By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
I sit on a warm and inviting couch in St. Augustine, remembering an extraordinary Italian meal my daughter and I ate last night.
I look at posts from friends and family up north dealing with snow and ice, and I must admit I feel guilty about having to wear a jacket for most of the week here.
I will return as pale as I was six days before, but so be it. The skating rinks are still better than the roads in Maryland.
But I digress. It’s been a long time since a dining experience touched me like this, and I’m savoring every moment: the service, the wine, the food itself, the atmosphere. Yes, the whole package. Our meal at Alta Marea rivaled a dinner I’ve written about many times in the past 15 years at the Martini House in Napa Valley, to date in the top three meals for me.
In fact, it was at the Martini House that I learned this simple fresh pasta recipe that I have used and shared ever since. Todd Humphries mastered the art of this amazing staple, and while it may not be ideal to eat fresh pasta every day, suffice it to say that the occasional foray into bread and pasta land is a journey well done. The sacrifice is real and worth the extra pounds.
I couldn’t resist ordering the Porcini Lasagna (‘lasagna’) and it was delightful. There is something so absolutely delightful about fresh homemade pasta. And it did not disappoint.
To top off the evening, the server recommended the Tiramisu, and we were full. There was no room for even a hint of food. Why did you have to say ‘Tiramisu’? I responded with two questions. First, “Is it homemade?” to which the answer was affirmative.
The second question decided our fate.
“Does the chef use Savoiardi (those crunchy biscotti that look like lady fingers)?”
“Chef Simone will only use them. If you can’t get them, it just won’t work. “
Damn, I thought to myself. I must order it. My daughter resisted, but she had never had Tiramisu, much less a well-made one, so I ordered it. And it was glorious. It was like the earthquakes that separated the continents. In a word, it was sublime.
My daughter, the more resistant of the two, had no problem helping me finish and I was happy to introduce her to one of the best things about Italian cuisine. But that recipe is for another day. For now, let’s get on with the lasagna.
1 pound fresh pasta (follow the recipe)
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tbsp. Grass-fed butter without salt
8 oz. Porcini mushrooms, fresh
8 oz. Cremini mushrooms, fresh
4 oz. Portabella mushrooms, fresh
2 ea. Leeks, white only, washed and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 ea. Finely chopped shallot
2 C. Dry white wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup Ricotta
1 cup Good Parmesan cheese
1. Cut the pasta into the shapes that will determine the final shape of the plate.
2. Cook for 2-3 minutes in boiling water, remove and set aside for assembly, keeping warm.
3. Heat the oil and butter in a pan large enough to hold the mushrooms, and add the mushrooms.
4. Add the leeks as well and cook for about nine minutes, or until soft.
5. Add the garlic and shallot. You have the option of cooking these first, but they will maintain a much more pronounced flavor in the finished dish if you wait until this point.
6. When most of the liquid has cooked the mushrooms, add the white wine and lemon juice.
7. Reduce at least in half and then season with salt and pepper to your liking.
8. In a separate skillet, combine the cream and reduce until thickened. Add salt and pepper and add the ricotta, mascarpone and Parmesan and heat
9. To assemble, spoon some cream into your bowls, add a layer of pasta, then mushrooms and a touch of cream. Repeat until all ingredients are gone and serve immediately.
makes a pound
2 1/2 cups High gluten flour or semolina (preferred)
1 teaspoon Salt
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
heavy cream, as needed
1. A few years ago a Sicilian chef taught me how to use a paddle in a stand mixer for pasta dough. Using the dough hook takes way too long, and it’s quite surprising how quickly this dough sticks together with the aforementioned paddle.
2. Put the flour, the salt, the yolks and the egg in the mixer with the paddle and let it break.
3. A word of caution: you can always add dry ingredients to a wet dough, but adding liquid to a completely dry dough is almost impossible. So while mixing this, add cream as needed to make sure it’s not too dry.
4. When the dough comes together into a tight but flexible ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
5. When you’re ready, just roll it out and cut it any way you want. In this case, the pappardelle works wonders with the rich, creamy lemon sauce.
– Paul Suplee is professor of culinary arts
at Wor-Wic Community College and owner of boxcar40.
Visit it at www.boxcar40.com.