KEY POINTS:
* The role of cream in pasta sauce is to enrich by adding texture and body
* There has been a move away from traditional heavy, rich cream sauces - the cream still plays a vital part but the trend is towards a much lighter coating
* Seasonal greens are a great choice to add to cream, complemented by nuts, pulses or grains for added texture, in making up modern pasta sauces
* Using a high yield, pre-reduced cooking cream saves time and is less labour-intensive

CREAM-BASED SAUCES are a key ingredient of many pasta dishes but, as consultant chef Liam McLaughlin of Global Hospitality Group explains, the old days of rich, heavy sauces have given way to more innovative options. This has been driven in part by the development of a pre-reduced, extra yield cooking cream making it easier for chefs to work with cream at high temperatures over extended periods.

The beauty of cream is that it has a neutral flavour profile. When we refer to something tasting ‘creamy’, we don’t really mean the flavour — but rather the overall texture and body. That’s what the cream is there to provide. If everything were to be truly creamy, there wouldn’t be a lot of stimulation for the customer’s palette.
In the case of pasta sauce, the cream’s role is to enrich by adding texture and body while the other ingredients impart the flavour. Having said that, the traditional, old-fashioned cream-based pasta sauces tended be very heavy and rich — carbonara or mushroom sauces for example — and while you can still find them on menus, these days they are not what many customers tend to go for, especially those who are looking for something a little more adventurous.
Those ‘old school’ flavours are really drenched in cream whereas the trend now is to utilise cream in smaller quantities. This approach is one we’re seeing more and more of in pasta dishes. For example chefs are using a concentrated cream complemented with herb flavours like basil or sage to lightly coat a pasta dish that might also feature a high quality protein like smoked chicken.
You can also add a vegetable component, for example making up a pea puree with a cream base, and adding that to a slowly braised ham hock and a good quality pasta.
In these examples, the cream still plays a vital part 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 with cream and it’s really paying off for them.
Chefs these days like to break down, dehydrate, puree or otherwise change the format of a lot of traditional ingredients to come up with something innovative and different.
Utilising cream really helps that process — whether you’re making a foam, puree or sauce, the cream will stabilise whatever you’re trying to produce and impart that velvety, smooth, light, airy profile.
In terms of ingredients you can work with, the options are virtually endless. Anything that’s green and seasonal is being snapped up by chefs — asparagus, peas, broccolini, any robust green such as kale or even cauliflower is great to add to cream, complemented perhaps by nuts, pulses or grains for added texture and greater flavour complexity.
What’s made this process easier is the availability of a pre-reduced cooking cream product - Anchor Extra Yield Cooking Cream.
When using conventional cream, whether pure or thickened, you’re quite limited in how long you can work with it at high temperatures. In both high temperature environments and highly acidic ones — for example when adding white wine or a citric reduction like lemon juice — the composition of the cream naturally begins to break down, and you’ll get splitting, curdling or separation.
When that happens there are not a lot of ways to remedy the situation and especially in a fast service environment where you need to get the meal out to the customer, you tend to have to throw the sauce away and start again. That means a few dollars have ended up in the bin and when this happens regularly it’s costing the kitchen as well as delaying the serving of the meal to the customer. This is an unnecessary burden we would all like to do without.
A product like Anchor Extra Yield Cooking Cream, on the other hand, has been designed to withstand these high temperatures and acidic environments so it won’t split or separate. Not only does it emulsify and blend in really well with the other ingredients, the fact that it’s pre-reduced saves you valuable preparation time too.
Your conventional creams need to be reduced for quite some time to bring them to the right coating consistency. 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.
In times gone past labour was cheaper and you could afford to employ staff to focus on those individual tasks, but most of us don’t have that luxury today. So using pre-reduced cooking cream, which takes much less time to reach coating consistency, allows you to prepare your pasta sauce faster and without the need for that extended observation period.
This frees you up to get on with other work and means you can serve the sauce in half the time it would take with a conventional pure or thickened cream. And with a yield up of up to 30 per cent higher than conventional thickened cream, Anchor Extra Yield is also a more economical choice.
While it’s terrific for pasta sauces, its application is much broader than that, in that you can use it for hot or cold desserts and as an ingredient for all meal occasions throughout the day - from breakfast through to lunch, dinner, desserts and even pastries. It’s a highly flexible product that delivers the right result every time and a must-have ingredient for the commercial kitchen.
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