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Pasta and meat

My blog entry on summery pasta dishes a few days ago has been leading me to dwell a bit more on pasta, and appropriate sauces.


It has struck me that I almost never serve meat with pasta. This point needs a little clarification: I serve minced meat, in a bolognaise sauce; bits of pancetta in, say, a carbonara; or lumps of crumbled sausage meat in, say, a tomato sauce with fennel seeds.  All these, and more meat products feature in my pasta cooking.


What I am talking about is a whole piece of meat (e.g. beef steak) with pasta to accompany it. In Stuttgart, where we used to live, this is a particular favourite. The Schwaben love their Zwiebelrostbraten with Spätzle!


The northern Italians do it too: the breaded veal dish, Cotoletta alla milanese is, or at least can be, traditionally served with spaghetti in a simple tomato sauce. In Austria, I think Wienerschnitzel is sometimes served with spaghetti, too. Perhaps it is a central/southern European thing.


Even large, bite-sized pieces of meat in a pasta sauce - although far better than a whole steak - give me pause for thought. It is hard to articulate why this feels so wrong to me. It is definitely something to do with texture. I think the mouth-feel of biting into a piece of meat just does not go very well with the slipperiness of pasta.


Conducting a highly unscientific poll by asking a few friends and family, it seems that this is just a personal bugbear, and most people have no problem with the combination.


My general opinion is that the more you limit yourself on food combinations, the greater the chance of missing out on something that might be wonderful. So I am going to try and get over this problem.


The only thing is: I find it really hard to cook food that doesn't feel tempting. If I don't feel excited about the possibility of eating the dish, I find it hard to get motivated in the kitchen. I had to start small, so as not to put myself off altogether.


So I decided to ease myself in by cooking a Beef Stroganoff style dish with lots of Pfifferlinge (chanterelles, readily available and not too expensive in Germany, when in season. Worthy of a blog post all to themselves, actually. Coming soon.). This had the advantage that I could cut the strips of beef pretty small to minimise chewing and hence the texture combination I find most problematic.


I believe the most "authentic" stroganoff is a red tomato-based sauce served with a dollop of sour cream on top, but I decided to go for a more Anglicised version: a sour cream and white wine sauce with plenty of onions and the aforementioned Pfifferlinge.


I served it with tagliatelle, and it was nice. Got a really big thumbs-up from everyone, in fact. But I have to say, from my perspective, it was nice despite the pieces of meat. I'm pretty sure I would have preferred it without the beef - just Pfifferlinge in a creamy white wine sauce.


So I'm not sure the experiment worked. Perhaps this is just an aversion that I can't overcome.


If anyone has any suggestions for other pasta-with-meat recipes that might help, feel free to leave a comment below.


Posted by Caroline on 26 July 2010 | 3 Comments

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