Pasta al limone with crispy finocchiona, chanterelle and parmesan
*This post is in partnership with Barilla. I’m so thrilled to work with them and proclaim a shared belief that pasta is art. “Each piece of pasta is a small piece of design that combines beauty and taste.” Right now, chefs from around the world are competing in Paris at the Pasta World Championship. Check out Barilla’s Instagram page site to get the know the chefs and follow along as they crown this year’s winner.
Have you ever thought about being a part of cooking competition? The ones where the clock ticks loudly, you have a stocked kitchen and a plan and then a mystery box is thrown in or you have to cook with your eyes closed or use aluminum foil for your cooking vessel. Plates fall, ingredients are flying, people are sweating, and hands are thrown up as the clock menacingly hits zero.
I applaud those who can stomach it, but me? Give me a quiet kitchen, a full pantry and a glass of wine and that’s what I call cooking. Every once in a while, though I like to imagine if I were a part of a cooking competition what would I make. Especially when the challenge is simply this: prepare a signature dish. What would be the recipe that encapsulates you on a plate?
The Barilla Pasta World Championship is happening in Paris right now and as much as I wish I could be there (watching, not competing) I had fun in the kitchen imagining what I would make for their first challenge: “The Masterpiece. In this challenge, the chefs will create and present their Masterpiece – their signature dish.”
A pasta-centric signature dish. I wanted to play along. So, here’s how my process went.
For days I haven’t been able to get Pasta al Limone out of my head. Bon Appetit posted a stunningly creamy pasta dish with citron curls of lemon peel, a heavy hand of black pepper and a few flutters of Parmesan. So, I started there, but if this was to be a masterpiece then it needs more.
I went to the store for inspiration. That’s where my next step usually is. I wander the aisles thinking about what might be the right addition with a lemon-y pasta. I imagine myself eating the dish; it’s silky, tender and creamy so maybe I want a little crunch, some texture and bite. Standing at the deli counter I see a fennel-studded salami – finocchiona. I imagine it diced and fried until crisp. Next I spot chanterelles. It’s the time of year when they are in abundance and I am tempted to put them in everything. Their season is so short so really there’s no reason to not be eating them right now. Plus, if this is my masterpiece, I want it to tell the story of my home and one bite of chanterelles I’m immediately standing in the damp woods, under the canopy of the pines. Speaking of pine, I remember I have some leftover toasted pine nuts and think that they too would offer a nice buttery bite. To complete my masterpiece, I use Barilla Spaghetti so that all of the ingredients blend together around the pasta. Then I think about how it will all look on the plate, it’s a lot of beige at this point but nothing that a simple flurry of finely minced parsley can’t fix.
When all is said and done it’s a visually humble masterpiece but me on a plate? Absolutely. It’s simple with a twist. The ingredient list is short but purposeful, it has texture contrast and intrigue and is equally comfortable being eaten in a bowl on the couch with a glass of wine nearby or being served in a lovely restaurant, artfully presented. I’ll take the couch.
I’m not too certain it would win me the competition but I will say I am very happy with dinner tonight.
Pasta al limone with finocchiona, chanterelle and Parmesan
Yield 4 servings
12 ounces Barilla spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound finocchiona, 1/4-inch dice
1/4 pound chanterelles, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Set a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil then add the finocchiona. Sauté until the salami is browned and crisp. Add the chanterelles along with a pinch of salt. Saute until just starting to brown, then add the garlic and continue to saute for a few minutes more.
Using a vegetable peeler cut a 1 inch strip of the lemon peel off then zest the remaining peel using a microplane. Squeeze the juice (about 2 tablespoons) then set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil then add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Add the pasta, cook for 8-9 minutes, until it still has a good bit of bite to it. It will continue to cook in the sauce.
While the pasta cooks transfer the salami and chanterelles from the skillet to a plate. Return the skillet to the stove set over medium heat. Add the cream, 1/2 pasta water, lemon zest and a good bit of black pepper. Whisk in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Stir in 1 cup of the parmesan. Taste and add salt if needed.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce then cook, stirring well to coat the pasta. Add more pasta water if the sauce looks dry. Add the sauteed mushrooms and salami to the pasta. Stir to combine.
Transfer the pasta to a serving platter. Cut the lemon peel into thin strips then add to the top of the pasta along with remaining Parmesan, pine nuts and parsley. Serve right away.
Oven Baked Risotto with Butternut Squash and Candied Rosemary Walnuts
I feel like celebrating. It’s been a year (give or take a day or so) since Let’s Stay In hit the bookstores and I’m feeling sentimental. This little book went out to the world with a bit of fanfare and then I just left it to do its thing. Hoping, praying and crossing my fingers that the recipes will find their way into your homes, around your table and perhaps even into the stories of your families. I’ve received so many incredible messages throughout the year that indicate that my prayers were answered.
Thank you for trusting me with your time, your resources and with those precious moments spent around the table. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude today as I reflect on the incredible gift it is to be able to share this work. Just like any job there are many moments where it feels just like work. That’s when I sit back, often head into the kitchen just to cook and revel in the goodness.
Words fail me so let’s just celebrate this little occasion with a warming, special yet delightfully simple dinner. It’s what I’ll be making tonight and I hope you join me. Connecting with you all over recipes really does bring an intimacy that is felt beyond the computer screen.
Thanks for all the support and for enjoying and sharing the work I do. It would not happen without you all.
Oven Baked Risotto with Butternut Squash and Candied Rosemary Walnuts
Yield 4-6 servings
As much as I love cooking the reality is most days don’t afford me the luxury of gingerly stirring a pot for an hour with a glass of Pinot in hand. But just because that’s my reality doesn’t mean I can’t have risotto on a regular basis. Enter oven-baked risotto. This no-stir method produces a creamy, satisfying result without all the stirring (don’t worry, you can still have the wine in hand while the oven does all the work).
The process starts with a cold oven so that pesky preheating isn’t even an issue here. And if fall is a season or two away feel free to skip the squash and candied walnuts and go for say, roasted asparagus with peas. Or how about roasted corn and tomato laced with twangy goat cheese and a few wisps of basil? The adaptability here makes this dinner a perfect candidate for cleaning out your fridge.
4 tablespoons/ 60 g unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1 large onion, diced about 3 cups/ 450 g
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced, about 4 cups / 540 g
1 1/4 cups/ 250 g arborio rice
4 cups/960 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup/ 240 ml white wine, divided
1 cup/ 10 g finely grated Parmesan
1/2 cup/ 60 g crumbled gorgonzola (optional)
Add 2 tablespoons butter to a large skillet. Stir in the onions and rosemary and sauté over medium heat until they just start to color, about 15 minutes. Add the butternut squash and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt then continue to cook for 5 minutes. In a 9x13 baking dish add the rice, stock, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 teaspoon sea salt then stir in the butternut squash mixture. Place the dish in the middle rack of your oven. Turn the oven to 400°F. Bake the rice for 30 minutes stirring about halfway through. The rice should still be ever so chewy. Remove the rice from the oven then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup white wine and the parmesan. Serve with the candied walnuts and gorgonzola crumbles, if using. Serve while warm.
*Leftovers? Breaded in Panko crumbs leftover risotto fries up beautifully in a skillet with just a bit of oil. Add an egg if the risotto is not wanting to hold together.
Candied Rosemary Walnuts
1 cup/ 120 g walnuts
1/4 cup/ 50 g sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
Add the walnuts, sugar, and rosemary leaves to a dry skillet set over medium high heat. Stir occasionally as the sugar melts and caramelizes. Don’t leave the pan as the walnuts and sugar can easily burn. As the sugar starts to melt stir continuously until completely melted and the walnuts have shifted in color. The sugar will start to smoke but continue to cook until deeply caramelized. Carefully dump the caramelized walnuts onto a plate, sprinkle with flake salt then let cool.