Category Archives: pasta

Spicy Scallops on Pasta with Fiddlehead Ferns and Mozzarella

spicy scallops on pasta with fiddlehead ferns

Weeknight Pasta with Spicy Scallops, Fiddlehead Ferns and Mozzarella
For Two

4-6 scallops
2 oz dry spaghetti (I used whole wheat bionaturae spaghetti. I actually like the flavor of it.)
1-2 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped into chunks
1 medium leek, chopped in short thin strips, white & light green only
4 oz fiddlehead ferns, cleaned and trimmed (can sub asparagus, tender wild greens, or chicories)
1 C white wine
1 T butter
2 tsp chili flakes, divided
salt & pepper

Salt & pepper the scallops; sprinkle sparingly with chili flakes. Bring water to boil, and prep all ingredients.

Begin cooking the pasta. Meanwhile, cook the leeks at medium low heat for 5-10 minutes until coloring. Add 1 tsp chili flakes and fiddlehead ferns. Cook 2 minutes at medium high heat. Add about 1/2 C white wine and cover loosely with a lid; reduce heat to medium.

In a very hot pan (cast iron would work best), sear the scallops and turn only when browned at high heat. If sticking when turning over, do not force. Add 1/2 cup wine, wait a moment and wiggle them free to flip.

Add the pasta to the fiddlehead and leek mixture, turning heat up to medium high. Add the mozzarella and toss quickly. Plate with the scallops on top.

White Lasagna with Kale, Sausage, & Sweet Potatoes

white lasagne with sausage, kale, sweet potatoes & leeks

For the lasagna assembly:
1 pack no-boil lasagna sheets (GASP, a shortcut!)
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
2 lbs kale (mixed is OK), blanched, drained, and chopped finely
1 lb sweet italian sausage, no casing, pan fried and set aside
2 large leeks sliced thinly and cooked at medium low heat in fat from sausage

Bechamel sauce for white lasagna

8T butter
1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove fresh garlic
3 3/4 C milk
1 C chicken or vegetable stock
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 C marsala
1 C mixed grated cheese such as parmesan, pecorino, fontina, gruyere
salt & pepper

Melt the butter. Once it reduces spitting/bubbling, add flour and whisk, cooking for 3 minutes at medium heat. Slowly add the milk and the stock, raising heat to high. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool until warm to touch.

Once warm to touch, add the beaten eggs, 1/2 C marsala, 1/2 C of cheese and salt & pepper to taste.

Assemble the lasagna

Preheat oven to 375. Pour a thin layer of bechamel sauce on the bottom of your lasagna pan (preferably 8×10 or something similar/bigger), add two layers of lasagne sheets. Spread the sausage evenly, add salt & pepper, and cover with more sauce.

Add another 2 layers of lasagna sheets, next adding the kale. Top with salt & pepper, sauce, and more lasagna sheets.

Add a thin layer of leeks, and then as if making a gratin spread the sweet potato slices in a single overlapping layer.

Add more salt & pepper, sauce, and the final layer of lasagna sheets. Top with sauce and remaining cheese.  Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour.

St. Louis Style Cannelloni with Pork, Ricotta, & Chard

cannelloni with ricotta, chard, and sausage

This recipe will feed about 4 people with a side dish or 3 hungry people without one. It helps to have a food processor available.

Filling
2/3 lb spicy or sweet Italian pork sausage, out of casing
3 cups chopped chard and/or spinach
1 cup ricotta cheese (preferably sheep’s ricotta)
1/2 yellow or white onion, diced

Cook the sausage in a medium high heat skillet in a little chunks, seperating with your fingers, until brown on one side. Add the onions, and cook until mostly tender. Add the chard/spinich, and cook briefly until wilted. Allow mixture to cool slightly in pan or in thin metal bowl, and if you have one, use a food processor to make the mixture more even/fine. Once cooled to room temperature or close to it, add the ricotta and stir until blended. Adjust seasoning.

Red Sauce
1 container chopped or strained tomatoes (I used a carton of POMI)
1 stick butter
1/2 onion, peeled and intact

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and simmer until delicious. Add salt. About 30 minutes. Can make ahead.

White Sauce
1 T butter
2 T flour
1-2 cups milk
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme chopped

Melt the butter until the water content has fizzled off, add the flour and whisk, cooking about 1 min until slightly darker. Slowly add milk until you have a nice, somewhat thick consistency sauce. Set aside. You’ll be reheating this shortly and possibly adding more milk to pour over the cannelloni.

Pasta
2 eggs
00 white wheat flour if possible
0 semola / semolina flour

Use this recipe and roll out as thin as possible into sheets, cutting into strips about 10 inches long by 4 inches wide, roughly. It is ok if the sheets vary in size, so long as they’ll roll into a cannelloni giving it a few layers around. Boil water, add salt, and one at a time blanch the strips for 30 seconds or so, until they toughen up a bit. Remove, set on paper towels flat, not touching other pasta, in layers, to reserve for use.

Alternatively you can buy cannelloni tubes from the grocery or lasagna sheets without the ruffles.

Assembly

Put a thin layer of red sauce in your baking/casserole dish to prevent pasta from sticking to bottom. Roll several spoonfuls of filling into each pasta sheet, placing each closely against the next in the dish. Once finished, top with red sauce thoroughly, then white sauce. Top with grated parmesan or asiago, bake at 375 for 25 minutes until golden and beautiful on top.

Gorgonzola and Pear Gnocchi (Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola e Pera)

Gnocci with Gorgonzola and Pears

Gnocchi alla gorgonzola e pera is actually a pretty common dish in the northern half of Italy; the kind of thing any restaurant that might be serving tourists would throw on (without regard to seasonality, local cuisine, etc), and while that might turn you off, it’s actually quite good. That said, I ate it several places in Florence, and am fairly certain I spotted it on other menus around the way.

I couldn’t find much on the history of this dish, so I think it’s more of a modern classic–prior to not-too-many-years-ago, most classic products of regions didn’t get transported or heavily used much in other regions. There was a time when gorgonzola is what you ate when you were in piedmonte; risotto is what you ate in Milan and in the far north, you ate potatoes in Alto Adige and maybe in Emilia-Romagna. Less so now, with the best of the best being desired by Italians everywhere loving food.

Gnocchi is, however, typical of Alto Adige (where potatoes are most common), and gorgonzola–if it is officially DOP gorgonzola–is from Piedmonte. For this dish, you’ll want to use the opposite of what you’d likely want to snack on in a cheese plate. You’ll use Gorgonzola Dolce, which is the young, “sweet” gorgonzola. As the cheese ages it becomes more “piquante” or spicy, hot. It’ll tickle your throat if it’s the wrong type for this job. If you don’t have a quality cheese chop that carries both and can point them out, look for gorgonzola (imported, not pre-crumbled) that has a more soft, creamy texture with less blue bits–that’s usually it.

For 3-4
3 oz gorgonzola dolce cheeese
1 ripe pear, diced
1 T butter
2 T flour
1 cup light vegetable stock
1/2 cup milk
fresh gnocchi*
salt, fresh ground pepper

Boil your water and have it ready. If you are using fresh gnocchi (which you could be!), they require VERY little cooking time, take what you think they take and cut it by half. Seconds! Otherwise, they’ll fall apart, and you’ll regret it.

Dice your pear, have your ingredients ready. You may or may not need slightly more or less veg stock & milk. Create a roux by heating the butter in a small sauce pan, until clear and stopped bubbling, medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until color darkens slightly, about 2 minutes. Continue whisking and slowly add the vegetable stock, then the milk, until you get a mac-n-cheese type consistency, or slightly thinner. Add the gorgonzola and continue whisking until smooth.

Add the gnocchi to the water and cook; remove the gnocchi as soon as they float to the top of the pan using a slatted spoon or gnocchi paddle. Add the pear to the sauce and let it warm up, adding the gnocchi to the sauce and stirring gently to coat, with a large wooden spoon (don’t use metal, you’ll chop up the dumplings).

Add some salt and black pepper to taste, serve!

Fresh gnocchi makes a huge difference over the vaccu-packed kind you’ll find on the pasta isle. It’s much less dense and has the texture of a down pillow, collapsing in your mouth. I buy mine in bulk from Rainbow market or from Faletti Foods; both carry gnocchi by the bay area’s “Pasta Shop,” which lots of local stores retail products from.

Matsutake Mushroom Gnocci with Watercress

Preface: The only other context I’ve eaten matsutake is in dashi and in a quesadilla (a delicious quesadilla). I don’t think I would make this dish exactly the same next time; I think it would be better in more broth, without the creme fraiche, with egg noodles (Asian style). I used really good quality, fluffy, fresh gnocci for this dish and I think it was really competing with the matsutake, which is a shame because they should have been the feature of the dish.

matsutake gnocci with watercress

matsutake mushrooms cooking

Luckily, matsutakes had a bumper crop this year and they were only $20/lb. In SF, they can be found for $40 or more most years, so this was a really nice surprise last time I popped in at the Japanese market. Yesterday, I even saw them at Rainbow Foods!

I do think simmering the matsutakes in dashi (it was small amounts of mirin, soy sauce, sake, walnut oil and then a larger amount of straight up dashi–water infused with kombu and i-forget-the-name tuna flakes) worked well, I just would have made more of it next time and omitted the creme fraiche I added. The watercress also worked well. So go ahead and do that, and sub those gnocci for egg noodles and I’m pretty sure you’ll have a delicious meal.

Anyway, no recipe here since I won’t stand behind it, but thought you might learn from my experience.