Nasturtium pasta; zucchini – 10 June 2011

I decided to use the rampant volunteer nasturtiums while they are abundant.

This pasta, from The Pasta Bible (an exceptionally good cookbook), is actually called Penne in a Piquant Cream Sauce, but the salient feature, for me, is the color of the nasturtium leaves and flowers.

The pasta is made in three parts. If you have everything washed, dried, and cut, you can easily (and, indeed, should) make the sauce during the cooking of the pasta. This is the recipe for 2 people, with some leftovers in case someone has a microwave at work 😉

One track: finely chop 1/8 cup of shallots and a mince a small clove of garlic. Soften in 1 Tbsp butter till translucent. Stir in one red chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped, and the julienned nasturtiums, and immediately remove from the heat.

This is how many nasturtiums I used for two people. It’s much more than the recipe calls for, and they are cut wider than shown in the recipe photo. I take the centers with stems off the leaves (you can see the holes), and cut the leaves in half, then into 1/8″ or so strips crosswise. I remove the flower petals and stack a few of them, then cut into about thirds. I think a higher ratio of flowers to leaves could be good. Also, they’re easier to cut up if they’ve had time to dry completely. The petals dry better when they’re off the flowers, I discovered.

Flowers before washing. The two variegated ones in the upper left I kept out to serve atop the two plates of pasta.

Track two: boil 1/2 cup heavy cream (sorry, this is not health food) till it reduces in volume to 1/3. I have never measured this, of course, just kinda do it. Add 1 1/2 oz fontina, cubed, and simmer to melt the cheese slowly. I use Fontina Valle D’Aosta, an opinionated Italian cheese. Don’t be afraid of the strong flavor – it’s a valuable addition to the entire mix. Also great on pizzas. After the cheese is melted, add 1/4 cup grated parmaggiano reggiano; keep warm.

Fontina before dicing. The slab on the right is what I used in this recipe.

Track three: boil water, add salt, and cook 1/2 pound of your pasta. The recipe calls for penne, but I use whatever tubular pasta we have around. This is called “Elicoidali”, a name I’ve never heard before. It’s Garafolo, from Costco. It cooks nicely in 11 minutes. Drain the pasta  very well so there is no water to dilute the sauce and make it runny. The recipe says to place the cooked pasta in a pre-heated bowl, but I return it to the well-drained cooking pot. It’s definitely heated, and why dirty another dish? You can put it on the stove on super-low if you are worried about it retaining enough heat.

Preheat your broiler. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and mix well, then add the shallot/flower mixture and mix some more. Serve into bowls courageous enough to withstand 30-60 seconds of broiling (these were some we got at our Dansk outlet – love ’em!). Dot with bits of excellent roquefort. I get some called “Societe” at the Cheese Board, and it is terrific. I took a photo so you can see the wrapper.

“Societe” roquefort from The Cheese Board.

I used 1 oz, which is about 1/4 of this wedge, for the two servings. Place the servings under the broiler, watch carefully, and remove when the cheese starts to melt nicely. I broil the servings one at a time.

I forgot till the last minute that I wanted to make a veggie with this, so I grabbed a zucchini (zucchino?) and sliced it on the Benriner, then cooked it slowly in some olive oil, with a bit of salt and a generous grinding of pepper.

D chose a 2006 Brouilly we had gotten awhile ago from Eric Stauffenegger, and it was very nice by itself as “cooking wine” (wine to drink while cooking) and with the pasta. It says “Domaine Ruet.”

We liked that it was only 12.5% alcohol, and also that it doesn’t have a mansion or anything on it, just sort of a farmhouse.

Volunteer nasturtiums taking over the back yard.

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