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October 2011 COTM: Splendid Table: Pastas and The Sweet Pastas of the Renaissance

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the chapters about Pastas and The Sweet Pastas of the Renaissance.

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  1. Lasagne of Wild and Fresh Mushrooms, p. 171. This is in the oven right now, and smells good. Took the better part of the day to make, so it had better be good. (I made my own pasta, so that added quite a bit of time to the prep.)

    ETA: Fantastic! Definitely worth the effort. (I don't think I'd like this with dried pasta, however -- the ultra-thin homemade pasta married well with the somewhat scant mushroom sauce and Parm/cream topping.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      We had the mushroom ragu from this recipe over storebought tagliatelle this evening. Id call it very good but not great - great mushroom flavor and enjoyed by all eaters -I think it would be better layered with besciamella or the cream- cheese mix in the base recipe - thats what we will try next.

      1. re: pikawicca

        Lasagne of Wild and Fresh Mushrooms, p. 171.

        Interesting how three of us made this right away. As pikawikka rightly notes, this is not a time-saving recipe but I think that the successive layering of flavors really pays off. Prepare yourself for a rather leisurely process. First, dried porcini are softened in hot water; meanwhile chopped onions, prosciutto, and parsley are sauteed. Then sliced fresh mushrooms--I used a combo of portobella and cremini--are added and sauteed. Then the reconstituted porcini, chopped, are added. Some minced garlic, rosemary, and fresh (or dried) sage leaves are added to the pan. Man, does the kitchen smell good by now. And now it's time to add in the saved and strained porcini-liquid till it's reduced quite a bit, and then some white wine (ditto) and then, a pound an a half of canned crushed tomatoes and their liquid. Simmer away until "richly flavored and reduced."

        So THEN ( or meanwhile) you cook 12 oz. lasagna noodles (dried and imported in my case) and when done just to al dente, layer in a baking dish with successive parts of the mushroom-tomato sauce, freshly grated Parm (imported of course) and a 3/4 cup of heavy cream and milk, mixed with several TBs more of the cheese. Bake, covered, at 350 F for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes, until bubbly. Let stand a bit, and serve to your salivating family.

        It was delicious. Lovely woodsy funghi flavors, somehow slightly sweet. Even the mushroom-disliker at my table said it was good. I agree with pickawicca that the completed lasagne can turn out to be a bit dry if you use dried pasta, which I did. Next time I will double the cream-milk-cheese mixture to pour over. But meanwhile we're still munching on the leftovers.

        Served with the lemon chicken and green beans with pesto from this book.

      2. Lasagne of Wild and Fresh Mushrooms, p. 171

        Another happy customer; glad to hear others have enjoyed it. My husband made his usual birthday request this week, for both veal parmesan and lasagne bolognese, which I made for a dinner party last night. But I decided to add a dish of this mushroom lasagna to the mix, for those who might be less carnivorous. I made the mushroom sauce Fiday, and the pasta early the next morning. (Luckily, cooler temperatures have rolled in last night, justifying all this rich, hearty food!)

        I started by preparing the dried porcini. After soaking 1 ½ oz. in 2 c. hot water for about an hour, I took the mushrooms from their soaking water, rinsed them off in a colander and wrung them out in some cheesecloth before chopping them. I then strained the soaking liquid twice. (I’m a bit neurotic about this; I buy dried porcini in bulk, and there always seems to be a lot of grit.)

        Next, I heated a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy (LC) skillet and sauted minced onion (about 1 ½ c), ¼ c chopped parsley, and 1 oz. chopped prosciutto. (The prosciutto is optional, and I’ve left it out when I wanted to make this dish vegetarian or for folks who don’t eat pork. I personally think it adds another level of flavor that we enjoy—but the dish is still delicious without it.) Rossetto Kasper says to cook until the onions are “barely tinged with gold,” about 5 minutes. That never seems to happen to mine, and since I don’t want to risk burning them, I add the sliced mushrooms (I used a mix this time: about 12 oz. of button and 4 oz. of chanterelles) once the onion is soft and the prosciutto begins to crisp. I cooked these 7-8 minutes, over high heat, and then added the chopped porcini and sautéed them over slightly lower heat for a couple of minutes, before adding chopped garlic (1 lg. clove) and chopped fresh sage and rosemary (about a tsp. of ea.) and sautéing that another minute or so.

        I then added the strained porcini liquid to the pan and cooked that until, as Rossetto Kasper directs, it forms a “film.” (This always takes me longer than 5 minutes, more like 12-15, but I think it’s important to cook it down well as it really concentrates the mushroom flavor.) Next, I added the 2/3 c. wine (I used pinot grigio) and cooked that down (about 5 minutes). For the tomatoes, the recipe calls for 1 ½ to 2 lbs. canned, drained of most of their liquid, and then “crushed.” I always use a 28 oz. can, with most, but not all, of the liquid—after making this several times, I’ve decided I like the sauce to be a little, well, saucy—and mash the tomatoes w/a potato masher so as not to puree them. I then cooked the sauce for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat, and I find that that is about right to get the sauce to a consistency I like—still saucy, but not soupy or watery. At this point, I add a little salt—but be careful: although the sauce tastes like it needs salt, there’s a lot of parmesan added to this dish later, which adds a good measure of saltiness.

        Into a lightly oiled lasagna dish, I spooned just enough sauce to barely moisten the pasta sheets that went in next. I spread about 1/3 c. sauce and 3 T. grated parmesan over the pasta sheets and layered until I’d used up the pasta and sauce (I ended up w/ 5 layers). I spread the parmesan-cream-milk mixture over the top, covered the dish, and refrigerated it all day until about an hour before putting it, covered, into a 350F oven for 30 minutes. After removing the foil cover, I baked it another 15 minutes, and then let it rest for 10 or so before cutting. This is dryer than most lasagnes and thus cuts into nice neat portions.

        For the birthday celebration, I served this with an antipasti course (meats, olives, artichokes), the aforementioned meat lasagna and veal parmesan, some roasted Brussels sprouts, and a tossed green salad (and birthday cake for dessert).

        Although this is a fine main dish if you happen not to share a table with a die-hard carnivore, I usually serve it as a side to roast chicken or duck or grilled steak. (A few times, I have made a variation of this, adding torn/shredded leftover roast chicken between the pasta layers, but it definitely needs some added moisture, which I’ve accomplished by adding chicken stock and cream to loosen the mushroom sauce.)

        I really love mushrooms, and this is my very favorite mushroom lasagne—and perhaps my favorite recipe (of those I’ve tried) from The Splendid Table. As others have noted, ) it’s time consuming (like all good lasagne)—but for me, well worth it.

        18 Replies
        1. re: nomadchowwoman

          I have to say, reports on this recipe have my mouth watering. Unfortunately right now I just don't have the time to invest in making this, but man, I couldn't stop thinking about mushrooms this morning on the treadmill after reading the first reports. Impressive.

          1. re: LulusMom

            It does sound great! I'm not buying the book this month so will have to be content with imagining other people's delicious meals!

            What is weird to me though is the concept of pasta as a side dish. It would never occur to me to serve it thus for some reason.

            1. re: greedygirl

              Aside from maybe macaroni and cheese, I feel the same way about pasta as a side dish - seems odd. But it is done.

              I didn't buy the book this month either. If my library re-opens during the month, I should get the one copy they have, but otherwise I'm without. I do, however, have the adjunct book, so I'll play with that.

              1. re: LulusMom

                I was going to suggest to greedygirl that she check out the library! I'm a librarian so I'm obligated to say that. I picked up a copy at the Oakland Public Library, and many libraries have excellent cookbook collections. :-)

                1. re: lkrier

                  true enuf but greedygirl is in the UK - harder for people in the UK to find US books in their libraries - and US people have the same problem with UK books.

              2. re: greedygirl

                if the meal is being served all at once rather than in courses it makes sense.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Yet, on page 68 of "The Italian Country Table" half way down under the heading Serving Pasta Rossetto Kasper says, "Pasta is best eaten on its own as a first course or a main dish. It's far too complex to be a side dish."

                  1. re: Gio

                    That's what I've always done, and it's never eaten as a side dish in Italy.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Me too GG... Not only is it "too complex" but for me it entirely too filling to eat with other food. .

                      1. re: Gio

                        I agree in principle--especially the "filling" part. In Italy, while I always like the separate pasta course, I usually fill up on it (no self control) before the next course comes. In my home--and this is purely the function of sharing my table with a man who thinks it's not dinner if there's no meat or seafood--a meat lasagne or any pasta w/meat or seafood sauce would serve as the main course, but mushroom lasagne or a pasta absent meat gets served (in smaller portions, of course) as a side. Personally, I could easily make a meal of spaghetti w/olive oil and garlic . . . or butter and parmigiano.

                    2. re: Gio

                      I thnk that just reflects the italian food philosophy. If you have grown up in America with all the food on a single plate, with a parent who teaches you it is polite to eat around your plate rather than to eat one dish at a time, it has less resonance.

                      while its true that some pasta (and rice) dishes may be too complex or rich to be an accompaniment to meat, many pasta dishes could serve or be a good contrast. For example why would fettucine with a simple cheese and butter dusting, be a poorer plate companion with roast meat than say gratineed potatoes. If anything its a bad idea because the pasta trulyovershadows the meat.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        As the Italians invented pasta, I'll go with their philosophy! I actually think it makes a lot more sense to eat the pasta as a separate course/meal by itself. It just doesn't lend itself to being a side dish imho, especially as the secret to a plate of good pasta is the right ratio of sauce to starch. Add meat/fish to that combination and the balance of the dish is upset.

                  2. re: greedygirl

                    This is what I love about COTM. The wild mushroom lasagna is a recipe I had passed over for years and years. With all these fantastic reviews and tips about using fresh pasta, it will go on my short list of recipes to try this month. Thanks fellow chow hounders!

                    1. re: dkennedy

                      Do let us know about how the recipe works for you, dkennedy!
                      If I can find good fresh lasagna pasta, I will try it again using it instead of the dried that I had on hand.

                2. re: nomadchowwoman

                  http://shadowcook.com/2007/11/29/lynn...

                  Two very comprehensive reports but here's a link anyway to a recipe with a list of ingredients

                  1. re: gembellina

                    Nice to read shadowcook's report on this delicious dish! Her recommendation about doubling the sauce is probably the way to go to ensure a moister (but still relatively "austere" as shadowcook terms it) lasagne dish. I made the recipe for the second time last night and kept the final baked result a bit "wetter" by not reducing the various layers of liquids (mushroom liquid, then wine) down to a "sheer film" as Rosetto-Kaspar directs. I stopped the reduction when it was more a thick bubbling layer. The baked dish was somewhat more saucy, which I liked.

                    I love this recipe! It is perfect for chilly October evenings. I think it would be fantastic as a separate first course, and that's what I'll do for my next dinner party, but for a family dinner it is also a wonderful "starch option" side dish served with simpler chicken or other meat preparations. Or even as the star of the show.

                    1. re: Goblin

                      the very best dish I had on my 2008 trip through E-R was a mushroom lasagna, at Arnaldo'sClinica Gastronomic in Rubiera. very thin, squares, with silky thin pasta, only a few sheets, mushroom ragu and luscious besciamella. I havent made the assembled LRK dish, but my choice would be going toward layering in some besciamella, rather than upping the amount of the ragu. I think that would give it a more suave texture overall

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I made one like that last holiday season for a family get-together. I made a wild mushroom ragu and layered it with fresh spinach sheets and Hazan's bechamel/parmesan combo from Essentials. It was very pleasing.

                3. Pasta all'Uovo, pg. 80

                  Nothing earth shattering about this, since it's just eggs and flour, the way everyone makes pasta! I usually add an extra yolk, though, and I didn't this time. The pasta was still wonderful and I probably don't need the extra yolk! I rolled it to a 6 thickness on my Kitchenaid attachment for tagliatelli, which was perfect - I would take it down to a 7 for lasagne.

                  1. Linguini w/Braised Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar, p. 110

                    I've made this very simple pasta dish several times and decided on Monday night it would be something that could accompany some leftover veal parmesan. This time, however, I had no linguini on hand so substituted spaghettini (De Cecco), but I think I prefer it with linguini.

                    MY major tweak: I always braise whole galic cloves rather than the dice the recipe stipulates. (I've been braising whole garlic cloves this way ever since I discovered a luscious garlic-sauced green bean recipe in an old Bert Greene cookbook.) I'm much less likely to burn the garlic, a risk even on my low burner. As an extra precaution, I set a flame tamer over the low flame.

                    This time I used olive oil (RK calls for OO or butter) for the braising, which takes a bit longer w/whole cloves. I let them go covered for 7-8 minutes and then uncovered almost 15 as my cloves were large. Once they were soft and barely starting to color, I added some of the pasta cooking water, and mashed everything into a paste. (I add this step as I find it really distributes the garlic flavor well, and again prefer it to the diced bits of garlic in the pasta.) I then tossed it into a warm bowl with the hot pasta and more uncooked olive oil (for "brightening"), salt and pepper. Next, another toss w/grated cheese (I used half parmigiano, half pecorino romano as I was at the end of the parmigiano) and finally, a drizzle of balsamico. I usually use a good commercial balsamico (w/out adding brown sugar as RK directs), but decided to go ahead and use some of the "tradizionale" in which I invested on my last trip to Italy although I used much less than she called for--maybe 1/2 tsp. per serving. My husband quickly told me he prefered this pasta with the much less dear "regular stuff," and I had to agree. This sweetened the dish a little too much though we still enjoyed it. (I'll save the fancy stuff for drizzling over roast vegetables or fruit.)
                    I've made this with butter instead of oil, and I think we both prefer it with butter, but that's just b/c I'm such a butter fiend. I like it a lot w/just EVOO. And I'm happy to discover we liked this better WITHOUT the expensive balsamico.
                    All-in-all, I find this an extremely easy, tasty pasta dish (esp. for garlic lovers), which I always serve as a side (usually w/simple roast chicken, pork, or lamb chops), but which could certainly suffice as a main dish. A fried egg on top probably wouldn't hurt either!
                    Side veg w/this and the veal were steamed and buttered brussels sprouts.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                        Sounds great. How many garlic cloves would you suggest.?

                      2. Anolini di parma in brodo, p. 149.

                        I included this recipe in an Emilia-Romagna inspired potluck. The number of people we used to cook this dish roughly matched the cast of Aida. For the most part, we followed the recipe to the letter. It's quite a workhorse.

                        I began by making poultry/meat stock from p. 66. I used 3 lbs. of beef shank and 9 lbs. of turkey wings. Not surprisingly, the 20 quarts of water took forever to heat up in my flimsy stock pot. Once heated, I let it cook for 15 hours, mostly unattended. Once drained and pressed of juices, there was far less than the 8 quarts she suggested. Since I let it reduce too much, I accordingly diluted the broth when I incorporated it into the remainder of the recipe.

                        As an aside, I reboiled the drained meat/vegetables with a few quarts of water to make a second broth for lunch. Unlike the clear first broth, the second broth was really cloudy, but mixed with a little soy sauce, basil, and some ramen noodles, it made one of the best quick lunches I've had in a long time. The broth is incredible.

                        Anyway, I passed off a portion of the broth to a friend and she made the filling. In short, she seared a pot roast, and then braised it for about 9 hours, adding red wine as it cooked. She refrigerated it, and the next day, continued to cook it again for several hours. The solids are drained and discarded. The liquids are mixed with breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano and refrigerated to form a filling for the anolini. It apparently pained her to watch so much food reduce to so little.

                        This was one of several pasta dishes we made for the party, so I'm uncertain how much pasta we used for it. I used Cook's Illustrated's food processor method, which uses 3 large eggs for every 3 cups of flour. I rolled the pasta to the thinnest level on my pasta machine (1/32"), and quickly passed off each sheet to a team of helpers to avoid it drying out--- even 2 minutes of drying can make sealing the anolini difficult. They rapidly put balls of filling onto the dough, folded it over, squeezed out the air, and cut each anolini with a cookie cutter. This made over 100 anolini, more than enough for the party, and there was plenty of filling leftover.

                        I let the anolini dry for about 3 hours. Putting them all in 2 1/2 quarts of broth at the same time seemed like a bad move, so I cooked them in 2 separate batches, constantly tasting anolini to avoid overcooking. Once both batches were done, and the broth cooled for a few minutes, I dumped the anolini back in the broth and served. This dish was part of a crazy feast, so I let guests serve themselves 3-4 anolini each and some broth.

                        The broth was rich and meaty, the anolini had a firm yet bouncy texture, and the overall flavor didn't let you forget you were eating the remains of several pounds of meat. Kasper recommends serving this dish with 2 cups of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but I'd recommend against using any--- the cheese overwhelmed the dish, and that's not something you want to do when you've put 30 hours of work into it (she seems to overestimate the amount of grated cheese in her other recipes too).

                        Overall, I liked the dish a lot, but I couldn't imagine making it again or recommending the recipe to anyone. I would definitely make the broth again, but the filling was really wasteful. Also, I enjoyed her game ragu and cappellacci with sweet squash much more, and they required far less work. But that's another post...

                         
                         
                         
                        7 Replies
                          1. re: hyperbowler

                            Brava! Brave! [Cue the standing ovation.] What a tour de force that was. I've seen Aida multiple times and can quite imagine the hords of people waiting in the wings for your anolini...

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              That's spectacular, can't wait for the next post!

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  I feel...inadequate somehow.

                                  THis is a spectacular display.

                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                    Thanks! This dish certainly makes a fun story. At least for me... I'll have to check back with the 5 people helping me fill these, and the person who made the filling :-) BTW, I'm really glad Splendid Table made COTM--- my dinner party was in late August, and used 12 of its recipes. I wasn't sure what to cook next, and these threads are giving several good ideas.

                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      Filled pasta dishes like agnolini and tortellini are a classic dish that italian women make together for christmas...you need the teamwork! some work the pasta, some cut, some fill, some close...and it's so much more fun! You've done it in the true italian style! Brava!!