Miso and marmite

M&M, but not sweet …

Awhile ago I saw an interesting recipe that combines miso and Parmesan cheese to make a pasta sauce. It wasn’t a combination the we had thought of, although we like miso in other contexts (like in a sauce for salmon or eggplant), and of course we like cheese and pasta! In fact, the recipe is really a variant of the standard Italian dish cacio e pepe.

We occasionally will try new dishes (but nothing like what my brother Jeff does — check out his Instagram: @jeffculy!), so we gave it try. It’s now part of our regular rotation. Very good!

After we’d been having the miso pasta awhile, I saw another similar recipe, but this one calling for Marmite. Now I have to say, Marmite (and related items) is an acquired taste, and mostly people seem to acquire that taste as a kid. Well, I’m guessing, since I never heard of Marmite until I was an adult, since it’s a British thing (and the related items in other parts of Europe and former British colonies — the U.S. escaped Marmite domination since Marmite was invented in the late 19th century). We tried Marmite years ago on trips to England, at the breakfast buffets in the hotels and B and Bs, and we had found it overpowering, and not to our taste at all.

So, Marmite in a pasta sauce seemed stranger than miso in a pasta sauce, maybe because I associate miso with Japanese cooking, which also has noodles (though I don’t recall whether I’ve had miso and noodles). But somehow it also seemed oddly compelling. Maybe I was just on an umami kick, since that’s what miso and Marmite have in common. But why would I think something I didn’t like would be better in a pasta sauce? Shrug.

Even though I had seen Marmite in both of the grocery stores where I usually shop, when I went to get some, one of those cosmic conspiracies resulted in both stores being out of stock for several weeks. Grrr. (No, I don’t really think the cosmos is out to get me. It’s got bigger fish to fry with everything else going on the world.) Eventually, I did score some Marmite and we tried the recipe, and it was … subtle. In other words, bland. We were shocked. It wasn’t the “umami bomb” (as our local food writers like to say) that we were expecting.

Second try: tripling the amount of Marmite. Better, but still a bit subtle rather than truly bland. The third try will be coming up, with even more Marmite until we reach that miso level of umami.

You might be wondering if somehow there was a weakened version of Marmite for us feeble Americans, but I did try some straight out of the jar, and it was just as overpowering as I remembered (Lee was saner and did not try that experiment).

Since the Marmite pasta wasn’t overpowering, I decided to try Marmite in a more breakfast style, on an English(!) muffin with butter. Well, on half of an English muffin, saving the other half for just butter, which as it turns out, is about right for me, at least for the moment. It’s a mystery to me why the Marmite in the pasta is so underwhelming, while the Marmite on an English muffin is not quite overwhelming.

But it’s growing on me.

Late breaking news flash!

Lee is succumbing to the lure of Marmite, trying it on an English muffin this morning. Is Marmite affection spreading? (Yes, that pun is absolutely intended!)

Posted in Food