James May: Oh Cook! (2020–2023): Season 1, Episode 3 - Pasta - full transcript

Coeliacs take cover, it's pasta time. And what better way to start than with a lasagne double header: one beef, one vegetarian. Key to the latter are aubergines and lentils - perhaps not traditional, but certainly delicious. This ...

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it - foodval.com
Hello, viewers.
I'm James May, and I can't cook.

Welcome to my cookery show.

♪ ♪

[James] This time, I'll not only
be using telekinesis

to control the toaster...

Thought controlled toaster.


...I'll be diving headlong
into all things pasta.

- It is nice. It is nice.
- Uh-huh.

From firm favourites...

Lovely flatulent lentils.

...to things banned
by the Geneva Convention.

It is horrible.

Along the way,

there'll be molto bello food

and a film noir shot of me
drinking wine.

And talking of film...

Now, Federico Fellini,
the film director,

said that life was a combination
of magic and pasta.

By which he must have meant
that, actually,

pasta doesn't come under magic.

It is perfectly explainable
and understandable.

So, what we're going to do here
is make lasagna.

♪ ♪

When I say a lasagna,
I actually mean two lasagnas:

one beef, one vegetarian.

I begin both by chopping
two largish onions

and four cloves of garlic.

And now it's time
for some spatula protocol.

Green is vegetarian.
Red is meat.

Got that?

Red. Green.

Good, right. Those can cook
for a little bit.

Now, the meat one
is made with meat.

Put that over to one side, next
to the meat version of the dish.

The vegetarian one has pepper,

this aubergine, and we have...

lentils. Boo.

But trust me, they will be
absolutely delicious.

I'm gonna start chopping
these up.

There's every chance
that the vegetarian version

of this lasagna will be,

owing to the presence
of this aubergine,

just as meaty as the meat one.

♪ ♪

In a minute, I'm gonna get
those two stirrers mixed up

and that's gonna annoy

Meat in the meat pan,
500 grams of mince.

Veg goes in the veg pan.

Anyway, good. We can now get on
with the important things,

which is drinking.

This is actually
an American red wine from 2016.

I wonder if I should've
chopped up the vegetables

in the vegetable version
of the lasagna a bit smaller,

but, you know, let's see.

♪ ♪


Robust and peasanty.


♪ ♪

All good sauces with tomatoes
as a base require tomatoes.

In this case, a tin each.

[sniffs] Smells right.

Oh, bollocks.


I've used the green vegetarian
spatula in the meat.

But it's okay.

I haven't used the meat one
in the vegetarian,

which would have been
a proper disaster.

That can be edited out
and forgotten.

Right, I'm going to add
the lentils,

which will have a lot of people

writhing on the floor
in disgust.

Put the heat back up again.

A 400-gram tin of cooked
lentils is enough.

Just get those lovely flatulent
lentils stirred into it.

This is actually starting
to look quite good, isn't it?

Does anybody think this looks
quite good amongst the crew?

- Yes.
- Yes.

Yes, thank you.

White sauce time.

50 grams of butter
and 50 grams of flour

are combined to make a roux.

As "roux" is our safe word,

Nikki immediately appears
from her cupboard.

Okay, here is a jug
of pre-measured milk.

Add it little and often.

Plenty of it,
but not all in one go.

I'm using 600 milliliters
of milk, but remember,

that's for two lasagnas.

- [Nikki] Do you want
to do this?
- [James] Yes, I'll do that.

I should do it,
otherwise I can't honestly claim

that I've cooked this.

Okay, the other interesting
thing about doing this

which is why I love
these wooden spoons, is...

There you go.
You see, the whisk doesn't get

right into the edge
of the pan, does it?


So, do your big, main stir
with your wooden spoon.

When this gets to the point

where it's starting
to cook properly

and therefore thicken,
it will just...

It won't be boiling, it will
just be sort of going,

ploomp, ploomp, ploomp.

- That's about right, isn't it?
- That's right, yeah.

It's sort of borderline
simmering, but not boiling it.

If you boil it, you will burn it

and ruin it.

Fresh nutmeg will give
the sauce a hint of nutmeg.

That's probably enough.

That's about a quarter
of a teaspoon full.

Sprinkle the parsley
in each one.

Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle.

My hands are clean.
Here we go with assembly.

This is all about layering,

filling first.

Pasta sheets.


...pasta sheets...

topped with the sauce.

Oh, look at that.

That is fantastic.

And lastly, grated

You can use a normal...

you know, stroke it up and down
cheese grater.

I'm just obsessed with this
Mouli thing 'cause I've had it

since I was a student,

and it's outlived
many relationships,

cars, jobs... people, even.

It's actually time the Mouli
grater had a service, as well;

I've had...

dismantled it and rebuilt it
several times over its life,

and it's due another one.
You can tell, because...

that pin is wearing out.

Can you see how
it's starting to twist

as I grate?

That's a sign that I need
to strip it and rebore it.

That's okay. It's only
a two- or three-day job.

When you've finished, remove
the drum; there's your treat.

You see? Down in there?

The little bit
that goes under the wheel,

doesn't make it
through the center.

That is yours.

And into the oven
at 200 degrees.

Now, as my lasagna spends the
next half an hour in the oven,

I must inform you viewers that,
although this is a pasta show,

there is no spaghetti recipe.

But I had spaghetti yesterday,

and I have leftovers.

So now there is
a spaghetti recipe.

I'm now going to show you
how to turn this

into this.

♪ ♪

Cut the spaghetti
into little pieces.

It's still got a bit of
tomato sauce on it

because that's what it was in.

These are herb scissors,

and we're not sure what
the correct nomenclature is,

because "scissors"
is already a plural.

And there is no such thing
as a "scissor."

So these are "scissorses."

Add uno egg.

This will bind it together.

Stir it up. See, that's already
looking quite interesting.

Chopped olives. Anchovies.



Pepper and cheese.

You could add
anything you like to this.

And now, some extra facts
not in my cookbook.

"Spaghetti" actually means

"little bits of string"
in English.

It all sounds much better
in Italian.

But if I could go off-topic
for a moment,

this is also true of cars,

the much-vaunted
Lamborghini Countach,

the original one,

its full name
was the Lamborghini Countach

longitudinale posteriore
quattrocento periscopio.

Which translates as

"Lamborghini wowzers lengthwise
in the arse 400 silly mirror."

And even the Ferrari Testasrossa

was actually
"the ginger blacksmith."

Put dollops of the mixture
into a hot pan, with oil.

That is working. Can you see
this? This is very, very good.

Three minutes a side.

And then, inevitably,

a dusting of Mouli cheese.

♪ ♪

And we're back where we started.

But now, you know how it's done.

♪ ♪

We return to the lasagna
and an admission.

So, to recap,
what we have just done here

is made two versions of
essentially the same lasagna,

one a meat one,
with minced beef,

one a vegetarian one,

which has got the aubergines,
the peppers and so on in it.

But they both have
Parmesan cheese on the top,

and as someone
has just pointed out,

that means the vegetarian one
isn't truly vegetarian.

Correct, because
Parmesan cheese, of course,

is made with
the rennet of calves.

So I apologize for that.

It's a vegetable lasagna,
it's not a true vegetarian one.

If you're going to do this at
home and you are a vegetarian,

just go and buy
a vegetarian cheddar.

But now the meat lasagna
and the nonvegetarian lasagna

are ready.

the hilarious thing here is

I can't remember which one
was which when I put them in.

I think that one
might be vegetables,

but then again, of course,

"I think" is not
a very useful expression,

especially not in bomb disposal.

[tray clunks]

These have to sit on this board
for ten minutes.

I'm actually gonna time it.

Gives me an excuse
to use my clock.

And that allows them
to settle down a bit.

They'd be very, you know,
sort of mulchy, otherwise.

And then, we will cut them up,
and we will try them out.

♪ ♪

Ten minutes fly by
when you have facts.

So the simple way
to remember it

is that elemental iron is
an element and is soft.

Cast iron, like gray cast iron,

which is what comes out
of a blast furnace,

has a lot of carbon in it
and is very hard.

And steel, in all its forms,

is a sort of sweet spot

It's iron with
a controlled amount of carbon,

and that's what means it takes
such a keen edge.

- Okay.
- Nikki begged me
to tell her more,

but there just wasn't time.

My lasagnas were ready
for the plate.

We'll start with
the lentil one.

Okay. Very exciting.

Be honest.

That's really nice.

- Is it?
- Yeah, really.

- Shall I try it?
- Yes, you should.

♪ ♪

- It is nice.
- Uh-huh.

- It is nice. It's nice.
- Why are you surprised?
It's good.

No, I am slightly surprised.
I'm mean, it's got...

It's-it's reasonably firm,
but it's not dried out.

It's flavorsome.

And now the all-meat version.

I think I prefer that one.

That one is slightly better.

- [Nikki] Got the edge.
- It's slightly richer.

But, yeah, success.

That is genuinely the first time
I've done that,

and it's quite simple.

As long as you get it broadly
right, it's going to work.

It's not like some really
delicate stir-fry,

or trying to make
your own sushi.

Get it roughly right,
it will be perfectly edible

and probably reasonably nice.

You might be lucky and make
something absolutely brilliant.

Now, though, we're going
to test this out on the crew.

- Excellent.
- Um, because it is actually
roughly lunchtime.

And by eating this, we will,
um, not only test it properly

but we'll also save quite a bit
of the production budget.

Pile in, everybody.

♪ ♪

Hope it's worth the effort.

- Right, we've got that. Cut.
- [laughter]

I will be attempting to resolve

one of the great schisms
of Italian cooking

using eggs, cream and pancetta.

♪ ♪

But first things first.

This is where everything else
has gone wrong.

Where all your attempts to do
something clever and interesting

and impressive with pasta
haven't worked,

you resort to things that come
in packaged jars and tins

that you have in that cupboard
that you don't admit to having

but that we all have.

This one is based
around alphabet spaghetti,

or as the Italians call it

♪ ♪

First we need some toast,
which we do in the toaster.

On the toast,
we are going to spread pesto,

jarred pesto, ready-made.

Very nice. Very Italian.

And then, on top of that,
we are going to put

the Alphabetti spaghetti.

Alphabet spaghetti.

"Alphabetti" being a brand name,

which we're not allowed
to mention

because it's made by Heinz,

who also make loads of soups and
beans and that sort of stuff.

I'm sure you've never heard
of them.

[Sean laughing]

So, those simply heat through.

You really can't go wrong
with that.

You can't really set fire to...

[sighs] ...alphabet-shaped pasta
in a tomato sauce.

♪ ♪

We're now waiting for the toast
to toast in the toaster,

and here's
a philosophical thought.

This has often occurred to me.

When I was a child, my mother...

like lots of other mothers,
I'm sure...

said that food is not a game.

things like alphabet spaghetti

and alphabet-shaped
potato croquettes and so on

weren't really allowed.

But it always strikes me that in
that pot of alphabet spaghetti

may be the equivalent of Philip
Larkin's "This Be The Verse,"

or "Sumer Is Icumen In,"
or something like that.

It must be in there.

And if you gave enough monkeys
a tin of alphabet spaghetti,

got them to cook it, shake it
around and throw it at the wall,

you'd get "Richard III."


Don't know.
We'll have to ask Brian Cox.

♪ ♪

If I do that often enough,
it'll work, won't it?

Thought-controlled toaster.

[toaster dings]

Two pieces of toast.

Keep the toast upright when it
comes out of the toaster.

Stops it going soggy.

Pesto is made with basil leaves,
pine nuts, Parmesan cheese,

possibly a little bit of garlic.

Do we think that should be cut
into squares or triangles?

This is another great debate.

- [man] Triangles.
- [man 2] Squares.
- [women] Triangles.

Hands up for triangles.

One, two, three...

Three. Hands up for squares.

One, two, three.
I get the casting vote.


Of course,
you can use triangles

if you like your toast
to have three vertices,

but I prefer quadrilaterals.

Sprinkled with Parmesan
and, hey, pesto.

And then, you have a piece
of pesto-y toast.

You can dip that in there.

Stop sniggering at the back.

I'm gonna see
if Nikki likes this.

Your Excellency.


The Alphabetti spaghetti
alphabet-shaped spaghetti hoops

pieces on toast with pesto
is available.

Do you know what?
That's really nice.

It's all right, isn't it?

Mmm. Mmm.

♪ ♪

Justin Bieber,
I happen to know...

because the researchers told me
this about 15 minutes ago...

is a pasta enthusiast,
as is... Rihanna?

- Yes. [chuckles]
- Yes. Rihanna,

who likes pasta and lobster,

No, no, no. Justin Timberlake
likes pasta and lobster.

[James] Oh, sorry,
Justin Timberlake likes...

I don't know.
I don't give a [bleep]

about which celebrities
like pasta.

Anyway, let's get back to
that great existential question

that's been bothering me
all day.

It's that schism
I mentioned earlier,

one that was so serious
it was referred to the Pope.

Penne carbonara, a very simple,

very well-established
Italian dish.

It is made with pasta,
obviously, some eggs,

some cheese and pancetta.

Now, if you are a purist,
you would want to point out

that you should actually make
this with spaghetti not penne.

But let's not worry about that
because we're not purists.

We're interested in flavor.

You would also point out that
that shouldn't be pancetta.

It should be the stuff
that comes off a pig's face,

which is called...
wait for it...guanciale.

But don't get bogged down
in that.

The big question is,

do you make it with cream, or
do you not make it with cream?

Now, I-I've always said you
don't use cream in a carbonara,

but, in the interest
of research,

I did a Twitter survey,
and the results are:

28% of people say, "Add cream."

25% of people say,
"Don't add cream."

And 47% of people say,
"Just have a pizza."

So, what we're going to do here,
to settle this once and for all,

is we're going to make
two carbonaras.

One with the cream method.
One with the no-cream method.

We start with two cloves
of garlic.

140 grams of pancetta.

And now eggs.

Each version requires
one whole one plus one yolk.

This is clearly a job
for a chicken.

- [sizzling]
- Put the whole egg into there.

My vomiting chick.

Y-You getting this?

As I tip it up,
the whites should come...

There. It works.

Look at that.

The yolk can't come out
of the little hole

because it's too big.

This won't work
if you break the yolk as you,

as you put the egg into
the vomiting chicken's head.

Okay? Right, so there's just
a yolk left in there.

That can go into that one.

Get a fork,
stir the egg up a bit.

Now don't whip it up,
because you don't want

to make scrambled egg.

You're just mixing the white
and yellow bits together.

Next, Parmesan and pepper.


There you go. Eggy, cheesy mix.

I've overdone the cheese a bit.
It doesn't really matter.

It just means it's more cheesy.

And as many people
have pointed out on Twitter,

you can't have too much cheese.

Right. You ready for this?
I'm gonna add the cream.

About 100 milliliters.

That's the creamy version.

I think that looks disgusting
already, but...

Anyway, let's see. Ugh.

Don't forget to put
the pasta on.

Don't fall for the old trick of,
"Oh, you've got to put

some oil in the water to stop
the pasta sticking together."

It simply isn't true.

Oil and water are immiscible.

The water will just stay
in the bottom of the pan,

the oil will settle on the top,
and it won't do anything at all.

We will time it.
That is 12-minute pasta,

but we're going to give it
ten minutes.

That will ensure that it remains
al dente, of the teeth,

slightly firm, which much
improves the sensation

of biting into the pasta.

It's not actually boiling yet.

It needs to start boiling
before I start the clock.

If it's not boiling,
it's not actually cooking,

it's only warming up.

There is a 15th-century
Italian cookbook

that tells you how to time
the cooking of your pasta.

You should bring it to the boil,

and then say the Lord's Prayer
three times in Latin.

And then it will be done.
These days, we have the clock.

And when I say "these days,"
this is from the 1950s

and still doing the job
perfectly well.

I haven't had it
since the 1950s,

before you make all your funny
social media comments.

I bought it from a jumble sale
when I was poor.

Now, you're using
dried pasta here.

I may have spoken about this
already before,

but dried pasta is not inferior
to fresh egg pasta,

it's just different.

The Italians
would recognize both

as being entirely proper.

Dried pasta uses durum wheat,

which has a much higher
protein content.

And it's made with just water
and salt added to the flour.

When you make egg pasta,
the slightly softer moist stuff,

you add eggs, and there's a lot
of protein in the egg,

so you can use
a lower-protein flour.

That's why it looks
a slightly different color.

The great and exciting thing
about carbonara...

it adds a frisson to the whole
experience of cooking it...

is... this bit
is relatively easy and has,

so far, gone quite well.

That mixture looks good.

This one, to my mind,
looks revolting.

But it's what it's supposed
to look like.

That is nicely cooked,
it's infused with garlic.

It's a little bit browned off.

That has just started to boil.

So we start the clock. Easy.

The trick is the bit
right at the last second,

when you add the cheesy mixture

to the hot pasta
and pancetta in the pan.

That's when you can
balls it up entirely.

Stand by.

Geez, that's it. Okay.

With the pasta ready,

it goes into the pan
with the pancetta.

Now we can add our eggy cheesy,

or eggy cheesy creamy mixture.

There is the pan of oily pasta
and pancetta.

Here is the egg, Parmesan
and black pepper mix.

They're going to go together.

Would you like to come and get
this, cameraman? It's an...

It's an enormous moment.

Say when.


Stir, stir, stir.

There's very, very orange yolks
in this.

That, I think, is pretty good.

- What do you reckon?
- [Nikki] That looks really

You mustn't scramble the egg.
If you scramble the egg,

you have failed.

That looks quite good.

- Happy with that?
- [Nikki] Yeah.

- [James] Okay.
- Okay, should we do this one?

[James] Perform your stir.


Very exciting.

Mine's definitely gonna
be saucier than yours,

because of the amount of
extra... 'cause of the c-cream.

[James] With the egg
successfully not scrambled,

all that remains
is parsley and Parmesan.

Those look all right,
don't they?

You're gonna have to try
and replicate that

- for the posh photography.
- I know.

- Okay.
- Yes?

Bit of egg, bit of meat,
bit of cheese.

- Mine's all right.
- Mine's lovely.

- Yeah?
- Mmm.


Oh, I think
I like yours better.

They're both pretty nice.
It's very difficult to...

I don't even know how cooking
programs work on the telly,

because nobody watching
can taste anything.

But I can assure you,
this tastes...

I'm not just saying this because
we've made it... it tastes nice.

If it was terrible, I'd say so.

I marginally prefer
the egg-only one.

I'm marginally preferring
the creamy one.

- Are you?
- Mm-hmm.

So, there you go.
The results of that survey

are exactly 50/50.

And we've learned nothing.

But thank you for watching.

Not wanting to end the show
on such a low note,

I have a treat for you.

Remember the alphabet

Well, we have a few tins
left over.

So we've tidied away,
by the magic of television,

and we can now present to you
gelatina di spaghetti alfabeto,

which translates as,
according to Google,

"alphabet spaghetti in jelly."

- Nikki, if you'd like
to reveal...
- I shall.

This is good.

How's about that?

I'll lift it up in the sure
and certain knowledge

that it will stay stuck
to the piece of slate.

"James May: Oh Cook!"

But just imagine
you are at the...

one of the big embassies
in London...

the American embassy...
and somebody comes up to you

and says, "Your Excellency,
would you like a, uh,

a small taster of
gelatina di alfabeti spaghetto?

- No. Gelatina
di spaghetti alfabeto...
- [laughter]

...at the Italian embassy
in London.

You say, "Would you like some
of that, Your Excellency?"

You'd take it, wouldn't you?
It's fantastic.

- But that wasn't the only thing
you did with the jelly, was it?
- No, it wasn't.

- Can we see the other thing
you did with the jelly?
- Are you sure?

[James] Well, no.

Here it comes.

Here we have
an alphabetical reimagining

of the classical Jelly Baby.

Which way do you want him?

Um, I don't want him any way,
to be honest. It's a baby.

- [Nikki] It's Jelly Baby.
- Now that's... Jelly Baby.

[James] Orgelatina di bambino,
as the Italians would say.

That is actually
quite disturbing.

- I hope you don't
mind me saying.
- It's very disturbing.

[James] Somebody somewhere
is gonna take this up as an idea

for a new sort of
B-list horror movie somewhere.

The Wobbly Jelly Baby
of Pasta Letters.

[imitates horror score]

Anyway, I hope some of that,

at least, was useful
and that you will be inspired

to try your own
beginner's basic cooking,

as indeed I have been with
the help of my expert assistant,

mentor and boss Nikki.

In the meantime,
pasta la vista, baby.

- Really?
- Yeah.

- [Nikki] Okay.
- [James] I mean, you have to.


I have to say, it doesn't taste
as bad as it looks.

It's sort of orange jelly

with the corruption
of dead pasta in it.

- It's nasty. [laughs]
- It is actually...
it's disgusting.

I don't know what
I'm trying to talk about.

- It's absolutely vile,
isn't it?
- Nasty.

- It's really horrible.
- It's horrible.
Why are we eating it?

It looks horrible, it tastes
horrible, it is horrible.

Here, as usual,
is the beauty shot

of what we have prepared.

I don't know why we're
doing this. It's depraved.

It's not in my cookbook.

Let's remember instead pasta
in all its acceptable forms.

A staple ingredient
that keeps on giving.

And I was wrong
at the beginning.

Pasta is, in fact, magic.

Well, there you have it.

A simple introduction
to the joys of pasta.

Go ahead, try it yourself,
have fun,

improvise, don't burn yourself,
don't cook yourself.

Cook safely. Thank you, for now.

See you next time. Goodbye.