By Robbie Johnson
In earlier issues of SOUTHWINDS magazine, I introduced Rice and Beans as two of what I call the sailboat galley’s “Holy Trinity” of ingredients and presented some of the more important things to know when storing and using them aboard. Now it’s time for a look at the final item of the “Trinity”—Pasta. Rice, Beans and Pasta share some common themes that are of key importance to long-distance offshore sailors: (1) if kept dry and free of insects, and not exposed to extremes of heat, they store well for extended periods; (2) they are inexpensive to buy and can be found in just about any port around the world, and; (3) they are nutritious, and literally thousands of delicious meals can be built around them. If Rice, Beans and Pasta are aboard in sufficient quantity for the size of crew and length of voyage, then no one is going to go hungry. As I pointed out in the articles about rice and beans, there are a few basic instructions for preparing these ingredients properly, and with pasta the same is true. If pasta is figuring into your upcoming meal planning, the first thing to do is to get a pot of water boiling so you aren’t well into the meal preparation and discover you need boiling water. Most accompanying sauces can be prepared and ready for use in the time it takes to get a pot of water boiling and the pasta cooked to perfection. Many sailing chefs end up with goopy, floppy pasta because they didn’t use enough water in the cooking. The proper ratio is 3 quarts of water for 3/4 pounds of pasta. Wait until the water is boiling before adding the pasta to the pot, and always add a little salt
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GALLEY’S “HOLY TRINITY” to the water, like 1½ tablespoons to the 3 quarts of water. And when draining the pasta after cooking, save a little of the water in case you need to thin the accompanying sauces. The pasta water contains starch, and while using it to thin a sauce, it also adds a bit of body as well. There are endless varieties of pasta, but for galley stocking purposes, you need only three or four different types. I usually have spaghetti, elbow macaroni, wide egg noodles, penne and one of the shell-types like bow ties or rotelle. The cooking time is determined more by the thickness of the pasta than the shape: Spaghetti usually takes about 10-12 minutes; penne about 13 minutes; egg noodles 3-5 minutes; and elbow macaroni about 8 minutes. You know the pasta is done when you break a piece and there is no opaque white core, or when you bite into it and it is resilient—not flabby, what’s termed al dente. To rinse or not to rinse: If the pasta is going to be used for a salad, giving it a quick rinse in a colander will free up the pasta of excess starch and remove some of the stickiness; but if a sauce is to be poured over the pasta, forego the rinsing and the sauce will cling better to the pasta. Pasta is good cold as well as warm, and there are some great pasta salad recipes: Egg noodles topped with small English peas and shredded crab meat served at room temperature make an elegant but simple luncheon salad. And there is nothing simpler than warm spaghetti with basil-based pesto stirred in and a slice of garlic bread on the side. In coming issues of SOUTHWINDS, I’ll provide you with some unusual, but easy pasta recipes to smooth your lengthy ocean voyage, but in the meanwhile, why not give this fantastic bow-tie pasta salad a try: MOROCCAN-STYLE PASTA SALAD ¼ pound bow-tie pasta 1 pound sea scallops 5 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon lemon juice ½ small chopped red onion ¼ teaspoon sea salt 2 navel oranges ½ cup Kalamata or other black olives 6 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper. Preparation: 1. Cook pasta for 15 minutes in boiling, salted water, then drain and rinse in cold water. 2. Season scallops with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, then heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet and sear scallops over medium heat until just done and slightly brown (1-2 minutes per side). Allow scallops to cool to room temperature. 3. Peel the oranges, removing all white pith, then separate sections and put into a bowl. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, olives, onion, mint, and remaining salt and pepper. Toss to combine, then add the pasta and scallops and stir well.
Robbie Johnson lives aboard a steel Tahiti Ketch and is the author of Gourmet Underway – A Sailor’s Cookbook. Order his book at www.gourmetunderway.com. www.southwindsmagazine.com