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January 2010 COTM: Patricia Wells PASTA

Welcome to the PASTA thread for the January 2010 Cookbook of the Month, featuring Bistro Cooking & Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy.

Please post your reviews of Pastas (BC) and Dried Pasta (T) and Fresh Pasta (T) chapters here.

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  1. Saffron Butterflies (Trattoria p. 108)

    Didn't expect to love this as much as we did, but we all thought it was wonderful. Basically you cook farfalle (she says 8 ounces, I used the whole pound, then double the sauce), drain, then add butter, cream and saffron and toss. Serve with parmesan if desired (it doesn't need it, but heck, who is going to turn down cheese?). More than the sum of its parts. Served with celery salad with anchovy dressing from the same book (spoiler alert: also a hit).

    2 Replies
    1. re: LulusMom

      Funny, I've flagged both of these pasta dishes to try. Do you think the "butterflies" shape is essential to the dish? I searched all over for whole wheat farfalle and came up empty-handed. DO you think another shape might work?

      And, now I'm going to have to try that celery salad!


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Hmmm, I do think you want something sort of flat, to show off the lovely (you can't really see it in my photo) saffron. Also think it would stick best to something on the flat side just so it would stick nicely. Maybe shells?

        You really have to like anchovy to love that celery salad, but if you do, wow, is it good!

    2. Tagliarini (Fettucine) with Lemon Sauce (Trattoria, p. 130)

      It's been cold here so we've been happy to have lots of pasta. This is very easy to make - you combine butter, heavy cream and lemon juice over low heat, then remove. Cook fresh pasta (she calls for Tagliarini but I could only find fettucine) and then add it, along with a little cooking water, to the sauce. Cover and let sit for a minute, along with grated zest of 3 lemons. Top with fresh parsley. Serve with cheese if desired. This has a nice bright flavor, and I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. I love lemon, but this was maybe overkill as a main course. Family enjoyed it, it got finished. Served with salad.

      1 Reply
      1. re: LulusMom

        Penne with Spicy Tomato Sauce pg. 88 Trattoria-
        Simple but oh so good! It is spicy and comforting... The only thing I did different was keeping large chuncks of garlic instead of minced. I let them saute in the olive oil and soften so it tasted like pieces of roasted garlic running through the sauce.

      2. Fusilli w/ Walnut and Garlic Sauce (T)

        Have made it twice now. First time with raw garlic, as instructed, which I loved but others found too strong. Second time with roasted garlic, others liked but I found too bland! Both times we added some flat-leaf parsley which gets some colour in there as well as flavour. Way too bland otherwise. Could easily get away with using less cream.

        1. Eggplant Pasta (Tattoria). I make my eggplant pasta using this recipe but I only use half the tomatoes and toss it through less pasta. I also cook the eggplant much longer than she suggests to allow it to become really delicious rather than just be browned and taste raw. The salting at the end of the eggplant cooking is very important.

          1. Rigatoni with Meat and Celery Sauce (p. 112 Trattoria)

            First off, I subbed ground turkey and a bit of turkey bacon for the ground beef (she gives a whole lot of subs, none of which are turkey). So review might need to be taken with a grain of salt. We liked this - a nice, hearty meal on a cold night. I think it could do with a longer simmer time, and maybe some wine or garlic for a bit more depth, but we did like it. Chopped celery and onion are cooked in olive oil, then add the meat, then crushed canned tomatoes and herbs. Cook your pasta, add to the sauce and Bob's your uncle.

            1. Spaghetti with Shrimp, Clams, and Mussels in Tomato Sauce – p. 117 - Trattoria

              Outstanding! I purchased this book over a year ago because it was a past COTM (long before my time here on CH) but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to cook from it. Rest assured it won’t be the last since we absolutely loved this dish and mr bc never loves seafood, normally the best I can hope for is an “it was good”.

              Prep is straightforward though your seafood is cooked one variety at a time (in wine or water) so the cooking process is staged. Essentially you make a marinara sauce then as the seafood is cooked, the liquor is stirred into the marinara, which becomes beautifully briny as a result. In the end the seafood is combined w the sauce. The author suggests you plate the pasta then toss in the sauce along w some parsley however I prefer to toss my pasta in the pan of sauce so I went that route. I finished our plates with a dusting of fennel pollen. I used a 6 colour Tacconi vs the spaghetti since we had guests and I didn’t want them to be struggling with the sometimes unruly spaghetti.

              We loved this; it was one of the best seafood pastas I’ve made. The fennel pollen was a perfect match too. Happy to recommend this one!

              ETA: PW provides instructions"For Cleaner Clams" and instructs you to dissolve salt in water then, after scrubbing your clams under cold running water, placing them in the salt water to purge at room temp for 3 hours. She says you'll be amazed at the amount of sand you end up w at the bottom of the bowl and she was right. I'll be doing this from now on!

              4 Replies
              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                Lovely photos! Is this from trattoria?

                1. re: Westminstress

                  Thanks so much Westminstress and yes, you're absolutely right, this dish was from Trattoria and I've managed to edit the post to add this info!

                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                  That Does look marvelous, BC, and I'm glad to know about the "cleaner clams" tip. I have her Bistro cookbook and like it.

                  Never having heard of the tre colori tacconi macaroni I did a Google image search and love what I saw! But, the shape reminded me of the long lasagne strips with curly edges. Which led me to think what a fun substitute if one can't find the tacconi. Simply break those long strips into approximately the same size as the real thing...

                  1. re: Gio

                    Thanks Gio and what a great idea to break up the long lasagna noodles as an alternative to the tacconi. We have an amazing Italian market that is a bit of a road trip to get to but its well worth the drive because they have such an incredible variety of Italian imports. I'm powerless in there and often leave with a cart full of new to me ingredients...this pasta was one of them. It worked out perfectly w the seafood as the pieces are approx 1"x2" the ruffled edges and slight ridges on the noodle did an excellent job of capturing the broth/sauce.