Rather than pasta drenched in a thick layer of cream, today’s consumer preference is for sauces which offer a sophisticated mouthfeel while retaining a velvety-smooth texture.
“The traditional, old-fashioned cream-based pasta sauces, such as carbonara or mushroom, tended to be on the heavy side, and while you can still find them on menus, these days your customers are often looking for something a little more adventurous and more contemporary too,” says Liam McLaughlin, corporate chef at Fonterra Foodservice, whose product range includes Perfect Italiano cheeses and Anchor culinary creams specifically designed to complement Italian style cuisine such as pasta.
McLaughlin uses the example of a concentrated cream sauce complemented with herb flavours like basil and sage to lightly coat a pasta dish featuring a high quality protein such as smoked meat.
“This approach of utilising cream in more concentrated form than previously is one we’re seeing a lot more of,” he says. “The cream still plays a vital role in the creation of the sauce, but you’re no longer creating a heavy, cream-soaked and tossed pasta dish. There are many adventurous and innovative chefs out in the marketplace taking this more contemporary approach and it’s really paying off for them.”
Cream is the ideal base for so many pasta sauces because of its neutral flavour profile. “In the case of sauces, the cream’s role is to enhance the balance of flavours and textures provided by the other ingredients,” he says.
This has traditionally been a labour-intensive process due to the difficulties in working with conventional cream at high temperatures and with highly acidic ingredients. In both situations, the composition of the cream can break down leading to splitting, curdling and separation.
But the development of products like Fonterra’s Anchor Culinary Cream and Anchor Extra Yield Light Culinary Cream, both of which have been designed to withstand high temperatures and acidic environments, solves this problem. Neither product will split or separate at high temperatures or with the addition of acidic ingredients like white wine or lemon juice. The fact that they are pre-reduced further saves on preparation time.
“Your conventional creams need to be reduced for quite some time to bring them to the right coating consistency,” he says. “You need to bring the cream up to the boil and just let it simmer, and it’s during that process that separation or over-reduction can occur – especially in today’s kitchens where chefs have lots of things to do at once and can’t devote all their attention to making a sauce.
“Using pre-reduced cooking cream, which takes much less time to reach coating consistency, allows you to prepare your sauce faster and without the need for that extended observation period.”