- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Pappardelle is a pasta noodle that’s a delicious mouthful.

Unfortunately, pappardelle is uncommon, despite its inviting thick-strip shape. Standard pasta machines don’t have cutters for the rippled edges, so the noodles are usually cut by hand using a pasta wheel. This labor-intensive process may account for the pasta’s scarcity.

Pappardelle appears on menus in old-style and fine Italian restaurants and in specialty food stores. It’s worth the hunt.

When you do find it uncooked, prepare it with a sauce that doesn’t overwhelm or cloak the pasta.

In Tuscany, pappardelle is often served with stewed hare, according to Italian-food authority Marcella Hazan. She also suggests a topping of chicken livers cooked with shallots and pancetta.

I like a velvety blanket of butter, cream and mushrooms.

The noodles soak up the cream and are richer for it. This isn’t a dish you’re going to be eating every day, but when you want a recipe that’s absolutely marvelous yet nearly effortless, this is the one to choose.

Pappardelle with pine nuts and mushrooms

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 cups sliced shiitake or oyster mushrooms (see note)

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons pine nuts

6 ounces pappardelle (see note)

cup whipping cream

Salt and pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add mushrooms and garlic; saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add pine nuts, and cook over low-medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pappardelle in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Add cream to mushrooms; simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add pappardelle and toss to coat with sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese, toss and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

Note: If using shiitake mushrooms, discard the tough, inedible stems. If you can’t find pappardelle, substitute tagliatelle, a slightly thinner flat pasta.

Cranberry, fennel and lettuce salad

3/4 cup fennel stems (the stems of 1 small fennel), cut in -inch-thick slices

1 cup coarsely torn bibb lettuce

2 tablespoons dried sweetened cranberries

Dressing (recipe follows)

Combine fennel, lettuce and cranberries in a salad bowl. Add dressing and toss gently but well. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

DRESSING:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

teaspoon honey mustard

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, pepper and salt.

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