A deeply flavored comfort dish from the forests of Abruzzo


Share
Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2012, 11:29 am
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Mario Batali
This pasta dish is inspired by the region of Abruzzo, among the most mountainous regions in Italy and home of some of the country's most interesting cooking. In the forests of Abruzzo, foraging reigns supreme. And because mushroom season lasts a little longer than it does elsewhere, we have porcini galore for winter ragus.

The brilliance of this dish is the combination of veal, mushrooms and doppio concentrato tomato paste. Together, the three create a depth of flavor more often achieved by reducing sauce for hours on end. The secret is the umami in the dried mushrooms. I chop the porcini finely and incorporate them into a simple ragu of ground veal and tomato paste. But the important factor is the concentrated flavor of the tea created when soaking the dried fungus in hot water.

I use farfalle — literally "butterflies" — because they hold up to the hefty condiment, but even penne will do. This recipe just might eclipse chicken soup as our go-to comfort food this holiday season.

Farfalle Abruzzese with Veal, Porcini and Spinach
Excerpted from "Molto Batali" (ecco, 2011)
Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main.
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 10 minutes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds ground veal shoulder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup double-concentrated tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 1/2 pounds farfalle pasta
8 ounces baby spinach, trimmed
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano


Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, and coarsely chop the porcini. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, and set it aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is lightly toasted. Add the veal and the chopped porcini, and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the meat is well browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the tomato paste. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the paste turns a rust color, 5 minutes. Then add the wine and 1 cup of the strained porcini soaking liquid, and cook for 5 minutes, until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to a very low simmer.

Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large spaghetti pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.

Drop the farfalle into the water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle 1/4 cup of the cooking water into the veal mixture. Stir the baby spinach into the veal mixture.

Drain the pasta in a colander, and add it to the veal mixture. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, with the grated pecorino on the side.



















 




Local events heading








  Today is Tuesday, Sept. 16, the 259th day of 2014. There are 106 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A fine lumber mill is on the course of erection at Andalusia. A flouring mill at that location is doing a fine business.
1889 — 125 years ago: J.B. Lidders, past captain of Beardsley Camp, Sons of Veterans, returned from Paterson, N.Y., where he attended the National Sons of Veterans encampments.
1914 — 100 years ago: President Wilson announced that he had received from the imperial chancellor of Germany a noncommittal reply to his inquiry into a report that the emperor was willing to discuss terms of peace.
1939 — 75 years ago: Delegates at the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church in Springfield voted to raise the minimum pay of ministers so that every pastor would get at least $1,000 annually.
1964 — 50 years ago: An audience of more than 2,600 persons jammed into the Davenport RKO Orpheum theater with a shoe horn feasted on a Miller-Diller evening that was a killer night. Phyllis Diller sent the audience with her offbeat humor. And send them she did! It was Miss Diller's third appearance in the Quad-Cities area.
1989 — 25 years ago: A few years ago, a vacant lot on 7th Avenue and 14th Street in Rock Island was a community nuisance. Weeds grew as high 18 inches. Today, the lot has a new face, thanks to Michael and Sheila Rind and other neighbors who helped them turn it into a park three weeks ago.





(More History)