In the world of Army, 'socials' and 'dinners' are big words. That is how we meet, that's how we interact and break the proverbial ice. Every new comer into a unit is welcomed with a 'dining in' and every one leaving is bid farewell with a 'dining out'. We interact with officers and wives of other regiments and brigades at dinner parties popularly referred to as 'social evenings' or simply 'socials'. Other than these 'socials' that are highly formal (spelled as saree for women) functions, colleagues also invite each other over for less-than-formal dinners (nothing is casual in the army) at home.
Last month, husband dear announced as I reached home from work, that one of his seniors from his parent unit (ok that's another common term-it is the original regiment of commissioning) was in town and would be coming over for dinner with his wife. It was fine with me. After eight years, I am used to short notices of pulling a meal together for guests. I turned and told my maid to get one vegetable dish,one dish of chicken and one dal ready.
'Ahem, ma'm is vegetarian.' he said.
'Okay, make two veggies.' I re-instructed my help.
'And sir said they wanted to eat Italian today. I told them to come over. Can you cook something Italian?' He asked sheepishly, running a hand through his hair. That is one gesture that always wins me over.
I looked at my maid who was trying to hide a smile. I, of course, could not expect her to do anything now since she cannot even spell Italian. She does the routine cooking as my work and writing hardly leave any time on my hands and whatever little I do have, I feel like spending it with my daughter. Yet when something exotic or anything beyond the Indian cuisine is to be prepared, I take over. Cooking is also a form of creativity for me.
Hubby said a hasty 'love you' and left for evening games, leaving me pondering over what to do. I stood there standing at the door of my kitchen store, staring at the things lying there.
I could not just cook a pasta with Indian tadka (yes, I do that sometimes)- it had to be authentically Italian!
I could not make an instant pasta- that would label me as a lazy cook.
The dish could not be a simple basic red/white pasta- everything is fancy in the Army! I love that though!
I put on my apron and
sat down stood up to cook an innovative,yet authentic Italian pasta dish. I even came up with a chef-like name for it.
Sharing it with you.....
Riso layered Veg Chifferi Rigati
(Sumptuous layers of white pasta, vegetables and red rice
to tickle your taste buds and visually treat your eyes with exotic colours)
Preparation time: 20 mins.
Cooking time: 20-30 mins
Equipments needed: Non-stick pan, open pan,
measuring cups/spoons, Borosil dish.
|When you think Italian, think Del Monte!|
Del-Monte chifferi rigati pasta- 250g
Rice- 1 cup
Onions, sliced- 2
Capsicum, chopped- 1
Mushrooms, chopped- 1cup
Broccoli, cut- 1cup
Carrots, chopped- 1cup
Beans, chopped- 1cup
Baby corn, cut- 1cup
Onions, chopped- 3
Tomatoes, blanched- 2
Tomato puree- 1cup
Olive oil- 2 tsp
Garlic paste- 1tbsp
Hot & sour ketchup- 2 tbsp
Milk- 1.5 cup
Refined flour(Maida)- 2tbsp
Black pepper- 2 pinches
Salt- to taste
for garlic bread
Bread slices- 8
Garlic powder -1 tbsp
Mozarella cheese- 100 g
Oregano- as per taste
Chilli flakes- as per taste
Salt- to taste
1. Take Chifferi rigati Delmonte pasta and boil it in at least three times water with a little olive oil.
To prepare authentic pasta, the base i.e. the pasta must be authentic. I trust only Delmonte
! When the pasta reaches al dente
stage in about 15-20 minutes, drain the water. Instead of adding olive oil earlier, you may sprinkle it on at this stage. This will also ensure that the pasta doesn't stick. It is very important to not over-cook the pasta. Keep aside.
|The resealable pack is such a relief!|
2. Boil rice in 2 cups of water and keep aside.
3. Boil all the chopped vegetables and drain the water.
4. Now we shall prepare the sauces. Pasta is cooked traditionally in red or white sauce. In this dish, we will use both.
-Take a little olive oil and heat it in a pan.
-Add chopped onions and saute till translucent.
-Add blanched tomatoes and garlic paste and cook.
- I add packaged tomato puree easily available at stores for the texture and rich red colour. You may make puree at home if you wish.
-Add oregano,basil and salt and cook till tomatoes are done. Add a little thyme. Use it sparingly as the flavour of thyme can be over-powering.
-In the end,add hot and sour/chilli-tomato sauce. The red sauce is ready.
|Rosso is red in Italian!|
-Melt butter in a pan.
-Add refined flour to it. Mix the two.
-Now add milk while stirring continuously so that lumps are not formed. Add black pepper and salt. Don't let the sauce thicken too much. If it does,add a little milk.
|White? It is Biano in Italian!|
5. Now for the vegetables.
-Heat olive oil in a pan. Add sliced onions and saute them.
-Add capsicum to the onions.
-Add the rest of the vegetables. Sprinkle oregano, basil, pepper powder, chilli-flakes and salt.
(My guests were vegetarian. You can experiment with bacon or smoked chicken)
-Add 1 table-spoon each of red and white sauces and mix. Keep this aside as well.
6. Add red sauce to boiled rice and white sauce to the pasta.
|Rice in red sauce|
|Pasta in white sauce|
7. Next is the layering. Take a Borosil dish, large enough to accommodate all the ingredients.
-Arrange rice at the bottom.
-Then add the vegetables and make the middle layer.
-Use the pasta for the top layer.
Italy's flag has three colours-red,white and green and we have them all in this dish.
8. Now grate mozarella cheese over the top layer and sprinkle oregano ,pepper and salt over it.
9. Put the dish in the oven and bake till the cheese melts.
10. Cut bread slices with a cookie cutter. Toast the bread. Take a little butter and add garlic powder to it. Mix it well and apply it on bread. Grate mozarella cheese over the slice and sprinkle oregano,chilli flakes and a little salt. Bake till cheese melts.
11. Ecco!(That is Italian for Voila,in case you were wondering!) The dish is ready! Serve it with home-made garlic bread.
In this particular dish, you get three distinct colours and three distinct flavours. You can relish them one by one or mix them up on your plate. Either way, the experience is amazing!
The recipe turned out really well. Our guests were really nice people and were not only fond of good food but had a lot of knowledge about it too. The lady even shared a very different recipe of lasagna with me. I will post it later, for sure!
They were all praise for the dish and I was overjoyed.
Thank you Delmonte, for the appreciation I received and for the look of pride in my husband's eyes!
|Looks yummy too!|
P.S. All you people reading this, do let me know when you try out the recipe. I would love to hear from you and know whether you liked the dish or not and if you wish to add on something to it.