I had made a few Mario Batali appetizers for Thanksgiving from his cookbook Molto Italiano. One was his topping for Crostini using sauteed kale and pancetta. I also had roasted some mushrooms, red peppers, shallots and garlic. These two dishes were left over, and I had a pasta in mind. So here's what happened:
- Marinated Eggplant Appetizer
- Cavatappi in Mushroom, Kale and Pepper Sauce
The eggplant came from the same cookbook, with the secret ingredients being mint and orange zest. These two cut through the traditional viniagrette flavors and introduced a brightness. The citrus alone would have been OK, but the pairing of both citrus and mint is what made it stand out. Reminder - do NOT overcooked eggplant when grilling, roasting or broiling. I didn't this time, and was glad for it.
On to the pasta. I started with some onion and garlic sauteed in oil. Added in the leftover mushrooms and peppers. Put about 1/2 a cup of heavy cream, which would sauce over a pound of pasta (17.5 oz package of high-end Rao's cavatappi). I might have added a little white wine before the cream.....but as it's a week later I forget.
Oh yeah, I had more pancetta on hand. I diced it and included it in the saute with the onion.
OK - this is all sideways. Cream is not added yet. As the pasta finished, I introduced the kale, which had PLENTY of red pepper flakes to spice it up. Tossed in a handful of diced tomato, then quickly on to the small amount of cream.
Combined this with the pasta and added high quality parmesan.
Results? One of the best pastas I've ever made.
Why? While the kale and roasted mushrooms and peppers would have not been an enourmous investment of time at the front end of this recipe, it would have added considerably. In fact, since I did broil some eggplant, it wouldn't have been a big deal. But the flavors of each (the mushroom and kale dishes) were able to really combine in that they were made 2 days prior. Add the convenience factor and a small amount of cream and parmesan.....well, I won't get much of an argument, even from those that didn't get to enjoy this dish.