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05 February 2009

Pasta in the Bag

Dear John,

A number of years ago, when you were still writing your column for the "Irish Times", you gave a recipe for a pasta dish which I greatly enjoyed but can't remember how to make.
As far as I recall, it involved part cooking the pasta and then finishing it by putting it in a turkey bag with a cream & garlic sauce and baking it so the pasta would absorb the sauce.
By any chance, would you be able to let me have the recipe, or remind me what the book was from which you sourced it?

Many thanks,
Fintan Swanton.

The recipe came from a book by one of America's most interesting food writers, John Thorne, called “Simple Cooking”, published by North Point Press.Mr Thorne writes:
“With the paper bag method, the pasta is cooked in the ordinary way until it is almost done, then mixed with the sauce and put in the oven to bake. Since the bag is collapsed around its contents and sealed, the flavour of the sauce completely penetrates the pasta.
There is also a second advantage. Because no moisture escapes, the cook has the opportunity to get a maximum amount of flavour from a minimum of undiluted sauce...”

The technique is simple. Have an ovenproof paper bag ready. Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Cook the pasta for 3 minutes less than the recommended time. Drain but don't shake dry. Pour the pasta into the bag, pour the sauce over, and close the bag tightly. Place the bag in a protective pot – just in case! –and bake in the oven, generally for somewhere around 15 minutes to let the pasta and sauce get to know each other.
John Thorne uses the technique with 3 sauces: spaghetti with chanterelles in mushroom-scented olive oil; spaghettini with snails in butter and wine, and – best of all – spaghetti with a creamy garlic sauce: 12 cloves garlic cooked in 6 tabs olive oil for an hour on low heat, then blended and mixed with the cream, then seasoned. Pour this sauce over the spaghetti, along with a little of the pasta cooking water, seal the bag and bake for 15 minutes. Pass the Parmesan at the table. This is unutterably delicious.