30 April 2007

Maltagliati al Forno ai Funghi Porcini Secchi

Not only have the Italians given us pasta fresca, they've also given us a way to maintain our dignity (or at least some authenticity) when we screw it up. I made fresh pappardelle for M and her friend the other night. Since I was making fresh pasta, I went ahead and made extra to freeze against some late and hungry arrival home. Saturday evening was that late and hungry arrival, when we came home from a night in the Berkshires scoping out wedding venues.

I remembered the pappardelle in the freezer, and as is usual, started constructing a dinner menu in my head based on what I suspected was in the fridge and pantry. What I hadn't counted on, though was my idiocy in storing the pasta. I knew that it was the usual thing, after cutting up the pasta, to flour it before freezing, but I was eager to sit down with our guest on the night that I made it, so I just tossed it in a bag and the bag in the freezer. It was a big lump of wide noodles. I tried to peel them off one by one, but they just came apart. So I changed my approach. I had already been soaking some dried porcini mushrooms for the sauce, so I just took that broth, strained it through two layers of cheesecloth, threw in a porcini-flavored stock cube, and some cream and boiled it up, then thickened with Wondra flour, readding the rinsed chopped porcinis at the end with a generous grinding of black pepper.

In the meantime, I broke and picked apart the frozen fresh noodles into whatever shapes I could. As long as they were a single layer, they were fine. I boiled them up in salted water, then put them into a Pyrex baking dish that, in retrospect, I should've greased. I threw in the porcini bechamel I'd made and stirred it up, topping with a generous amount of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Baked at 400 for 15 minutes or so and we were done.

Maltagliati al Forno ai Funghi Porcini Secchi. It made for awesome leftovers. M called it "noodle kugel but with mushrooms and not sweet"... Hmph.

Anyway, maltagliati means, basically "badly cut" in Italian. The term should usually be reserved for remnants, say from making panzerotti or some other round stuffed pasta, that are cut into soups, but repurposing the term for badly frozen pappardelle sits well with me.

In other news, tapioca pudding has proven to be beyond my culinary capabilities. I tried two recipes with Brazilian pearl tapioca from Kalyustan, the spice shop in Manhattan, and just can't get it to thicken right. Forget it. I'm going back to rice pudding.

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