It’s no secret. I am not Italian, but make some pretty good pasta. (At least that’s what many people tell me.) And, I’m not a professional cook, but can get some pretty tasty pasta dishes on the table, often in a matter of minutes and usually using random ingredients from the fridge. I share these improvised recipes with you, knowing that the measurements are somewhat approximated, crossing my fingers that you will use your own tastes and judgment when cooking up Al Dente Pasta.
This recipe, however, has been contributed by a real professional, Kristin Cole. Not only did she test the recipe 3 times, but her writing is beautiful, her photos are spectacular and her instructions are detailed. For this reason, I have decided to not edit a thing. Despite her level of expertise, she is very much in tune with all of us who love delicious, seasonal, simplicity. With this kind of dish, who cares if it’s cold outside!
WINTER PAPPARDELLE, by Kristin Cole
Serves 4 as Main Dish, 8 as a Side Dish
1 bag of al dente pasta, Egg Fettuccine or Golden Egg Pappardelle.
1/2 c toasted walnuts (broken into smaller pieces)
16 oz baby bella or cremini mushrooms (sliced 1/4 in thick)
4 T heavy cream
1/2 c parmiggiano reggiano or grana padano cheese (freshly grated)
1/2 c red wine (your preference since you will enjoy the rest of the bottle)
bunch of large sage leaves (at least 12)
olive oil, knob of butter, salt and pepper
Start to heat a pot of salted water on the stove top. Your pasta water should taste like the ocean.
Coat a large saute pan with olive oil (1-2 T) and heat over med-high temp until it starts to bubble slightly. Toss in all of the sage leaves, making sure they are not touching. Allow them to fry for a few minutes before delicately turning them over and doing the same on the other side. Discard any leaves that turn brown in the frying process as they will be used for garnish. Drain the sage leaves on a paper towel while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Using the same pan, add a bit more oil and a knob of butter. Once the butter has melted, add all of your sliced mushrooms and start to toss. At this point, you can add black pepper and salt to help to draw out more liquid. Continue to saute for another 4-5 min until the mushrooms have darkened in color and shrunken in size.
Turn the heat up to high and add the red wine. You want to reduce the wine to produce a lovely sauce, eliminating the alcohol taste but maintaining the richness and color. This may take a few minutes. Add the heavy cream and walnuts and stir, reducing a bit further. Add 1/2 c cheese, reserving the rest for garnish. Turn heat down to low or take pan off the burner altogether.
At this point, cook the pasta according to the instructions. Using tongs or a strainer, transfer all of the pasta to your sauce pan, making sure the temperature is still on low. Retain at least a cup of starchy pasta water to emulsify and add depth to your sauce. Toss your pasta in the sauce for up to a minute while gradually adding some of the starchy water until the sauce adheres nicely to the pappardelle.
Serve four entree size portions and garnish each plate with the remaining cheese, a nice drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, pepper and 2-3 perfectly fried sage leaves.