So I promised more pasta sauces, and that these wouldn't be tomato based.
Sorry, I lied. I've got a few non-tomato based ones that will need to wait for spring, and another tomato-based one that is good year-round. So it's two recipes this time: one tomato-based, and one not.
RECIPE 1: Pasta Fazool
Actually, this is "Pasta e Fagioli", or "Pasta and Beans" if you speak a nice respectable dialect. My family apparently didn't, so we pronounce it as "Fazool". There's apparently another Italian class issue where if you make your Pasta e Fagioli as a soup, you are the Right Kind Of Person, and if you make it not soupy enough, you are trash.
To hell with that! Living in Massachusetts, I feel no need to adjudicate disputes between northern and southern Italy.[*] Arguing about which cuisine is better misses the point, like arguing about whether Saint Lucy or Saint Catherine is holier.
Anyway, here's a good Pasta Fazool recipe. My grandmother explained to me once that this was real poverty food
: that whenever times were bad and the great depression came again, if you were smart and you found enough cheap food, you could live on this stuff forever... and that when times weren't bad, you could feed it to your children and grandchildren and teach them what to cook when they were poor. I ate it all the time in college: it keeps fine for a week or two, and it tastes really good. I still make it now, when I remember.
INGREDIENTS: (This recipe halves nicely.)
A recipe worth of tomato sauce from my last post
Two 16-oz cans of beans[***]
A little piece (1-3 oz) of fatback or whatever fatty pork thing you have.
1.5 or so pounds of of small pasta (Ditalini are best)
Cook the sauce as before, adding the fatty pork thing early. When you're about 20-30 minutes from finished, drain and rinse the beans thoroughly, and add them. Don't add them early; they'll burn and stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook the pasta--make sure to use some kind of pasta that isn't bigger than the beans! When it's done, drain it. Remove the pork chunk from the sauce and discard it. Add the sauce to the drained pasta in a big bowl or pot, stirring, until the sauce-and-beans-to-pasta ratio is what you want.[****] Serve with grated cheese and crushed red pepper, if circumstances permit.
RECIPE 2: Mushroom cream sauce
I don't deserve this sauce. Nobody does. Actually, maybe seborn
does. I should figure out the proportions to do this right in a reproducible way.
A bunch of dried expensive mushrooms
If there aren't enough of those, some high-quality fresh mushrooms, cut thin.
Thyme, salt, pepper, stuff like that.
Optionally: chicken broth, cognac
Some grated parmesan cheese.
The mushrooms are key here. If your dried mushrooms are basically gravel and your fresh mushrooms are just some button mushrooms that a machine sliced for you over a thousand miles away, then give up now
and go cook something else. The dried mushrooms and fresh mushrooms should be something really flavorful; porcini would be best. Button mushrooms just don't work here. Oyster and straw mushrooms are okay; shiitakes are weird; you should try them and decide if you like them in this. Crimini and portobello mushrooms are the same species as regular white button mushrooms, in later stages if their development. If your mushroom vendor didn't tell you this already, they are practicing mushroom management
1. Take the dried mushrooms, put them in a bowl, and cover them with boiling water. Leave them for fifteen minutes.
2. Strain the liquid however you think best---I like a coffee filter. Keep the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms.
3. Sautee the dried and not-dried mushrooms in the butter until they're cooked down fairly well and they start to stick to the bottom of the pan.
4. Deglaze with chicken stock or a little water. Reduce heat.
5. Add a little more cream than you think you would want to make the volume of the pasta sauce, and reduce heat. Cook over low heat, stirring, until it thickens.
6. Some people think you should finish this with a splash of cognac. I haven't tried that. Add some thyme and salt near the end, to taste.
7. Toss it with some cooked pasta, and toss with a little cheese.
Once the days get long enough, I'll post my pesto recipe.
[*] If you actually go to Italy and meet Italians there socially, whatever you know about Italian food, you should feign ignorance at all costs.
Ideally, you should get the locals arguing about which local specialty is best, to the point where they all agree on a mutually acceptable restaurant where you good-naturedly agree to try everything they recommend until (in theory) you understand it all.[**] I speak from experience.
[**] Do not follow this approach with their favorite wines and after-dinner drinks, or they will have to scrape you off the restaurant floor. I speak from experience there too.
[***] I like the Goya "small red beans". Small red beans generally rule here.
[****] "If you know what you want then you go and you find it and you get it" -- Sondheim.