Community Cooks: At Emory, East meets West with pandemic cookbook

One of student Ahanu Banerjee’s favorite recipes: Linguine all’aglio, olio e peperoncino.
CONTRIBUTED BY AHANU BANERJEE
One of student Ahanu Banerjee’s favorite recipes: Linguine all’aglio, olio e peperoncino. CONTRIBUTED BY AHANU BANERJEE

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Christine Ristaino and Hong Li have undertaken a unique pandemic-related learning and cooking project with their Emory University students.

Ristaino, who is Italian-American, is a senior lecturer in Italian studies. Li is a professor of pedagogy in Chinese studies. And, “Pandemic Noodles: Emory East Meets West: A Pandemic Cookbook From Students in Quarantine” compares Italy and China through noodles.

Linguine all’aglio, olio e peperoncino is one of the student recipes from the Emory University project.
CONTRIBUTED BY AHANU BANERJEE
Linguine all’aglio, olio e peperoncino is one of the student recipes from the Emory University project. CONTRIBUTED BY AHANU BANERJEE

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

The related website includes recipes for more than 40 noodle dishes, researched, tested and written by the students, along with reflections, poems and stories.

The roots of “Pandemic Noodles” go back to the spring of 2016, when Ristaino and Li teamed up for a course that had the teachers and students visiting Chinese and Italian restaurants in Atlanta to gather recipes and create “noodle narratives.”

That evolved into distance-learning classes that had students exploring restaurants and noodles in many other parts of the world.

This year, though, with the pandemic limiting travel and dining out, the focus switched to cooking noodles at home.

“It turned out to be that as the class evolved, we have continued to have new discoveries,” Li said. “By doing the cooking, and making it public on our website, our students get to reflect on their own experiences during the pandemic, and what food means for them. Even a simple dish could have long history and play an important role in a specific culture or community.”

“Often they talk to their families about a recipe that they love, and they find out the history of the dish,” Ristaino said. “And often they cook the dish with family members, so it brings them together, and its really quite beautiful.

“We have so many student voices from many different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. During the pandemic, food is definitely a unifying force. Any time people cook for each other they cross a barrier, and get to know each other on a deeper level.”

Ahanu Banerjee is one of the students who produced the "Pandemic Noodles" cookbook.
CONTRIBUTED BY AHANU BANERJEE
Ahanu Banerjee is one of the students who produced the "Pandemic Noodles" cookbook. CONTRIBUTED BY AHANU BANERJEE

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

LINGUINE ALL’AGLIO, OLIO E PEPERONCINO

From Emory student Ahanu Banerjee of Atlanta

Pasta all’aglio e olio originated in Naples, and typically is made with spaghetti. I like to make it with linguine. It is especially convenient for the quarantine, because it calls for few ingredients, it’s forgiving, and quick to throw together. This recipe can be made vegan by omitting the cheese.

LINGUINE ALL’AGLIO, OLIO E PEPERONCINO
  • ½ pound dry linguine or spaghetti pasta, preferably bronze-cut
  • Water for cooking
  • Salt for pasta water
  • Propylene glycol alginate (PGA) or other emulsifier (optional)
  • Sea salt for seasoning extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 6 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced or minced, if your knife isn’t sharp
  • Peperoncino (red chili) flakes to taste (may substitute black pepper)
  • ½ cup finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano or similar cheese, finely grated
  • For the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
  • Reduce the heat slightly and add salt to the boiling water. Taste it if you’re unsure; a good rule of thumb is that the water should taste like the sea, but no saltier.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente, stirring occasionally. Check it periodically after about 5-6 minutes. It should be fairly firm and have a small sliver of white in the middle when you bite into it.
  • Reserve about ½ cup of starchy, salty pasta water. If you don’t have an emulsifier, save a bit more water, about ¾ cup.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander.
  • For the sauce: Pre-heat a saucepan or skillet on medium heat and coat it with olive oil. This is the base of the sauce, so don’t be afraid to use a lot. Lower the heat to a very low simmer.
  • Add the garlic to the olive oil. Stir periodically and cook until the garlic becomes translucent; the edges may darken, but do not allow it to brown or dry out.
  • If you have an emulsifier, such as PGA, stir it into the pasta water you reserved earlier. This will help the oil mix with the water and cling to the pasta, but the starch in the pasta water will do a decent job on its own.
  • Pour the starchy water into the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high so the water begins to boil off. Stir constantly to form an emulsion. You should see the sauce thicken noticeably, and the oil will become cloudy. Add the peperoncino flakes.
  • Pull a spoon or spatula across the bottom of the pan. The sauce is ready when it takes some time to fill the gap. Lower the heat to medium and add the pasta. Stir, so it is well-incorporated.
  • Add the lemon juice, if desired, while stirring.
  • Taste, and add sea salt for seasoning, as needed.
  • Lower the heat further and add the cheese while stirring. Omit the cheese for a vegan dish; or, skip this step and use it as a garnish for a more traditional version.
  • Fold the parsley into the pasta before serving, or use it as a garnish.
  • Serve the pasta on a warmed plate and garnish with more parsley or cheese. Makes 2-3 servings

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 2: 617 calories (percent of calories from fat, 30), 20 grams protein, 90 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 21 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 443 milligrams sodium.
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