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Pasta with Robiola and Truffles

Oh lordy was this divine!  Rich?  Yes!  Indulgent?  Yes!  Worth the calories?  Heck yes!!!  I was lucky enough to receive 6oz of fresh Oregon black truffles from my sister-in-law and her husband for Christmas this year and wanted to find a worthy recipe to use them in.  We were hosting some people for dinner and the Seahawks game (GO HAWKS!!!) and this seemed like the perfect comfort food meal for the occasion.  I wasn’t able to find Robiola but the cheesemonger recommended Double Cream Cremont which was a great substitution.

4 FIRST COURSE SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 8 ounces dried egg fettuccine or tagliatelle
  • 8 ounces Robiola Rocchetta cheese, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium fresh white or black truffle, peeled and sliced, or one 2-ounce jar sliced truffles

Preparation

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Cook over moderate heat until the milk solids turn a rich brown and the butter smells nutty, about 6 minutes. Pour the butter into a bowl.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved water and the browned butter and toss with 2 forks. Add the cheese and toss until it begins to melt; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to warmed bowls, shave the truffle on top and serve right away.

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Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp, Nduja and Tomato

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit • March 2015

If you get Bon Appetit or happened to see the most recent issue on the newsstand you saw the same food porn I did.  It was enough for me to race to the store in search of nduja this past weekend in hopes that I could make this gorgeous dish.  Lucky for me, my local grocery store just happened to get some in last week!  This dish is absolutely stunning presentation wise and flavor wise.  The black squid ink pasta is so sexy nestled in a white dish and the chopped up shrimp make each bite complete.  The fresh lemon juice is the perfect compliment to the otherwise hearty and meaty pasta and really does a great job brightening the dish as a whole.  I am dying to make this again and will be sure to call my grocery store to ensure they have nduja ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

4 SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large head-on or shell-on shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, divided, 2 smashed, 4 thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup tomato passata or puréed whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 ounces nduja*
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces squid ink linguine
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Peel and devein shrimp, saving heads and/or shells. Finely chop shrimp; set aside. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high and cook smashed garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Add reserved shrimp heads and/or shells and cook, stirring, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Add bay leaf and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until stock is slightly reduced and flavorful, 8–10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.

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Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add tomatoes and 1 cup stock (mixture may sputter). Return to heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is beginning to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add nduja, using a wooden spoon to work it into the sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 2 minutes.
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Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (pasta will still be opaque and very firm in the center). Drain pasta, reserving 1½ cups pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and cook, tossing often and adding more cooking liquid to help finish cooking pasta, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened (but still saucy) and coats pasta, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and ¼ cup parsley; toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve pasta topped with more parsley.

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Do Ahead: Stock can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Wrap tightly and chill shrimp separately.

*The recipe says you can substitute an extra glug of olive oil and some red pepper flakes if you can’t find nduja but I wouldn’t recommend that.  I think the nduja is the key ingredient to this dish and without it, the end result would be extremely different.

**Places to buy nduja online – Zingerman’s and Boccalone

Peasant – New York, NY

Our trip to New York this past December was different from our others in the past such that we didn’t have any agenda nor did I make any reservations ahead of time.  Typically I set my alarm for 6am 2 months in advance and call to get into whichever restaurant I have on my list and then I go back to bed.  We’ve done the 3 hour Michelin star meals, the fussy food where you debate grabbing some street food on the walk home.  This time we wanted to eat like locals, explore the different neighborhoods and that’s exactly what we did.

Our first night there we got in late and asked our concierge what they recommended for great Italian food near the hotel (The Mercer Hotel in Soho).  Immediately she said, “Peasant!” and off we went to dinner.  The ambiance is great, rustic but refined.  Chef Frank DeCarlo really prides himself on the kitchen which is meant to be exactly like a true old world kitchen in Italy or France.  Rustic brick wood-fired ovens, a rotisserie…the only gas is so they can boil water we were told.  Let’s not forget to give credit where due…he laid the brick himself!

The food…where to start?!  We couldn’t help ourselves and had to order the Burrata with wood-roasted tomatoes and the Polpi in Purgatorio (baby octopus, hot chiles).  Both were outstanding!  Perfectly presented, cooked, prepared…delicious and I would order them again in a heartbeat.  For our main courses we chose the Gnocchi al Funghi (brown butter, sage, mushrooms) and Tagliolini al Ragu di Vitello (homemade tagliolini, veal ragu).  I never use this blog as a forum to talk badly about a restaurant or dish (I just don’t write about them) but in this case I wanted to because I love this restaurant so much but this is where we felt there was something lacking.  Neither dish had much flavor which was surprising seeing as our starters were incredible.  The pastas lacked salt for one which probably would have made a huge difference.  This all being said I would most likely order one of the pizzas and/or meat/fish dishes next time (we were told by other locals after the fact that their pizzas are to die for).  For dessert we went with the Budino di Pane e Cioccolato Bianco (white chocolate bread pudding with almonds, figs and white chocolate gelato).  I typically stray away from white chocolate but I’m a sucker for bread pudding and I’m glad we tried it because it was incredible!

One more thing to note, I guess there’s a great wine room down below that wasn’t even on our radar.  Just something to note!

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Redd Wood – Yountville, CA

Whether you’re spending your day wine tasting or are just looking for a great spot for lunch (or breakfast/dinner), you should definitely stop by Redd Wood in Yountville.  Located next to the boutique hotel North Block Hotel (and not far from French Laundry), it’s the perfect place to have an easy, unpretentious meal that’s satisfying, not super heavy and overall a place that you’ll want to go back to.  This is Michelin-starred chef Richard Reddington’s second Yountville spot, his first being Redd which is equally fabulous but oh so different.  *You’ve got to try that spot if you haven’t already!

The decor is very current/urban and comfortable.  Kind of reminds me of a place you’d find in Soho with a California feel.  There’s outdoor seating which is always a great option, especially for someone like myself who doesn’t get the opportunity to eat outside a ton at home.

I stopped in midday for a bite in between wine tastings and was very happy with my order – the shaved summer vegetable salad which couldn’t be fresher and the proscuitto, arugula and parmesan pizza.  I’d love to go back for dinner to try some pastas and main courses.

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Agrodolce – Seattle, WA

Located in the old 35th Street Bistro spot in Fremont, Agrodolce has knocked it out of the park!  The atmosphere is welcoming and charming and our server couldn’t have been more enjoyable which was very refreshing.

The food was to die for!  I seriously would go back tonight for the exact same meal I ate last night.  We started with the burrata with beets, a citrus honey gastrique and mint…as delicious as I expected!  For my main course I chose the ricotta ravioli with roasted garlic, green garlic and stinging nettle.  Everything about this dish was perfect!  You would have thought I had licked my plate based on how clean it was at the end of the night.  Do yourself a favor and go get this before they take it off the menu.We also got the seared broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts to share…all of which I would order again.  For dessert we got the rice pudding fritters with a citrus honey, vanilla dipping sauce and powdered sugar.  Nothing to complain about there!

Something notable about Agrodolce is how organic the menu is.  It took us a bit to realize that the few things on the menu that are unlined are those ingredients that are NOT organic.  Just to be clear, there are hardly any.  Pretty impressive!  Not to mention on the reverse side of the menu there are vegan and gluten free options.  This isn’t something I’ve seen yet in Seattle but I think it will soon catch on.

Overall, Maria Hines has outdone herself and I can’t wait to go back!

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Osteria delle Tre Panche – Florence, Italy

For those that love truffles, consider this place heaven!  I have NEVER seen more truffles in my life!  First off, this teeny little locals spot is about a 5-10 minute taxi ride from the center of Florence.  Some have said they’ve walked but at night I would recommend the ride.  Reservations are a must and don’t expect to see any tourists here.  “Tre Panche” translates to three benches which is exactly how much space there is in this restaurant – it’s small!  It’s truly a hidden gem.

Because we were only in Florence for a few nights, we indulged in every meal.  We ordered way too much but I have no regrets.  There are definitely dishes I would recommend, and others that I would say you can skip.  For water, 2 bottles of wine (yes…we had 2 bottles of wine:)) and 7 dishes, our meal ended up being €148 which is about $192.  The truffle beef tartare was exactly what you would expect – a delicious starter to the meal.  The artichoke pie with truffles was very good!  Large enough for a group to share and smothered with truffles.  The cheese ravioli with fresh truffle was rich and creamy as it should be.  Not something I could eat an entire plate of but perfect to share with someone.  The cheesecake for dessert is a MUST!!!  It’s unbelievable!  I’m not even sure how to give it justice so just know that you need to save room for it:)  Truly the best I’ve ever had!!!

Dishes to skip are any without truffles…well, maybe that’s just me:)  As much as I love ragu, this one was over salted which was a shame because we probably would have eaten the entire plate no problem.  I would probably give it a second chance though.  The fried veal milanese was a disappointment.  It was pounded so thin that after being breaded and deep fried – you couldn’t even taste the veal.  I wanted it to be great but it was a definite miss.

Next time you’re in Florence, make this a must but shhh…don’t tell too many people about it!

Ballard Pizza Company – Seattle, WA

Ethan Stowell just doesn’t stop…and I couldn’t be happier about that!  So far each restaurant he’s opened has had it’s own personality.  His latest – Ballard Pizza Company – serves up huge slices of pizza for lunch and dinner everyday and is even open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays…that could be trouble:)  Along with pizza there are fresh pastas each day and a selection of salads.

I ordered a slice of the mushroom pizza as well as a mixed green salad.  The pizza was very good and I was pleased to see that the bottom of the slice was nice and crispy, not soggy.  Perfect!  The salad was good however my only complaint is that it was over dressed…so much so that I couldn’t eat half of it and normally the salad is my favorite part.  Next time I’ll just have to order the dressing on the side.

I look forward to going back – maybe for dinner next time – and trying a new slice!

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