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Author Notes: We probably all recognize that pasta is a highly versatile ingredient for preparing quick and delicious meals and can be served at both simple and elegant dinners. The addition of saffron, the king of spices (the most expensive spice in the world by weight!!!), makes your pasta dish something you will remember and want to make again and again. It is an easy and fast first course that brings a smile to my children’s faces. Saffron adds an inviting intense golden-yellow color (don’t forget that we first eat with our eyes!!!) and a special honey-like taste to your recipe. In fact, the word saffron originates from the Latin safranum, which in Arabic signifies yellow. Saffron comes from the stigmas of the flower Crocus sativus (commonly known as Saffron Crocus), cultivated in Asia Minor even before the birth of Christ, then later brought into many Mediterranean countries. Egyptian physicians already cultivated this plant as early as 1600 BC. Today the largest crops in Italy are located in Abruzzo, Sardinia, Tuscany and Umbria. The Aquila saffron or zafferano d’Aquila (Abruzzo), cultivated exclusively in the Navelli Valley, is one of the best saffron in the world for its distinctive thread shape, unusual pungent aroma and intense color. Saffron can be used in many recipes such as rice, pasta, meat, soups and sweets as well. Last, but not least, it is a MUST for a superb Risotto alla Milanese!!!! In addition to its culinary uses, saffron has also many therapeutic properties such as anti aging, anti depressant, anti cancer and cardiovascular effects (contributing, of course, to an increase of sexual vitality). Add saffron to your recipe and put some extra sunshine on your table and into your life! —Paola Lovisetti-Scamihorn
- 12 ounces penne or bow-tie pasta (artisanal pasta)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup fresh cream
- 1/4 teaspoon teaspoon saffron threads or 1 package of saffron powder
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a non-stick skillet melt the butter on low heat and then add the cream. Mix well and add the saffron powder or threads (see note for preparation).
- Bring to boil a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta for about 10-11 minutes al dente (read the cooking time on the package). Drain and transfer the pasta to the skillet, toss gently. Before serving sprinkle with ground pepper and Parmesan cheese.
- Note: The quality of ingredients used is very important for the outcome of any recipe. With regards to pasta in particular, I would suggest artisanal pasta such as Faella or Martelli versus a more industrial brand. In fact, artisanal pasta has rough and porous texture which sauces can cling to better, and it usually “mantiene bene la cottura” (keeps its “al dente” texture longer). If you can’t find artisanal pasta, then I would recommend buying commercially available durum wheat semolina pasta – rigorously made in Italy, though! Saffron threads versus saffron powder: Saffron exists in two forms: threads and powder. The threads are the whole stigma while the powder consists of ground stigma. The threads are tastier and more genuine while the saffron powder loses its flavor rapidly and is very easy to contaminate with other, less-expensive powders of similar color such as turmeric. If you prefer to use the powder, you have to trust the brand you are buying. In case you are using threads, soak the saffron threads for 15 minutes in 5 teaspoons of liquid (hot –not boiling– water, broth or your cooking liquid) for every teaspoon of saffron. Then add the solution to the your dish. Generally speaking ½ teaspoon of saffron threads = ¼ teaspoon of saffron powder, so as a rule use one half the amount of powder as you would threads