The ultimate feel-good foodie movie inspires us to re-try Heston’s quick and easy pasta recipe.
I wouldn’t want any of you thinking that we here at insearchofheston.com are up to date with things (indeed, it took us five years just to cook a few tricky recipes). Case in point: we’ve only just got round to watching Chef, a good ten months after it came out at the cinema.
Written, directed by and starring Jon Favreau (along with a few of his mates from the Iron Man films), it’s a great, fun film that’ll connect with anyone who loves food, or be inspirational for those of you who have even just a passing fondness for eating. The plot is also a brilliant metaphor for Favreau using independent cinema to reconnect with his love of film-making after the commercial and critical failure of his studio-controlled 2011 abomination “Cowboys and Aliens”.
Throughout the movie you’ll see gorgeous food being made with love and passion. In particular, there’s a great scene where Favreau’s character seduces Scarlett Johansson by cooking her a simple yet beautiful pasta dish. Me being me, I saw Scarlett on screen in her undies, sensually twirling spaghetti round her fork and thought “that reminds me of Heston Blumenthal!” Specifically, a pasta recipe from his Times column days that I once made a disastrously poor version of.
Similar to, but slightly more complicated than, the dish featured in Chef, Heston describes this recipe as something he created after coming home late from work and needing to knock something up with whatever he could find in the cupboards (we’re presuming he had run out of supermarket prawn cocktails and Mother’s Pride bread). This idea really appeals to my bunker-mentality, being able to cook something gastronomic just from stuff already in the house.
Granted, Heston’s store-cupboard seems to include lemons, chillies, onions, parmesan and two kinds of herbs, but we happened to have most of these already in the house on this occasion. Even the herbs, as we’ve been using those frozen herb packets over winter (in summer I like to buy fresh herbs then watch them die in the garden). So, inspired by the film and an unexpectedly well-prepared kitchen, we decided to retry an “easy” Heston recipe that we’d ballsed up once before.
Special Equipment: None
Special Ingredients: None
Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Step 1: Pasta
Heston’s default rule for cooking pasta is the 1:10:100 ratio. You want 1g of salt and 100ml of water for every 10g of pasta. In this case that means 250g of spaghetti in a pan with 25g of salt and at least 2.5 litres of water.
For us this means just dumping a load of salt into the pan and hoping we’ve got roughly the right weight. If you are very fast then you ought to be able to cook the rest of the meal in the 10 to 12 minutes that the pasta will take to boil.
Step 2: Prep
This is a good opportunity to do all the dull housekeeping jobs like zesting the lemon and chopping your onion and herbs.
This is tedious, but essential for organised cooking. I still love using our garlic crusher, no matter how much it feels like cheating.
Step 3: “Sauce”
Start by frying that chopped onion, adding the garlic and chilli once it’s nicely translucent.
Next you’ll want to add your lemon zest and anchovies. We’re using some easily-stored anchovy paste. You’re thinking it, I’m thinking it, we’re all thinking it, but for the sake of decency let’s not say out loud what that anchovy paste looks like.
Towards the very end, or once the pasta is nearly done, add some of the pasta cooking water, your herbs and loads of parmesan cheese.
Step 4: Serve
Now drain the pasta, mix it with the “sauce” and plate up, topping with more herbs and even more parmesan cheese.
Congratulations, you’ve just made Heston’s Pasta with Chilli and Garlic recipe. Tuck in and enjoy.
We cannot promise you that you’d be able to seduce Scarlett Johansson with this dish, but if you want to make a gastronomic meal that won’t break the bank then we’d highly recommend Heston’s Pasta with Chilli and Garlic recipe.
In fact, this is actually better than the dish from Chef. We’ve made that particular recipe, and it’s good. But, with its three large garlic cloves per person and massive spoonful of chilli flakes your breath will honk to high heaven and you’ll end up with what we will tactfully describe as “ring sting”.
The basil and anchovy gives Heston’s recipe a more complex flavour and savoury hit of umami. Including the zest really lifts those flavours, too. On the downside we’d say that the idea you can make this out of “stuff lying round the kitchen” is a laughable fantasy.
We keep chillies and parmesan in the freezer, and there’s usually a squishy onion and an even squishier lemon in one cupboard or another, but it’s unlikely any kitchen except Heston’s would hold all these ingredients as standard. Oh, and those frozen herbs are a poor substitute for fresh ones (although better than the dead ones we usually have in the garden).
But whether you make it with store cupboard staples or go out and get dedicated fresh ingredients this is an unexpectedly wonderful recipe. Not quite as simple as you might expect, but not horrendously complicated either. For the perfect date-night double bill we’d suggest you follow it up with Heston’s equally simple two-ingredient chocolate mousse recipe (pro tip: infuse rosemary and bay leaves into the water before mixing with the chocolate for a lighter, fresher flavour note).
We really like this recipe, and we’ll definitely be making it again. To improve things next time we’d:
- Use LOTS more olive oil
- Only use red chillies for better colour in the finished dish
- Replace the parsley with coriander, for personal preference
Could YOU seduce Scarlett Johansson with this recipe, or what about seducing Heston Blumenthal himself? Let us know your thoughts on these bizarre thoughts and other pasta notions in the comments section below.