Tag Archives: pasta

Homemade passatelli in brodo

31 Mar

This is one of those good news/bad news kinda deals.

The good news is that this dish turned out way better than I had hoped for on a first try.

The bad news is that it took me nearly two years to make.

Don’t worry, it won’t take you as long.

The only reason it took me so much time to make my first batch of passatelli in brodo is because I’m too damned stubborn for my own good. I’d neglected to pick up the correct attachment for my new solid brass pasta extruder the last time I was in Bologna, and simply refused to make passatelli until the proper attachment was firmly in hand. (This despite the fact that the potato ricer sitting in a drawer in my kitchen might have done the job just fine.)

No matter. Thanks to the actions of a committed and dear friend the correct attachment for making passatelli finally came into my possession a couple weeks back. This link explains the entire sordid tale, if you care.

And so here we go.

Finally.

Passatelli is not a flour-based pasta. Rather, it’s made with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Northern Italy is where you’ll find it. The name refers to the word passare (to pass), because in order to form the pasta the dough must pass through the holes of a die or a masher. In Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region passatelli in brodo is a traditional Christmas soup. (I’m going to lobby for a soup course this Christmas, but best you keep that to yourself.)

First thing you need to do is make the brodo, or broth. Traditionally that means a meat broth of some kind, and here I’ve gone with chicken. To start things off I sautéed a whole (halved) onion, a couple celery stalks, a couple carrots and four or five garlic cloves in plenty of olive oil.

By the way, if you’re looking for permission to use a good store-bought broth instead of making your own then you’ve come to the wrong place. C’mon, there’s like two main ingredients in this recipe: the passatelli and the brodo. Make your own broth. You’ll be much happier, trust me.

After the vegetables have softened a bit add in four bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and let them brown a bit too. After the thighs have browned a little throw in some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (my freezer is full of the stuff, so stop by if you need any) and a few black peppercorns.

Fill the pot with water and a decent hit of salt, then simmer at low-medium heat for a good couple hours or so. Then either remove all the chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon or use a strainer if you like. You’ll wind up with a pot filled with very tasty broth to cook the passatelli in later on.

Okay, now for the star of the show, the passatelli. Yes, I made my own breadcrumbs, using bread from a very good bakery here in town. A few days before making the passatelli I ripped apart a baguette and let it dry out, then turned it into breadcrumbs in the food processor.

You can prepare the passatelli in a bowl or on a work surface, as I did here. All you’ll need is 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs, 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a good pinch of freshly ground nutmeg and the zest of half a lemon. Mix them all together thoroughly before moving ahead.

Add four large eggs and incorporate until a dough forms.

Actually, I need to say something here. Every passatelli recipe that I’ve ever looked at, including from Italy’s most respected chefs, calls for just three eggs in a batch this size. Never have I seen a variation, not once.

But three eggs just didn’t work. The dough turned out way too dry to form proper strands of pasta, and so I added a fourth egg, which fixed everything right up.

The dough should be stiff but still moist. If it’s too dry the passatelli won’t form properly. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for an hour or so.

As for how to form the passatelli, I used the brass tool that I was telling you about earlier. It’s a fine tool and it did a swell job. I can’t wait to use it again.

Your best bet, however, is to use an inexpensive potato ricer, with the largest die that comes along with it. Here’s a link to the exact tool that you’ll need.

This is the entire batch of passatelli, which is enough for four primi pasta courses.

Just add the passatelli to your boiling broth and cook for around two minutes.

Then ladle the pasta and some of the broth into warmed bowls, grate a little cheese on top and serve right away.

It was totally worth the wait.

A friend in deed

3 Mar


For purposes of this discussion the man above, known to many of you as “my friend Joe,” shall heretofore be referred to as San Giuseppe.


That’s right, the man’s a freaking saint. And I can prove it.


He just traveled all the way from Cold Spring, New York, to Bologna, Italy, just to do me a favor. If you’re counting that’s roughly 4,100 miles—each way.


Why would a man do such a thing?


Simple. So that I could shut up already and start producing a pasta shape that I have been yelling about—very often in his earshot—for nearly two years now.

You see, the last time I was in Bologna I came into possession of this totally awesome solid brass pasta extruder known as a torchietto.



Here is the torchietto right here, equipped with the spaghetti die that it came with.

Nice, huh? And the spaghetti that it makes ain’t too shabby either.

What I neglected to put hands on when picking up the torchietto in Bologna was an accompanying die for making passatelli. Passatelli is a simple pasta, in the shape of spaghetti only thicker in width and much shorter in length. It’s not made with flour but with breadcrumbs, egg and cheese. Traditionally it’s served very simply in a clear broth, or brodo


Like so. 

This, in fact, is a truly authentic passatelli en brodo, the one that I very much enjoyed at Ristorante Cesarina on Via Santo Stefano in Bologna the last time I was there. 

I love passatelli en brodo. And really want to make the stuff right here in my kitchen. 


But I couldn’t. Not without the solid brass die that I had so knuckeheadedly left behind at the ancient shop where the torchietto was discovered and purchased.


When he heard about this my friend Joe—at this point he had not yet achieved sainthood—was as ticked off about my oversight as I was. Not so much because he craved a taste of homemade passatelli but because, well, Joe is even more obsessive about getting things right the first time than I am.

“How could you even think of leaving that place without the passatelli die in hand?” he squawked. “You make me crazy sometimes, you know that.”

It is sometimes said that having friends who speak their mind freely is a blessing.

I suppose.


Only moments ago I received this photograph via email. It’s the passatelli die that San Giuseppe just picked up for me in Bologna. 
“I’m overnighting it as soon as I get home next week,” he wrote. “If I had any trust in the Italian postal system, believe me, I’d have overnighted it from here already.”
I informed my recently beatified friend that overnighting the die would not be necessary, that I had waited this long for the die and surely could wait a bit longer. 
“You’re already eating passatelli in your head,” he shot back, knowing how closely I had been following his movements around Italy these past weeks, anticipating the exact date and time that the die and he would come together. “No reason to torture you by making you wait any longer.” 
And so there you have it. Soon a package will arrive and in probably no time at all I’ll be at work preparing what will hopefully be a successful passatelli en brodo—in my own kitchen.


Thanks to my very dear friend Saint Joe.


Stay tuned.

Pasta with kale & beans

31 Jan

If not for the anchovy this could have made it to the Vegetarian Recipe Index.

Oh well, at least it’s reasonably healthy. My doctor would approve, I think. He’s the one who keeps yammering on about how awesome swell his “plant-based diet” has been treating him.

Yeah, whatever.

Beans and pasta is good winter dish. It won’t kill me to toss something green in every once in a while, right? And this kale stuff’s got a ton of Vitamin K, or at least that’s what the doc tells me. What Vitamin K’s good for I couldn’t tell you, but the leafy green makes for a nice addition to this pasta and that’s good enough for me.

Did I mention how easy-peasy this dish is? No? Well, it is.

In a large pot of well-salted water blanch the kale for several minutes, until tender. Remove the kale from the water with tongs or a slotted spoon. Don’t throw away the water because we’ll use it to cook the pasta. After the kale is cool enough to work with chop it into pieces around an inch wide.

In a large pan saute four or so garlic cloves, some hot pepper to taste and a few anchovy filets.

After two or three minutes stir in the kale.

Then add a can of cannellini beans (drained of the liquid) and saute at medium heat.

Cook whatever pasta shape you like in the salted water that you cooked the kale in. I went with strozzapreti (“priest-strangler” in Italian), and this is around a half pound.

When your pasta is al dente add it to the pan with the kale and beans and incorporate, using some of the pasta water to moisten.

Plate and top with some grated cheese.

Oh, and if you run into my doctor give him an earful about how good I’ve been eating lately, okay.

Just don’t mention the porterhouse that I scored for tonight.

How (not) to make agnolotti

5 Nov

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. — Mark Twain

I’ll be straight with you, okay. If I called this stuff agnolotti in the Piedmont, the region in Italy where the pasta shape is most common, I’d be sent packing like the Brutto Americano that I am. Strictly speaking, agnolotti are filled with roasted meats or vegetables. Add cheese to the mix and, well, you’ve got yourself some ravioli is what you’ve got.

I knew this going in. A perfectly acceptable agnolotti filling (three parts roasted parsnips to one part leeks, all nicely caramelized) was resting in the food processor, waiting for me to crack open yet another bottle of vino rosso when…

I just had to notice the one-pound tub of ricotta in the fridge, thereby reaching both for it and a little lemon zest.

Just, y’know, to screw things up.

Why anybody playing with a full deck would further listen to a knucklehead who would act in such a way is a mystery.

And yet here we are.

Might as well have a go at creating the shape of agnolotti.

Take about 3 cups of flour (I use double zero) and create a well in the middle. Mix together three large eggs, three or four egg yolks, one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and a half teaspoon salt.

Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the egg mix. Don’t rush it; just gradually, and in a circular motion, bring the flour into the egg a little at a time until a dough starts to form.

At this stage you’re ready to work the dough with your hands.

Pasta dough isn’t like pastry dough and so you don’t need to worry about being delicate with it. Just keep working it until the egg and flour are fully incorporated.

Whe a nice dough ball forms scrape away any remaining flour from your work surface. On the clean surface keep working the dough until it’s nice and smooth. If the dough feels too wet dust the surface with a little flour and incorporate it into the dough ball. The dough shouldn’t feel sticky when you touch it, but it shouldn’t be dry either. Again, don’t worry about being delicate. You could work pasta dough all night long and not mess it up.

When you’re through working the dough wrap it in plastic and let it rest. Most people allow the dough to sit at room temperature for a few hours before making their pasta, which is fine. However, I prefer to make my dough a day in advance and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Make sure to allow the dough to come up to room temperature before rolling out sheets of pasta for the agnolotti.

Roll a thin sheet of pasta dough around 4 inches wide and lay down a line of filling along one edge. A pastry bag is ideal but I just put the filling in a plastic bag and cut a small hole in one corner.

Fold the dough over the filling from the edge.

And fold again into a small tube.

Using your fingers press down along the tube in increments of around 1 1/2 inches.

Then use your cutting tool in the indentations you made with your fingers.

And there you have it: Agnolotti.

Or not.

Garlic scape aglio e olio

6 Jul

When you have more than 200 head of garlic growing in the garden this is the time of year people start showing up.

“What you doing there?” asked a neighbor I had not seen since early winter. “Those garlic scapes you’re cutting?”

The woman left with a bag filled with 20 or so of my scapes. She said that she would make a pesto, which is what many people will do. I said that she ought to try this aglio e olio with a few of the scapes, but I’m pretty certain that she wasn’t paying any attention.

Her loss.

A simple aglio e olio using garlic scapes instead of cloves is a great change of pace. And this is the only time of year that we get to do it.

Get yourself around four or five scapes.

Chop them up like so. (Get your pasta going, by the way, because this won’t take very long at all.)

Saute at medium heat in plenty of olive oil with three or four anchovy filets and a little chopped hot pepper.

When your pasta is al dente add it to the pan, along with some of the well-salted pasta water, then turn up the heat to high and incorporate.

If only my neighbor had been listening.

Just don’t call it Bolognese

25 Apr

There isn’t a tomato in sight here. Those reddish/orangeish spots you see? Carrots. Not tomatoes. Like I said.

Aside from that single omission, what we have here is your basic (and very tasty) Bolognese sauce, or, more properly, ragu.

Except that this isn’t a Bolognese ragu at all. Because a Bolognese must include at least a little bit of tomato. You can call it a Bolognese if it doesn’t have tomato, as many people do. But you—and they—would be wrong to do so.

You want a true Bolognese? Then click right here and I’ll show you one. Otherwise bear with me while we prepare what most people call a “White Bolognese.” Most people, that is, except for the ones in Bologna, Italy, home to the classic ragu. And me, of course.

This is pretty simple stuff. Two large carrots, three celery stalks, a medium-size onion and around 1/4 pound of pancetta, all diced pretty fine.

In a dutch oven slowly brown the pancetta in olive oil at a low heat.

When the pancetta has lightly browned (not too crispy) add the vegetables and 1/2 cup of dry white wine or vermouth and cook at medium to high heat until the wine has evaporated.

Here I’ve finely diced 1 pound of beef (boneless short rib here) and around 1/4 pound of pork (boneless rib). Feel free to use just a pound of beef (even ground), as I was just playing around by adding a little pork. Hell, I’d planned on throwing in a couple chicken livers but forgot that I’d bought them and so they stayed in the fridge. Dammit!

Once the wine evaporates add the meat and allow it to brown lightly.

The add around two cups of homemade stock (I used chicken stock, but only because I didn’t have any beef stock left in the freezer).

As the sauce is simmering (at medium-low heat) keep a small pot filled with a quart of whole milk on extremely low heat. Every 15 minutes or so stir in a little milk until it’s used up. In around two hours the sauce will be done.

Even though I wasn’t making a Bolognese I thought it’d be nice to use one of the brass pasta cutters we picked up in Bologna last year. But you go ahead and use any pasta you like.

This is a shot of the unadulterated end result, but I highly recommend topping the pasta with some Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Oh, and if you’re not in a hurry, prepare the sauce a day in advance, not the day you want to eat it. This is definitely the kind of thing that improves overnight.

No matter what you call it.

Chestnut Carbonara

3 Apr

I’m the last guy to mess with tradition. Ask anybody who has eaten in my home when I am working the line and all will tell you the same thing: The guy leans heavily towards perfecting the classics, not merely approximating or (gasp!) reinventing them.

Take Spaghetti alla Carbonara. It took me years to get this seemingly simple Roman classic right—a lot of them. When I did finally manage it (“The Best Spaghetti Carbonara“) I never looked back.

Until last night, that is. For reasons that cannot be explained I spent the entire day pondering how the addition of chestnuts—yes, chestnuts—might impact a classic carbonara.

Scratch that, actually. I spent the entire day convinced that the addition of chestnuts would make an absolutely terrific addition to this classic. So what if a Web search around midday discovered virtually no evidence that anybody else in the culinary universe had come to the same conclusion.

Whaddyagonnado?

So, this is around one-third pound of my homemade pancetta. It’s what I begin every carbonara with. You can use pancetta, or guanciale, or even thick-cut bacon.

Chop the meat into small, thick chunks, like so. (Of course, this is also a good time to get your pasta water going, as this won’t take very much time at all.)

This is around a quarter pound of cooked-and-peeled chestnuts, which should also be chopped, like so.

This is three large eggs, one egg yolk, and 1/2 cup of grated and mixed Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.

Mix the egg and cheese together and then add a good dose of freshly grated black pepper.

In a large skillet cook the pancetta in olive oil, slowly and at a low flame, until lightly browned. Stir in the chestnuts and saute for another minute, then turn off the heat and wait for three minutes before proceeding further.

After the pan with the pancetta and chestnuts has cooled for three minutes add the egg and cheese mixture and let it stand until your pasta is cooked.

When your pasta is al dente add it to the pan and quickly incorporate. The hot pasta and slightly warmed egg and cheese mixure should provide ample heat to cook the egg to proper carbonara consistency. If not, and the egg remains very wet, carefully apply just a little flame to finish things off—but be very careful, as too much heat will scramble the eggs.

All that’s left to do now is plate the pasta (I used bucatini here, which works well with carbonara), grate some cheese over it, and serve.

I was right about this being a swell idea, by the way. But take the recipe out for a spin and let me know what you think.

Chestnut Carbonara
Recipe

1/3 pound pancetta, diced into cubes
1/4 pound cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, plus one egg yolk
1/2 cup freshly grated mix of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. pasta (spaghetti is traditional but here I used bucatini)


Heat the oil in a large pan over low heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until lightly browned, then stir in the chestnuts and sauté another minute. Turn off the heat and let cool for 3 minutes.
Mix 3 large eggs and one egg yolk in a bowl with the grated cheese and a generous dose of black pepper. Pour the mixture into the warm pan and stir.
When the pasta is al dente add it to the pan and stir vigorously until thoroughly coated. Plate, top with grated cheese and serve.