Tag Archives: pasta

How to serve tagliatelle with truffles for cheap

Mister meets the truffle

As much as I loved getting up close and personal with our prized morsel, white truffles don’t keep long (wrapped in a paper towel and stored in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a week) so it’s best to use them within a few days from purchase. Oh, and by cheap I meant relatively cheap since making this pasta at home will cost less than any restaurant touting a truffle menu. Our 20 grams was enough to use in 4 servings – 6 if we wanted to be miserly – but then where’s the pleasure in doing that? When it’s all said, done, and devoured, the exquisite experience far exceeds the money spent.

Fresh tagliatelle with truffles
For 2 servings you will need:

250 grams (half pound) fresh tagliatelle egg pasta
2 ounces salted butter, or 1 ounce butter and 1 ounce olive oil
10 grams fresh white truffle, rinsed and gently scrubbed free of dirt
a generous 1/3 cup of freshly grated parmigiano
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large pot of lightly salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. While the pasta cooks, heat 2 ounces of butter in a large skillet until melted but not browned.

2. Drain pasta and add to the melted butter (save some of that pasta water!). Stir to combine, adding enough saved water to keep the tagliatelle moist but not swimming in liquid.

3. Grate 5 grams of white truffle onto the pasta and mix together.

4. Add the parmigiano, mix again and divide between 2 plates.

Tagliatelle with white truffles

Top with very thin shavings of the remaining truffle and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve with extra parmigiano on the side and a mid-range bottle of Barolo – you know, if you want to dine relatively cheap!

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Valeggio sul Mincio and the Knot of Love

Tales of ill-fated destinies and obstacle-strewn romances are no strangers to Italy — you need only look at A. Manzoni’s historical masterpiece I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) as proof. And while Romeo and Juliet are undeniably the most famous of star-crossed lovers, less than 16 miles southwest of Verona lies the tragic setting of another unfortunate pair. As seen on the map, Valeggio sul Mincio is a prime spot to base a vacation if you want to be near Verona and Lake Garda but without all the crowds. This area straddles the boundary lines between Lombardy and Veneto, and makes a perfect location for exploring a little bit of both regions. It is also an area that boasts 2 of the most beautiful villages in Italy according to the Borghi più belli d’Italia website, but really, what interested me was il Nodo d’Amore or the Knot of Love.

Valeggio sul Mincio

Nestled within verdant vegetation next to the Mincio river, remnant ruins of Scaligero castle jut out from the landscape and takes you to another era. No skyscrapers, no McD’s, just a piece of history for the eyes. Driving into Valeggio sul Mincio from the western entrance is something to see as you cross the river on Visconteo Bridge, but the experience doubles in volumes after you take the footpath to the castle’s towers. This is the view from the top and it’s even better at full size. In the left-hand corner is Borghetto, listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy. To the right is Visconteo bridge where the Feast of the Love Knot comes to life each year in June. Imagine that bridge crawling with more than 3000+ people enjoying tons of food, wine and song (and fireworks!) and you’ve got an epic dinner party.

Valeggio sul Mincio

Nodo d’Amore

Legend has it that the Mincio river was once populated by nymphs that would come out to dance along the water’s edge, but an ancient curse forced them to be disguised as ugly witches. On one such occasion when they came out to play, an army was encamped on the river banks and the nymphs began to dance among the slumbering soldiers. Captain Malco, the troop’s leader, awoke to see the nymph-witches which naturally forced them to flee to the river. Malco was able to capture one of the creatures, and in her attempt to escape, the witch-disguise was lost, revealing a beautiful nymph named Silvia. That night the two fell in love, but before returning to her watery home at dawn, Silvia left a knotted handkerchief as a pledge of her love.

The rest of the story continues with the jealous reaction of a noblewoman named Isabella and the inevitable end where Malco and Silvia dive into the Mincio in order to be together forever. A golden silk handkerchief was left on the shore, a symbolic token tied by the couple to remember their eternal love. This is how the legend of the nodo d’amore/love knot was born. The meat-based tortellini, resembling little knots, is Valeggio sul Mincio’s famous dish and comes served in melted butter and sage or in plain broth.

Torta delle roseWhen I bought some to bring home, I asked the salesclerk if they were the tortellini famosi, the famous tortellini, and she replied that yes, they were the nodo d’amore! Take a minute to watch the youtube clip below. The tortellini are made all by hand. Pastificio al Re del Tortellino is where I bought the pasta and also a local specialty called torta delle rose. This rose cake is a sweet egg-rich yeast dough that is rolled, cut and baked in a round pan to resemble roses. It has nothing to do with rose flavoring or petals. Pastificio Remelli on via Sala 24 is also a fine place to stop for fresh tortellini, assorted pasta and a selection of gourmet food products which includes local cheese and cured meats.

Microwave pasta in a Box

Viva la Mamma Box

With the superb ingredients and quality foodstuffs that I get to cook with and eat, why this? So sue me, I just had to. Stocked in the refrigerated section and ready-to-chow in a couple of minutes, the BOX is the latest among heat-n-eat meals to incense sensible palates across the country. Gimmicked as Freedom Food (as opposed to fast or slow food) and targeted towards people on-the-go, the 3.99 – 4.29€ price tag was just enough to lure ME in. Notice that I said me and not WE, because MotH would never touch something like this in his life if I hadn’t insisted. Microwave box pasta is not new to the old country as France already has theirs with Sodebo’s Pasta Box and Fleury Michon’s Vraiment – who wants to be next?

Viva la Mamma Box

Of the 6 varieties to choose from and judging from the amount on the shelves, the trofie with pesto, sicilian-style fusilli and carbonara-style penne seemed the most popular. The bold graphics are definitely designed to distract you from the fact that you are about to gain sustenance straight out of a carton. Remove the fork, open one corner of the plastic-covered container, nuke for 2 minutes and dig in. Mixing the sauce and pasta afterwards was just plain awkward due to the graduated shape of the container but what everyone really wants to know is this – is it any good??? The answer to that is in this italian proverb of which I entirely place my faith (and stomach):

Ciò che si mangia con gusto non fa mai male.
What you eat with pleasure will never make you sick.

Wow! I feel that way whenever I eat canned spam and greasy chinese take-out, but this was forgettable and regretable. Thumbs down on penne alla carbonara (no black pepper?). Atleast the Box wins cute points in reminding you to separate paper and plastic!

Viva la Mamma Box