is my best attempt to approximate the dish using my taste memory and the current family recipe.

Tallarines blancos con atún (pasta with white sauce and tuna)
Yield: 2-3 servings

Tallarines blancos con atún

Ingredients

  • 1 (250g) pack gluten-free pasta, preferably penne (I used San Remo pulse pasta)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp rice flour
  • 1 cup milk (any kind, I used A2 full fat)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 2 (185g) cans tuna
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to pack instructions. Drain and reserve.
  2. Heat up milk until warm. Don’t let it boil.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan or pot. Add rice flour and stir until smooth. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Continue stirring as you pour milk slowly until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Turn off heat, add parmesan and tuna, mix well and season to taste.
  6. Add pasta, coat with sauce and serve with a side salad.

Review: Pastabella (Glebe)

Pastabella - gnocci Pastabella

For her birthday dinner, mi sister wanted Italian food, so she proceeded as usual to check reviews in eatability.com.au. Her first thought was to go somewhere in Newtown but she couldn’t ignore a place with great reviews in Glebe, a couple of kilometers away. The place’s name is Pastabella and most reviews rave about the freshness and yumminess of pasta (made in the restaurant) and the owner’s mother’s tiramisu.

Pastabella is small and gets pretty busy (we were there on a Tuesday night and it was packed). Our table was located in the terrace, which had a more intimate vibe than the rest of the restaurant. Gladys was already there when I arrived, as we chatted and checked the menu, her friends arrived. It was hard for everybody to make a choice, even when the menu is not that long. There were 3 specials as well, risotto with crab, raviolli with prawns and asparagus, and cannelloni with chicken. After thinking it over I ordered gnocchi Pastabella (pesto + napoletana sauce, in the photo at the beginning of this post), Gladys ordered fettuccine puttanesca, and the other people: lasagna bolognese, spaghetti puttanesca, spaghetti napoletana, spaghetti marinara (with napoletana sauce, the other option was creamy sauce) and cannelloni with grilled chicken.

Pastabella - fetuccine puttanesca.

Pastabella - spaghetti marinara

Pastabella - cannelloni

We also ordered garlic bread and bruschetta with tomato, basil and olive oil. I ate garlic bread, which was grilled instead of baked, and tasted nice. It was actually a very good idea to order some bread because the food took long to arrive at our table. I can totally understand from the point of view that proper preparation (instead of reheating in a microwave) takes time, and that all dishes were served at the same time, as it’s supposed to be. All dishes looked delicious, mine indeed was, as well as Gladys’. I had brought a New Zealand Pinot Noir which matched perfectly with the meal. There was only one complaint about the food, Gladys’ friend does not eat spicy food and her spaghetti marinara had chili in it, even when the menu didn’t mention it. She didn’t finish her dish, which was a shame because it looked amazing.

After eating and chatting it was time for singing happy birthday. We ordered 3 tiramisus to share, one of them came with sparklers (looking at the presents and the “birthday girl” badge on Gladys’ shirt it was pretty obvious we were celebrating a birthday). The tiramisu was fresh and tasty, maybe not the best I have had in my life, but close enough.

Pastabella - tiramisu

Pastabella is definitely the place to go for really good pasta. The food is great, the prices are not too high, the atmosphere is nice and the service is super friendly (although it wouldn’t hurt to hire a waiter to help the owner’s wife out).

Pastabella
89 Glebe Point Rd
Glebe NSW 2037
Australia
(02) 9566 4488

How things led me to cooking again

During all this time (school, uni, first years as a professional) I cooked once in a while. My favourite dishes to prepare were cebiche (raw fish marinated in lime juice with onions, chillies, sweet potato, and corn) and pasta. I baked desserts once in a while, too.

As mentioned before, I had a new friend called gastritis, who magically appeared around the time when I started traveling for work. Whoever thinks that traveling as part of your job is cool has obviously never done it or has a job that doesn’t involve programming software in the client’s office. Anyway, I had a few trips over the world, I really enjoyed having the opportunity of visiting places like Hong Kong, but I hated the stress and long hours that were involved in almost all of my trips.

On June 2005 I was in Mexico City, programming an accounting software and wondering what should I do with my life. As I left the office at lunch time and went to this cool restaurant in which you built your own salad with really yummy ingredients, it stroke me like lightning. I knew I wanted to cook for a living.

I stayed a few weeks in Mexico and after getting home I started getting quotes from all cooking schools I knew of. Le Cordon Bleu was my first choice but it was really expensive and classes were only at daytime (meaning I would have had to quit my job and lose the money income I needed for the tuition fee). Most options were unviable because of the starting times but there was this school just a block away from my office with a one-year program in which classes started at 6:30 pm. That sounded perfect, so I started studying on September 2005. I told my boss that I wouldn’t be able to travel anymore during the next year because I had enrolled in a course (I didn’t mention what kind, but he eventually found out).

I was very short of time at that moment but still managed to train, work, study, be in a band, and have a boyfriend. Soon after starting the program I began preparing desserts and selling them at my office and my sister’s office. So my typical day was something like this:
6 am: Wake up
7 am: Taekwondo or weights
8 am: Take a shower and go to the office
6:30 pm: Get out of the office, walk 100 meters, wait until being able to cross safely the Javier Prado avenue, enter the cooking school, change my clothes and go into the classroom/kitchen
Anywhere between 9:30 and 11:50 pm: Go home. Three days a week prepare desserts and package them.
Go to sleep.

I had lunch with Alvaro (my current husband) on Wednesdays and spent more time with him on weekends. On Saturdays, after going to the gym, I met him in his kung fu class and then we went to his house. On Sundays I played tennis, had lunch and went to rehearse with the band. Alvaro went with me and read a book or something while we rehearsed.

This went on for a while until my energy was completely depleted. First I stopped playing tennis, then I started skipping training days. I gained weight as a consequence of cooking and tasting food every day, but I tried to adhere to my eating and training plans outside from the classes. Later I quit the band.

I noticed a few things changing within me during that year (besides my body fat, of course). One is that I became increasingly interested in nutrition. I began to think that maybe that was another career path I should think about (I still think that, but haven’t done anything about it yet).

The other thing is that my palate evolved very quickly as a response to constant exposure to prime quality ingredients and dishes prepared by top chefs. While it was true that my interest for highly processed foods decreased as a result of my healthy eating awareness, my tastebuds started to demand better prepared food. This is what anyone would from cookery students, but I was surprised to see that the vast majority in my class chose KFC for group lunches and fried super fresh salmon and sole sashimi as soon as the Japanese Cuisisine teacher left the kitchen.

I began to truly appreciate all dimensions of food and wine: smell, texture, taste, depth, contrast, temperature, harmony, layout, colour, etc. Naturally, I started to expend more money, both when eating out and when buying groceries for cooking at home. My family and Alvaro got some side effects too: yummy food and body fat increase.