We are lucky in France to be able to buy really excellent fresh pasta. All sorts. I use mostly tagliatelle. I’ve tried making them myself, but it seems to be something I’m not really very good at. Maybe I’ll take myself off to Italy one of these days and do an intensive course with a wonderful Italian lady who makes it every day… Pasta is so versatile, you can always find the ingredients for one sauce or another, and even plain, with just a little olive oil, a squeeze of garlic and a few shavings of parmesan, it is always so satisfying.
The French grammar bit (rather a lot today, if you are not interested, scroll quickly down to the recipe!):
frit, adjective, frit (m), frite (f), frits (m.pl), frites (f.pl) = fried, pronounced free (for the masculine), freet (for the feminine), don’t pronounce the s
From the verb frire = to fry (je fris = I fry)
But also a feminine noun, une frite = a chip/French fry.
Pommes de terre frites (or simply pommes frites or frites) = chips/French fries (literally fried potatoes, but when they are not in the shape of chips/French fries, they are called pommes de terre sautées, slices or cubes for instance).
Steak frites (also written steack frites) = steak and chips/French fries, is the French national dish, the food most consumed in France, despite all the gastronomic dreams non-French nationals may have of what the French eat on a daily basis. It is the dish most often served in French restaurants, according to a recent survey. I personally eat it about twice a year, never at home, always in a brasserie (an old-style French restaurant), as I eat little red meat and few chips come to that.
Expressions include avoir la frite, or avoir la patate, both meaning to be on good form (il a la frite, il a la patate = he is on good form). (You can also say avoir la pêche to mean the same thing, as we saw in a previous post, probably used more than frite or patate.)
The recipe today is for pâtes fraîches aux épinards, aux câpres et à la coppa frite (fresh pasta topped with wilted spinach, capers and fried crispy coppa). Coppa is italian cured rolled pork, something like raw ham. You can use bacon, but it’s not quite the same, or raw ham, but it needs to be a little fatty to crisp up properly.
Do read this recipe through before starting to cook! It is not complicated at all, but you need to go very fast, or the pasta overcooks or goes cold, and the crispy coppa uncrisps.
Ingredients for 2 to 3 people:
- 1 packet of fresh pasta of your choice (mine are tagliatelle and the packet weighs 350gr) . You can use dried pasta if you wish.
- 1 packet or about 12 thin slices of coppa
- 2 tsp of capers drained of their vinegar
- three good handfuls of spinach leaves, washed, destalked and dried in a tea towel (they don’t have to be baby leaves, mature ones will be just as good)
- a clove of garlic, chopped finely
- fresh parmesan cheese, either grated or shaved (a couple of tbs per serving)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- If you are using fresh pasta, which only takes a couple of minutes to cook, prepare all the other ingredients, lay the table and pour the wine before cooking the pasta in salted water. If you are using dried pasta, you should have enough time to do all that while it is cooking. Whatever you use, follow the suggested cooking time on the packet and don’t forget to salt your cooking water.
- Cut the slices of coppa into 2cm (3/4 inch) strips (stack the slices and cut them with kitchen scissors).
- In a frying pan or wok, with a little olive oil, fry the coppa until it is quite crispy. Stir it to separate the slices. Remove from the pan to a plate covered with a double layer of kitchen roll.
- Fry the garlic rapidly in the same oil, stirring, for about 30 seconds.
- Throw in the spinach leaves, stirring rapidly, just to wilt them. Have the capers ready prepared, add to the spinach as soon as it is wilted, turn off the heat.
- Drain the pasta. Divide between individual plates. This all has to be done very fast. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a portion of the spinach and capers, finish with the crispy coppa. Grind a bit of fresh black pepper, and sprinkle with grated or shaved parmesan. Don’t insult this dish by using ready grated, packeted parmesan, which is inferior and tasteless usually, compared to the real thing. Treat yourself to a chunk which you must keep wrapped in the fridge. Expensive but classy!
- Serve quickly, accompanied by a glass of lusty red, something from the Languedoc or Gaillac if you are serving French wine.
Which pasta do you prefer, fresh or dried? Can you get fresh pasta where you live? Or maybe you are good at making it (in which case you can give me a lesson!).