Few things in life are more satisfying than a delicious pasta dish.
Being that I have moved to Los Angeles and gluten is considered to be Satan out here, I have certainly toyed with the idea of cutting out the excessive amount of grains and starch I seem to always cook with in my dinners. After all every single person who cut out gluten from their diet looks like a model.
It is harder to be skinny in Los Angeles than most people would like to admit. Sure, the produce out here is beautiful and the sun is always shining allowing for ample exercise. And yes green concoctions are constant flying off the shelves out here.
But, the problem is that nearly every single restaurant out here is absolute delicious and no one has any business ordering a salad at them. All these restaurants create these killer cocktails and Instagrammable meals to the detriment of my health.
Secondly, Los Angeles is not designed like New York, a city where endless sunshine would actually be a game changer. It is a driving city with a limited amount of parks. Any exercise you do you have to factor in the time it takes to drive a car in LA, find parking and then either go to the gym, park, or hike. So much could go wrong during that time. Like you could drive by one of LA’s numerous taco stands say eff it, grab a bounty of goods and turn back to watch the next episode of Stranger Things.
It happens all too often.
So the people who manage to maintain their health out here are robots or have made a deal with the devil.
In any case, gluten, as evil as it tends to be, also happens to make up all of my favorite dishes: pizza, pasta, sandwiches, burgers, Mexican food, and so on. So unfortunately, I will have to go back to the drawing board to get healthy as grains are not going anywhere in my life.
One of my favorite ways to prepare pasta is the Alfredo sauce. Of course when most think of Alfredo, they go to straight up cream bombs that frankly are nasty.
A true Alfredo has butter, pasta water, and Parmesan cheese, followed by a few cranks of the old black pepper grinder. That’s it.
It’s creamy and deliciously unctuous without having to add any cream or milk to the dish making it soupy and gross.
So how do you achieve new heights in cooking this?
Start by salting a pot of boiling water. Make it salty too, since this is going to be how you are seasoning your pasta.
Once salted and boiling, take your pasta and throw it in there, I like an fettuccine for this. Twirl immediately as there is no oil in the water to maintain separation.
When the pasta is almost cooked but not quite, it should not be hard anywhere but a bit chewier than normal, cut the heat and using tongs move to a pan. It’s kind of good to use fresh pasta here because you can really notice the texture of the pasta in this sauce. I’m not going to force you to do it for a red sauce, and sometimes I prefer a factory made spaghetti for meatballs, but try to find at least a little nicer noodle for alfredo. After all, it is so few ingredients that everything matters that much more.
Gently heat the pan, this will be a bit of a dance as you may have to turn on and kill the heat throughout this process to not overlook it but ensure that everything melts and creates the delicious texture we are looking for.
Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and mix it into the pasta, followed by a couple table spoons of freshly grated cheese. Take a splash of the pasta water and work it into the mixture with tongs.
What happens next is the actual art of cooking as you will have to troubleshoot the amounts to create the perfect pasta. If it is looking dry, add a bit more water, if it looks too soupy, more cheese, and if it does not have the shine it needs, a bit more butter.
Once you have managed to the perfect shimmering consistency, add the black pepper to taste.
Serve at once.
What I personally love to serve with this, as if it is not rich enough, is a basic red wine braised shredded short rib on top. This is my go to if I ever opened a restaurant.
Start by aggressively seasoning short rib, I do like two packs of the meat from the store, with salt and pepper. Short ribs yield way less meat than expected. Which is fine, because the pasta is already fatty enough. This just kind of adds a little bit more flavor to it all.
In batches, choose your biggest pot available and brown the short rib on all sides.
Take them off the heat, onto a plate to rest and pour in just a little bit of olive oil.
Sauté a diced onion in the pot.
When the onion is translucent, chop up a couple of carrots and 3 celery sticks and cook this with the onion.
When the onion has just started caramelize and the carrot and celery have softened, add a few crushed and chopped garlic cloves into the pot. Cook until fragrant, but not browned, about a minute. I love garlic, so I probably overdo it, but add at least three cloves.
Spoon in a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and fry it with the veggies until it has coated it all and has started to caramelize.
The pot is now super hot, which is a perfect time to add a cup to a cup and a half of red wine. It will immediately sizzle and life will be great. Let it steam off for a couple of minute and then add the short rib back in.
Just barely cover the short rib with either water or beef stock, or low sodium broth. Add some rosemary and thyme. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Work the liquid up to a low simmer and cover to cook for the next several hours until the meat falls of the bone. Taste a piece of meat with the sauce for seasoning, and adjust with black pepper and salt as needed.
Remove from the broth and put in a bowl. Shred once cool and then strain the drippings back on the meat.
Serve the meat on top of the alfredo pasta, please be sure to include the sauce.
Even the other night I made a steak with a red wine pan sauce from the drippings. I ended up just slicing up the steak and incorporating a piece with the sauce in every bite.
Something about that acidity of the wine is crucial to maintain the balance of the dish.
Proceed however you want, but I would strongly advocate for an acid on the side to help cut the fat of the sauce. That’s all.
Eat this and stop eating gross cream pasta dishes.