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Spruce up pasta dishes with homemade sauce

By Anthony Pesce

April 19, 2009 9:55 p.m.

This week, I explored using one of the French mother sauces in a simple seafood pasta dish.

If you read this column last year, you might remember I used a bechamel cheese sauce in a baked macaroni dish. The bechamel is just one in five “mother sauces,” and if you can master them all, you can make a great sauce to go with almost anything.

This time, I used a hollandaise sauce in a spaghetti dish with sauteed shrimp, calamari and baby scallops.

To begin, start cooking about two-thirds of a pound of thick spaghetti or linguini. You usually want to cook it a couple of minutes fewer than the package says to ensure that the noodles have a bit of a bite.

While the water is coming to a boil, you’ll want to prep the ingredients for the hollandaise sauce. Trust me: You’ll want to make sure you have everything ready to go when you start it because it will need constant attention.

Start by bringing about an inch of water to a simmer in a small sauce pot.

While the water heats up, separate the yolks from three eggs. The easiest way to do this is by cracking the egg in half and pouring out the white while you move the yolk between the two halves. You can also crack the whole egg into a bowl and extract the yolk with a spoon, but this doesn’t work well in the long run, and I don’t recommend it.

Add in about three teaspoons of lemon juice and one or two teaspoons of water, and whisk it.

Next, cube about 12-15 tablespoons of unsalted butter and set them aside.

Put a large metal or tempered glass bowl over the simmering water in the saucepan to create a double boiler. This will cook the sauce more delicately and should help you prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Make sure the water remains at a very low simmer, and begin constructing the sauce.

Pour the egg yolk, lemon and water mixture into the double boiler and start whisking it gently. The color should begin to soften into a pale yellow, and you can start slowly adding in the cubed butter while whisking.

The sauce will thicken up and lighten in color significantly. Add in some salt and pepper and you’re mostly done; just lower the heat so that it’s barely keeping the sauce warm, and you should be able to hold it until you are ready to use it on your dish.

Hopefully by now the pasta is almost done, and you should move on to cooking the seafood. For that, I took the very easy ““ and cheap ““ route by buying it pre-packaged from Trader Joe’s. In the frozen section, they have a great seafood medley that will cook easily in a saute pan.

I would recommend defrosting it a bit before you try to cook it, then saute the seafood in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until the shrimp are translucent and the calamari is slightly firm.

Toss the seafood with the pasta and pour over the hollandaise sauce, garnishing with Parmesan cheese and a bit of lemon juice.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

If you enjoy learning new sauces, e-mail Pesce at [email protected]

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Anthony Pesce
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