I have been watching food shows on the tele and on YouTube for the longest time now. And if there is any conclusions to be drawn or inference to be gathered, it is this - people love to finish off a dish with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan (or even better Parmigiano Reggiano).
All this while, it had remained a big mystery - what is this magic ingredient that transforms the ugly duckling into the beautiful swan every time? For the most part, when I visit the local grocery stores in the neighbourhood, I come across the ubiquitous processed cheese by Amul and a handful of other 'herby' cheese spreads that have erupted into the Indian market. I have nothing against these, I mean whatever works - but I have to admit that when I bought that block of Parmesan I had to pause to soak in the accumulated glory of at least five years of watching tele food shows!
The Cheese Ball at Meherchand market has been a favourite of mine ever since I discovered it four years back, but I had always only tried their own brand - Flanders. So mozarella - ricotta - gouda, all had their moments but Parmesan, well that was a different league altogether. My cousin Shruti and I hurried back home and we tried out our precious purchase in simple vegetarian pasta dish. Tomatoes, garlic, basil, and dried wild mushrooms. All that with a generous portion of grated Parmesan - and, it was delicious.
Needless to say, my favourite tomato sauce has just got better. This is the one I use for my pizza sauce - here - (although I have stopped using onions in tomato sauce after I realized that I like better with just garlic). One could add a pinch or two of sugar though to add a tinge of sweetness to the sauce.
For the pasta, we used spaghetti and boiled it along with the mushrooms. The mushrooms flavoured the pasta water and added a hint of a smoky flavour, which I grown to love so much. Once the sauce was prepared we added a generous portion of the Parmesan along with the pasta, the mushrooms, and a small cup of the starchy pasta water. We let it cook for five to ten minutes, tossing the pasta every now and then so that every strand was covered in that heavenly goodness of tomatoes and cheese and basil. By the end of it we were so hungry that we turned on the AC in the bedroom, plopped down on the bed, and devoured the pasta in big mouthfuls.