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Nigella's Pasta

With its roots in humble Italian cuisine, this dish brings comfort and warmth to the cold winter months.  Abundant winter vegetables unite to thaw the ice and unburden the soul with rustic comfort food. Their flavors seem to float upon an endless and invisible current of warmth and hearth in which I merely have to dip my spoon to feel at home. The starch and cheese, tempered by elements of the wholesome, bid me near as trudging through slush becomes the new normal.

Brussels Sprouts

The Brussels sprouts and turnips can actually endure the same boil as the pasta so they begin their journey together, becoming fast friends in a single steaming bath. After about ten minutes, they exit the pot. Fresh, hand-pressed ricotta and Gruyère cheese melt their way into the mosaic covering the mixture like a warm blanket.  Sage and garlic-infused oil provides the distinct, earthy boost of its perfume. Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese to achieve a crisp, golden crust over a textured, sturdy dish that is built to last.

Three cheeses

The three qualities of rich cheeses, fresh herbs and vegetables elevate this typical peasant fare into a gourmet indulgence, but the timeless heartiness of the ingredients earn this dish lifetime tenure in the comfort zone. It had me scooping directly into the pan and coming up with heaps upon heaps of perfect spoonfuls.

Nigella's Pasta

Adapted from “Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes,” by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 pound Brussels ls sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 medium sized turnips, diced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup hand pressed ricotta
  • 8 ounces Gruyère, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 sage leaves, shredded
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously, then add brussels sprouts, potato and pasta, and let water come back to a boil. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until potato is tender and pasta is al dente. Just before draining, remove 2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Tip drained pasta, brussels sprouts and potato into an approximately 10 x 15-inch roasting pan (or a 9 x 13-inch lasagna dish), then add ricotta, Gruyère and 1 cup cooking water, and toss well to combine. Add more liquid if you feel the pasta is too dry.
 
Warm olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan and, when melted and beginning to sizzle gently, add sage and fry for about 30 seconds. If you let the oil get to hot the garlic will burn, so timing is key. Spoon or dribble the oil garlic and sage over the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes, by which time the surface will be scorched a light gold. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before eating.

 

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