Wagon-wheel pasta: A little taste of Tuscany on your Pakistani plate

Published: August 21, 2014

This time I decided to give my family a little surprise, and made the pasta with a cream cheese and walnut sauce. PHOTO: HUMAY WASEEM

So if you are amongst 95% of the people of the world, you are probably intimidated by cooking. So was I, once upon a time. To look at a well-cooked dish was like looking at the great pyramids; fascinating and intriguing, but a mystery as to how it was built.

But watching Nigella Lawson cook, who made it look like a piece of cake, inspired me to start cooking. And to avoid any complications, I started developing my own simple recipes. And if I can cook, trust me, so can you. Unless you have a cooking-phobia and faint upon stepping into the kitchen, in which case this might not be your cup of tea…

Two days ago, I made wagon-wheel pasta, which was brought to me by serendipity (meaning: making fortunate discoveries by accident). I asked my cook to get me some penne pasta, which was transcribed as:

 “Paeeyon waala

(Pasta shaped like wheels)

I saw these funny little fellas and instantly knew that they deserved a sauce as novel as their shape.

Usually I make pasta with a tangy, tomato-y sauce. But this time I decided to give my family a little surprise, and made it with a cream cheese and walnut sauce.

Here are all the ingredients you would need for this recipe (serves four):

Kraft cream cheese – 6 to 7 tbsp

Chopped walnuts – ½ cup

Salt and pepper – to taste

Red chilli flakes – to taste

Oregano – lots of it

Chopped green onions – 3/4 cup

Crushed ginger – ½ tsp

Garlic paste – 1 tsp

Minced meat (or chicken) – 1 cup

Wagon-wheel pasta – half a packet

Olive oil – 3 to 4 tbsps

I’m going to simplify the method for you:

1. Boil the wagon-wheel pasta in a saucepan filled with five glasses of water, for no more than 10 minutes. Add two tablespoons of salt and one tablespoon of olive oil to the water so it doesn’t stick. Since it is very small it will boil quickly.

2. In another pan, perhaps a frying pan, preheat olive oil, add onions and stir them until they are golden brown. Add crushed ginger, stir it a little and then add garlic paste. After whisking them around add the minced meat.

3. Once the minced meat is brownish, add salt, pepper, oregano and red chilli flakes. Then add around six to seven tablespoons of cream cheese and mix it well together. Add chopped walnuts and cook it some more. (You can roast the walnuts separately too in olive oil and some chilli if you want an even better taste but I didn’t have time for that because I had the munchies… the deadly munchies.)

Photo: Humay Waseem

4. You can add some water or chicken stock to make it saucier and less dry. Whisk it around for three to four minutes and add the pasta to it (don’t forget to drain water from the pasta before adding it).

5. Mix it well so that each wagon wheel is soaking with and oozing the delicious sauce and voila… you have the taste of Tuscany on your Pakistani plate!

I had mine with mini croissants. You can too, I wouldn’t mind.

Photo: Humay Waseem

I loved how this appetising meal cost me only Rs350 and served four. Also please don’t fret if you do not have some of the ingredients mentioned above, all of them can be substituted (regular oil for olive oil, red onions for green onions and any other pasta for wagon wheel pasta). Also, you can try goat brains instead of minced meat. No, I kid, don’t even try that!

In the picture you’d notice that my croissants got a little burned, it’s only because I am trying to develop some anti-perfectionism habits.

Bon Appétit!

Humay Waseem

Humay Waseem

A writer and fashion designer who has a knack for social observation and comedic critique. She aspires to empower women and children to explore their inner talents and brilliance. She tweets @HumayWMD (twitter.com/HumayWMD)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.