By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
I sit on a warm, cozy couch in St. Augustine, reminiscing an extraordinary Italian meal that my daughter and I ate last night.
I peer at the posts of the friends and family up north dealing with the snow and ice, and I have to admit that I feel guilty complaining about having to wear a jacket for most of the week down here.
I will come back as pale as I was six days prior, but so be it. It is still better than the skating rinks that the roads are in Maryland.
But I digress. It has been a long time since a dining experience has moved me like this, and I am savoring every moment— the service, the wine, the meal itself, the ambience. Yes, the entire package. Our meal at Alta Marea rivaled a dinner that I have 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 where I learned this simple fresh pasta recipe that I have used and shared 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 the land of breads and pastas is a trip well-made. The sacrifice is real, and well worth the extra pounds.
I couldn’t resist ordering the Porcini Lasagna (‘lasagne’) and it was delightful. There is something so utterly lovely about homemade, fresh pasta. And it did not disappoint.
To top off the evening, the server recommended the Tiramisu, and we were stuffed. There wasn’t room for another ounce of food. Why did he have to say ‘Tiramisu’? I responded with two questions. First “Is it homemade?” to which the answer was to the affirmative.
The second question decided our fate.
“Does the chef use Savoiardi (those crispy lady-finger looking biscotti)?”
“Chef Simone will only use those. If he can’t get them, he simply doesn’t serve it.”
Damn it, I thought to myself. I must order it. My daughter resisted, but she had never had Tiramisu, let alone a properly made one, so order it I did. And it was glorious. It was like the quakes that separated the continents. In a word, it was sublime.
My daughter, the more resistant of the two, had no problem helping me finish it off and I was happy to introduce her to one of the finer things in Italian cuisine. But that recipe is for another day. For now, let’s stick with the lasagna.
1 lb. Fresh pasta (recipe follows)
2 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp. Unsalted grass-fed butter
8 oz. Porcini mushrooms, fresh
8 oz. Cremini mushrooms, fresh
4 oz. Portabella mushrooms, fresh
2 ea. Leeks, whites only, washed and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 ea. Shallot, fine diced
2 c. Dry white wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c. Heavy cream
1/2 c. Mascarpone cheese
1/2 c. Ricotta
1 c. Good parmesan cheese
1. Cut the pasta into the shapes that will determine the final shape of the dish.
2. Cook for 2-3 minutes in simmering water, remove and set aside for assembly, keeping them warm.
3. Heat the oil and butter in a pan large enough to house the mushrooms, and add said mushrooms.
4. Add the leeks as well and cook for about nine minutes, or until soft.
5. Add the garlic and the 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 off the mushrooms, add the white wine and lemon juice.
7. Reduce by at least half, and then season with salt and pepper to your liking.
8. In a separate pan, combine the cream and reduce until thick. Add salt and pepper and add the ricotta, mascarpone and parmesan and warm through
9. To assemble, place a bit of the cream in your serving bowls, add a layer of pasta, then mushrooms and a touch of cream. Repeat until all of the ingredients are gone and serve immediately.
makes one pound
2 1/2 c. Hi-gluten flour or semolina (preferred)
1 tsp. Salt
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
heavy cream, as needed
1. I was taught a few years ago by a Sicilian chef to use a paddle in a stand mixer for pasta dough. Using the dough hook takes too long, and it is rather amazing how quickly this dough comes together with the aforementioned paddle.
2. Put the flour, salt, egg yolks and egg in the mixer with the paddle and let her rip.
3. One caveat: You can always add dry ingredients to a wet dough, but it is nigh impossible to add liquid to a bone-dry dough. So, as you mix this, add cream as needed to ensure that it isn’t too dry.
4. When the dough comes together in a tight but pliable ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
5. When ready, simply roll it out and cut into the shape that you desire. In this case, pappardelle works wonders with the rich, creamy lemon sauce.
— Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts
at Wor-Wic Community College and owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com.