Friday, September 26, 2014
Fresh Pasta with Roasted Walnut Sauce for Cook the Books "A Thousand Days in Venice" by Marlena De Blasi
I've never been to Venice, or to Italy at all for that matter, but I feel like I have after reading A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance by Marlena De Blasi, our Cook the Books August/September selection, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. Marlena is a American chef visiting Italy, Fernando (aka 'the stranger') is a Venetian banker. He first falls in love with her after seeing her across a plaza and then finds her again in a cafe a year later. She follows down the love rabbit hole soon after he does, and finds herself packing up and moving to Venice to marry him.
The book has great atmosphere--the descriptions of the city, the culture and the food were my favorite parts. I love De Blassi's passion and fire and how her love especially comes through in her writing about the city. Her relationship with Venice felt like the bigger, easier-to-relate-to romance of the book. I liked the fact that De Blasi isn't some young thing and had lived a full life before finally finding love with her "stranger" but, I couldn't quite get the immediate appeal of a somewhat needy, slightly stalker-ish Peter Sellers. (A somewhat needy slightly stalker-ish George Clooney or Liam Neeson maybe...) ;-) Still the food kept pulling me in--between De Blassi's descriptive writing and the recipes in the back, this book made me very hungry. Don't read it on an empty stomach!
There is so much food inspiration in this book with Marlena being a chef and it being Italy. I actually had my dish picked out before reading the book, having checked out the handful of recipes at the back of the book before starting the story. I was immediately drawn to the Roasted Walnut Sauce and knew I wanted to try it. Part of a dinner for 'the stranger's first visit to America, it sounded delightfully decadent and I like nothing better than a great sauce. De Blasi makes her own fresh pasta of course but I am far to lazy for that and mine comes from the refrigerated case at my local grocery.
De Blasi says, "Another dish from our first evening together in St. Louis. With this one, Fernando needed no coaxing. In fact when finished he asked if he might have 'un altra goccia di salsa, another drop of sauce.' I set a little dish of it before him, and he proceeded to spread it on crusts of bread, eating the little tidbits between sips of red wine. I tried it that way too, and ever since, we always make extra sauce, keeping it on hand for other uses. See suggestions below."
Fresh Pasta with Roasted Walnut Sauce
(Tagliatelle con Salsa di Noci Arrostite)
Adapted from 1000 Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi
(4 Main Course Servings)
Cook a pound of fresh tagliatelle, fettuccine, or other 'ribbon' pasta in abundant, sea-salted boiling water to the al dente stage, drain, and toss with 1 1/2 cups of the sauce. If fresh pasta isn't available, substitute dried artisinal pasta.
The Sauce: (Makes About 2 cups):
18 oz shelled walnuts, lightly roasted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
several gratings of nutmeg
sea salt and just-cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup late-harvest white wine such as Vin Santo or Moscato
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the walnuts until they are the texture of a very coarse meal (do not grind them too finely--more texture is better than less). Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and pulse two or three times to combine. With the machine running, pour a mixture of the olive oil, cream and wine through the feed tube and process only until the paste is emulsified. Taste and correct the sauce for salt and spices.
De Blasai says, "In più: As divine as this sauce is, tossed with just cooked pasta, it presents other delicious opportunities: Keep some in the refrigerator and place spoonfuls over just roasted chicken or pork; spread it on grilled bread and pass it along with cold white wine as an appetizer; enrich simple vegetable soups with a dollop, or try it as a condiment for steamed asparagus."
Notes/Results: Who can argue with a bowl of pasta with a decadent sauce? Maybe not the most pretty or colorful sauce but it makes up for it in flavor. I put the sauce on the pasta and thought--'this is good.' But, the stranger has the right idea--slathered full strength on top of a pieces of bread it becomes pretty amazing. Heck, I would eat this sauce on a stick. ;-) In fact, I didn't want to waste any so I got out my small scraper, carefully scraped every last bit out of the food processor and then licked the spatula clean. So creamy, nutty and toasty with the cinnamon and nutmeg adding warm flavor notes. I will definitely make it again.
Thanks to Debra for picking such an enticing and entertaining read for her first CTB hosting gig. ;-) The deadline for this round of Cook the Books is Tuesday, September 30th and Debra will be rounding up the book-inspired dishes on the CTB site shortly after.
If you missed out and like food, books and foodie books, consider joining us for October/November when we will be reading That Old Ace in the Hole, a novel by Annie Proulx, hosted by Simona at briciole.
Happy Aloha Friday!