Sunday, 7 November 2010

Fat is good

People really like my bacon and tomato pasta sauce - my bastardised take on the lovely Amatriciana which is made with cured pork cheek or 'guanciale' which is fried till golden and sizzling and then lifted out of the pan (leaving behind the rendered fat) into which onions and tomatoes are added to cook. The guanciale is then added back to the sauce at the very end so that it's still crispy. Really very good.

I can't actually call what I make an Amatriciana because that's not doing the original version any justice and if my Italian friends found out they would be horrified. My version uses streaky smoked bacon and I cook everything pretty much at the same time - Kitchen Fairy style. Which is why I stick to bacon and tomato sauce.

So what makes it good? Well, three things. The first is patience, giving the bacon and onions plenty of time to do what they have to do: mainly to crisp up and render some tasty smoky fat for the bacon and soften meltingly and  sweetly for the  onion. When I say patience I mean about 10 mins and you don't have to stand there stirring either. Just put them in a thick bottomed frying pan over a medium low heat and let them get on with it, checking only occasionally.   The second thing is to use whole tinned tomatoes instead of using the ready chopped ones. For some reason  chopped tin tomatoes are watery and thin and when the tomatoes are left intact they tend to make a thicker, creamier sauce. It takes about 1 minute to crush them into bits using a fork and the back of a wooden spoon. The third, and moist important,  secret ingredient is fat, both vegetable and animal. It's the generous use of olive oil and rendered bacon fat that make the difference to a really good tasting pasta sauce.

Fat keeps other foods moist and succulent, fat helps to caramelise, crisp up, emulsify, bind, seal and preserve other foods, enhancing  their flavour, texture and  lifespan. Fat is responsible for that wonderful mouth-feel certain foods deliver. Think chocolate melting on tongue - the "oooooh" inducing bit is the cocoa fat which melts at body temperature.

Anyway, I'm rambling. My point is that when I have a bowl of pasta with my Amatriciana sauce followed by a bowl of home-made Tiramisu - another great Italian favourite in which fats play a key role! - I feel 100% satisfied. I don't get 'cravings' afterwards. I don't need a square of chocolate  (or 7) after dinner as my 'something sweet', I don't grab handfuls of peanuts when I accidentally bump into them in the kitchen, I don't drink hot chocolate before bed time because I'm feeling  'a bit peckish'.

I have my pasta and my desert. I do some quick mental arithmetic to gauge the  quantity of pasta needed to satisfy but with enough room and enthusiasm left for the Tiramisu. I fill my bowls with just enough food. I savour and enjoy every bite. I stop when I've had enough.

Eating fat does not = weight gain. Overeating...anything = weight gain.

1 comment:

  1. Eating fat does not = weight gain. Overeating...anything = weight gain.

    Very good point. Although I doubt overeating cucumbers or lettuce will make you fat....

    I think I might have to try making your "amatriciana" sauce. I also love tiramisu.

    Today I discovered roast sweet potatoes. Oh... yum! Every bite-sized piece was previously dipped in olive oil....


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