Category Archives: mushrooms

PASTA ALLA NORCINA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARich, Earthy, as tan and brown as an Umbrian landscape, I give you Pasta Alla Norcina.  Let me start
by telling you that this was again me playing “CHOPPED” with what was in my refrigerator.  The
entire recipe started with 2 fresh sausages and a container of unsauced leftover Cappellini.  Just  so
you know, Cappellini(Angel Hair)  is not the right pasta for this dish, so, there, now it’s out there and I can’t take it
back.  I will not apologize for this breach of the recipe contract only because the largest breach of
contract comes from not utilizing everything in your refrigerator.  I will give myself points for that one.
The refrigerator also had 1/2 pint of cremini mushrooms that needed my attention and 1/2 cup of
heavy cream that also was screaming to be used.  Everything came together when I remembered the
classic dish (sauce) from Umbria for pasta called NORCINA.  Norcia is a town in Umbria, most
famous for being the birthplace of the brother and sister duo, Benedict and Scholastica, who founded
the Benedictine order of Monks.  The other is the intense food culture which has pigs at it’s center.
So hallowed is the Pig in Norcia that the word NORCINERIA is given to butcher shops where the em-
phasis is on pork, especially sausages.  The other claim to fame are their truffles and mushrooms.
All of these factor heavily in their food ways and this sauce seems to be a real triumph of all those good
things.
Start with the sausage..unlike the Southern Italians, Umbrians do not use fennel in their sausage, just
pork, pork fat, red wine, salt and pepper.  Umbria by the way is a region in Central Italy.It’s sort of a bridge
between the tomato and olive oil South and the butter, cream and polenta filled North.   For Pasta alla
Norcina for 4-6 , you will need 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage, without Fennel.
Slit the casings with a sharp knife and remove the meat.
In a large wide skillet, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil then add the crumbled sausage meat.    Dice a medium
sized onion and set aside.  Move the sausage around so it doesn’t only brown on one side.  After
10 minutes on medium heat, add the onions, and 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, and 1 tsp. fresh
chopped thyme.  The sausage already is seasoned with salt, so only add a little to season the onions.
Move the onions and sausage around the pan, add 1/2
tsp. of peperoncino and cook this for a good 7 minutes. Chop 6 Cremini or Porcini Mushrooms into
a fine dice and add that to the pan.  Let this saute’ for a good 5 minutes, make sure those mushrooms
are diced finely…or it will throw the cooking of the sauce of…Now add 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic…let
it get fragrant (i love saying that…because it does!!) about 2 minutes.  Now, add 1/2 cup of White Wine,
deglaze the pan all around so all the bits of meat on the bottom.  This is sometimes referred to as the
FOND (that really means the deglazed pan juices, but many use the term to denote the bits that are
caramelized on the bottom of the pan)..regardless of the technical term..it’s a boatload of immense
and deep flavor.  Through out those over salty boullion cubes…this is where you will get concentrated
flavor from.   Make sure you use your wooden spoon or spatula to pull those bits off the bottom and
turn the wine a nice brownish color.  Let the mixture cook on medium for at least another 5 minutes,
or until the onions turn soft and translucent.
Now pour the cream into the pan and stir it around.
Are you noticing that I’m not using any addi-
tional fat like butter, or thickeners like flour to create this cream sauce….??  How can you make such
kitchen magic you say?  Ha…I’m no magician, a full bodied natural product like Heavy Cream and slow
heat will perform that magic for you.  This “trick” I absolutely learned in Italy.  There was something
different in Italy with their cream sauces for pasta..and that something is ..it’s just cream.  Let this
simmer with eh sausage and mushroom mixture and in 20 minutes, it will have reduced considerably
and will have changed into a thick and deep colored sauce.

Now like SO many Italian and homecooking recipes, this Classic will have variations from cook to cook
or chef to chef or family to family.  I researched as much as I could on this sauce and these were the
ingredients that came up the most :  Umbrian sausage, onions, small bit of garlic, olive oil, Heavy Cream,
Parmigiano, mushrooms, wine, sage and/or thyme, a bit of hot dried chile pepper..Truffles showed up
very frequently, but since mushrooms did as well, and I had them I added the mushrooms to my dish…less
frequently, but still common to many recipes was anchovies, peas, parsley, pancetta.  I had some frozen
peas so I thought it would be a nice touch.  For those who are non-pea lovers, omitting this is not a mortal
sin. For those who like peas (I LOVE PEAS!) add 1/4 cup frozen peas into the sauce, just let it simmer for
another 5 minutes, then turn the sauce off.  That’s right..FLAVOR MELDING WILL NOW HAPPEN.  Push
the sauce to the back of the stove while you cook 1 lb. of Penne (most proper for the dish) or Cappellini
as I did here according to the package directions just till al dente (are you sick of me saying that yet? un-
fortunately, that’s too bad, it’s the way macaroni is meant to be eaten, you will not serve mush on my watch).

Isn’t that awesome?  We are
not done yet…drain the pasta and then add it to the pasta and on a low flame, for only about 3 minutes,
warm the pasta in the sauce.
Remove from the heat.  Stop, no eating yet.  Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to this
masterpiece you just created.  Always add the cheese at the end, especially with a cream sauce.  Mix
well and let this sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes part of the dish.
Time to eat..for 4-6.  A wonderful dish of pasta and meat for you and your family or friends.  Buon Appetito
from the Umbrian countryside…or New Jersey,

Add a little extra cheese when serving if you like…I like..

Advertisements

PASTA WITH MUSHROOM CREAM AND GREEN ONION SAUCE..ON THE ROAD

156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_n  One of the best parts of traveling for pleasure or business is the introduction to new and different regional foods. Sometimes that dish might be a transplant that follows a formula from it’s point of origin but then makes use of local products and produce.  It’s a fantastic part of the travel experience.  My recent vacation (July 2015) was a Train and Drive Roadtrip through Central Europe ending with a 3 day stay in Istanbul, Turkey.  A bit of an updated version of the old GRAND tours d’Europe, only this one came with casual clothes and WiFi. It’s taken me all of these past 7 months since vacation to find the right time or words to start sharing the trip with you, especially through the food.  And since it’s mid-winter time talking about Summer vacations is a sunny spot on a cold day.  So what do we have to talk about today?  We are talking about this Pasta dish I had at a premier autogrill spot along the highway from Vienna to Salzburg.  The Landzeit chain is dotted along Austria’s Autobahns.  We stopped on our way into Salzburg for a bite at the Landzeit in Strengberg.  I can’t report on the town, but I can tell you that for someone who loves food this was paradise.  Spotless, fresh, amazing selection and care in it’s preparation, this is very good dining.  This would be a great concept to see on our U.S. highways which are anything but food savvy.  Can you recall the last CRACKER BARREL or ARBY’S where you saw a pile of CHANTERELLES????  Don’t go crazy.  I can answer for you, and the answer is no.  European food culture, on average, is what Americans consider “foodie” or “gourmet” for lack of better terms.  I love chanterelles and love to cook with them when they are available in our markets, generally farm or gourmet markets.  A wild mushroom they are a bit pricey and very delicious.  Imagine my excited when this appeared in front of me at the Landzeit Strengberg:162885_1500720160349_5853202_n No need for further commentary because THAT picture says it all.  Farm fresh local abundance.  Austria LOVES it’s EIERSCHWAMMERL…the days we spent in Austria there were piles of them everywhere and they turned up in so many of the dishes, especially in Salzburg.  At the Thursday morning “SCHRANNE SALZBURGER” which  I literally FELL into while walking that morning around the hotel area before the family woke up, I was greeting with the most amazing local farmer’s market I’ve ever been to.  I’ll be talking more about this in future blogposts.  The produce. The meat and sausages. The Poultry. The baked goods.  Special in everyway AND there were the ever present Chanterelles.  I sampled some that came from the LUNGAU section just to the south of Salzburg.  I could only dream of loading my suitcases up with this pile and taking it back to the Jersey Shore with me.0041 Amazing display of local Chanterelles from Lungau (LUNGAUER EIRSCHWAMMERL). Things always taste BETTER to me or are more exciting when I call them in their native language.  Delicious.  Italian food is global.  Everyone loves pasta made in various Italian styles and Austria is no different.  This dish we will make is a pasta dish using Cream, Parmigiano, Green Onions, wine, and Chanterelles.  The Pasta choice will be up to you as the CRESTE DI GALLO, Cockscomb shaped pasta are not readily available even in Italian-centric neighborhood, but they certainly work wonderfully with the sauce.  The restaurant we were at was making them fresh infront of us.  165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n (1)  Another item I wished I could have filled my suitcases with, but, not possible.  You can use any of the cut tubed pastas for this, ZITI, PENNE, MOSTACCIOLE, PENNE RIGATE, SHELLS. There’s just an added level of enjoyment when the creamy sauce gets trapped in the pasta.  Add Campanelle (Gigli) to this list.  They work well too.  LET’S COOK!!

SERVES: 4-6                              TIME: 1 HOUR

1 LB  IMPORTED ITALIAN PASTA (Penne, Ziti, Creste di Gallo, Campanelle, Cavatappi, Shells) cooked al dente according to package .  DeCecco, DelVerde, Cocco, are all good choices. They hold up well to the sauce.

1 1/2 LBS CHANTERELLES (OR OTHER WILD MUSHROOM)  well cleaned and patted dry.  Wild mushrooms can hold onto dirt and sand so take care with cleaning them. Then chop them and reserve.

3 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER

1/4 CUP SLICED GREEN ONION

1/8 CUP WHITE WINE

3/4 CUP HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC IS BEST,and must be full fat

1/4 TSP. GOOD HUNGARIAN SWEET PAPRIKA

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE, plus more for serving

KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND PEPPER

 

In a large heavy skillet/frying pan heat the butter.  Add the mushrooms and 1/2 the green onions, season with salt and let this saute’ for at least 10 minutes. Shake the pan a few times to allow the mushrooms to cook evenly.  Now add the wine and stir the mushrooms. This will pull up any caramelized bits on the bottom and add flavor to the sauce. Bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a siimmer.  Now add the heavy cream and paprika and blend.  Keep this on a simmer , do not let this boil. Boiling will cause possible curdling and separation. It should take about 20 minutes to thicken and reduce.  Organic cream is suggested not because it just sounds good but because it’s somewhat richer and that helps it be more like the rich European creams.  Add the drained Al Dente Pasta to the pan and continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.   Stir in the 1/8 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Now taste for seasoning and add the salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/2 the remaining Green Onion.  Blend. Serve. Each serving should get additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a garnish of Green Onion.  Why green onion (scallion) ?  Because it showed up in most of the dishses we had in Austria. Rather than move into a more Italian aromatic like onion or garlic this kind of makes it unique and rather Austrian.  The VonTrapp Family would be proud.

Now you are eating like you’re driving thru Austria in the Salzburger region.  Isn’t travel delicious???

HAPPY COOKING!!001 Thanks for traveling to the land of EDELWEISS with me today and bringing it into your kitchen!!