Weeknight Wondermeal: Baked Egg Linguine with Onion, Scallion, and Umame

Spring is getting here … but it’s taking its sweet time.  Today was nice and sunny, yet there was a cold, strong wind that blew right through my corduroy jacket, and right up my long skirt, swirling around my unwisely unclad ankles, up past my bare knees.  For Clayton – out on the tractor all day, then gardening with a friend for several hours – he was frozen to the core, and he came home rather late.  I needed something quick, something warm, and something with what I had on hand.  Voilà! Using only some farm fresh eggs, linguine, cream, cheese, butter, onion, and scallion – with a sprinkling  of black truffle salt, and a dash of black truffle oil – I whipped together all those somethings, and more.  Thursday night could become one of my favorites, if I keep making quick pasta dishes like these…

Baked Egg Linguine with Onion, Scallion, and Umame

4 oz uncooked linguine
2 fresh eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 stick butter
some flour (2 tbs or so)
1 cup fresh grated parmigiano reggiano
1 small onion
3 scallions
black pepper
black truffle salt
black truffle oil
a small loaf french bread
some leftover robusto cheese, and some more butter

I start by mincing my onions and scallions, and setting my water to boil for my pasta.  I also grate my cheese and butter my two 8oz ramekins.

I get 2 tbs butter melted in my large saucepan, and add my onions.  I sweat these out just until softened.

I then add about 2 tbs of flour, which I mix well with the butter and onions to form a roux.  I cook this for a few moments, until fully incorporated and just turning a wee bit tan.

I then add my heavy cream, and bring this to a simmer.  See how it’s thickening up?  NIIIIICE.

In goes most of my shredded cheese (I save some for garnish, and for Clayton to pick at), which I stir in well.  I then lower the heat, and let this simmer until thick.  I salt and pepper it to, until it tastes just right.

I’ve been cooking my linguine on the back burner, and at just slightly undercooked, it’s ready to add to the sauce.  I reserve my pasta water, too, so that – if this gets too thick – I can add a little starchy wetness to the pan until the sauce is the right consistency.

The last ingredient to add to the pan is my abundance of sliced scallions (reserving some for garnish, too).  I toss this in, remove from the heat, and stir well before…

… swirling my pasta into my waiting ramekins, using tongs to make a nice nest for…

… the addition of a single, cracked (but not the yolk!), farm fresh egg for the center.  This goes in my 350 degree oven, on middle shelf, for 10 minutes to bake – just until the whites are set, but the yolk is still runny.

Oh, I also split a nice small loaf of french bread down the middle, spread it with hot melted butter, and top it with shredded robusto cheese.  I put this in the oven, too, on the top shelf, and let the cheese melt and toast while my eggs are setting.


Right before service, I sprinkle some black truffle oil (Thanks, Tom!) and some black truffle salt over the dish, just to add that umame savor that separates this meal from any ol’ linguine alfredo.  Served with my toasted cheese bread for sopping, I pierce the quivering sun in the middle of my creamy pasta tresses, and I dive into this hot, simple, elegant, perfect little meal.  30 minutes + very few ingredients = utter weeknight dining perfection!

Baked Egg Linguine with Onion, Scallion, and Umame

Macaroni alla Telefono

Clayton’s been working hard on the farm, poor boy; he’s coming home all spattered with mud, smelling like livestock, with a big fat tired grin on his face. Today he got bit in the ass by a goat, he carried around fluffy baby lamb, played with the freshly hatched baby chicks, moved a whole chicken coop, sloped hogs, etc.  Tonight I needed to whip together a hearty something something to make my man’s man all fortified for his supreme acts of labor, and I thank Mario Batali for introducing me to this super simple super satisfying dinner on the fly.  I, of course, did my own thing to it, but the concept is based on something I saw him make on one of his old shows on the FoodNetwork over a decade ago.  The macaroni is obvious: noodles, and squiggly ones to boot!  The “alla telefono” refers to the stretchy stringy cords of fresh mozzarella cheese melted into this delicious pasta and sausage baked dish.    With my quick-made basil marinara sauce, dinner is red and good and gooey and rich and fresh and hot and yummy and awesome.  ‘Nuff said.

Macaroni alla Telefono

1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic
a handful of fresh basil
2 tbs tomato paste
1 large can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
burrata cheese
2 cups noodles (your choice, but something squiggly works best)
salt and pepper
fennel seeds (optional)
caraway seeds (optional)

I was cheeky today, I admit it.  I noticed that Savenor’s afternoonFacebook posting was a link to a blog – an excellent blog, to be sure – but it got me thinking: I gots me a blog, and I shop at Savenor’s, too.  Methinks perhaps I just need to say “Here’s what I do with your meats, yo'” (to mix my vernaculars) and maybe they’ll dig my blog, too.  So I slid the stud behind the counter my cool biz card, and I’m sure any day now they’ll offer me half their profits to compensate for all you rich browsers discovering them through my portal into the world of FOOD.  That’s right.  Lolita’s a trendsetter, she is.  Today I bought my cheese (they were out of fresh mozzarella, but burrata served the purpose of both ricotta and mozz at the same time), my sausage (which was heavenly), my tomato paste, and a loaf of french bread at their Cambridge joint.  After slipping the dude my card.  In shameless self-promotion. ‘Cuz that’s how I roll.

I start with a simple mirepoix and minced garlic and stir it around in a hot oiled pan.

I add a few dashes of sea salt, some cracked black pepper, and a teaspoon each of fennel seeds and caraway seeds.  I toss this around for a few moments to toast and soften.

I’d left the camera on; Clayton walked by at a random moment, and saw this image in the viewfinder.  I agreed it was… compelling.  So I snapped.  And so I share.  My stemless wine glass dripping with cava, our scratched kitchen table surface, and one of Clayton’s paintings coloring the background.

To my pan I add two tablespoons of tomato paste. I blend it well with my sauteed veggies.

I add my can of crushed tomatoes, blend well, and let this mixture simmer, covered, for the next 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I’ve heated a glug or glugs of EVOO in a pan, and now I’ve laid  my fresh sausage over the sizzle.  I’m going to rotate them regularly, so that they cook evenly through without splitting with too much heat drying out and fracturing the membrane.  Using tongs…

… I roll my sausages…

… every minute or so, just as the surfaces start to brown…

…and I finish off with some wrist-flip rolling, until my sausages are perfectly golden all over their little cylindrical bodies, all plump and toasty, all heated fully through, still bursting with savory pork juices.  Oh mama.

See?  As I slice my sausages, they ooze with juices and are perfectly cooked throughout, without being too browned and blistered on the outside.  And as I sneak a mouthful, and one for Clayton, we revel in the peppery, garlicky, flavorful, distinctive deliciousness before I…

… dump them disks into my thick rich tomato sauce.

I stir this all up, then add a handful of ripped fresh basil leaves to the blend, and I turn off the heat.

I’ve boiled off my pasta to just slightly underdone (I always think of Joyce’s  “Underdone’s”), since they’re going to bake for a while, which will bring them to just the right al dente.

I mix this all up real good like.  *Real* good like.

This plump ball of mozzarella (a wee wee bit rubbery at just the apex of the curve) stuffed with ricotta ended up being the *perfect* diary for dinner.  It comes from “The Mozzarella House” in Everett, MA — but they’ve got no website!  Technological deficiencies aside, their cheese is damn good (even if a little pricey, at $7.99 in comparison to Trader Joe’s more consistently produced, just as tasty, $2.99 8oz portion).  Anyway, the mozz will melt and stretch, and the ricotta will melt and cream.  I slice it, then roughly chop it, then scoop it up with the flat of my blade and…

… dump it into my hot saucesausagepasta.  I mix this up real good like…

… and I scoop it into an oiled baking dish, and throw it into a 350° oven for 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, I slice my beautiful baguette down the middle and cut it into planks.  I douse each slice’s surface with melted butter, sprinkle them with garlic powder, and grate some fresh parmigiano reggiano on top, then stick this on a sheet pan over parchment paper into the oven (which is already baking off my pasta) to toast.

I pull my pastabake out when I see the bubbling heat crawling up the sides of my glass baking dish.  This is about 15 minutes later.  This is about 10 minutes away from being devoured.

As I spoon the warm deliciousness into my bowl, I can show you why this is called “alla telefono” — see how the mozzarella stretches into supple cords, like telephone wires, as I serve up my dish?  It’s almost a struggle; I have to use another spoon to cut the wires, or they’d stretch, it seems, until eternity.

Spoonfuls of macaroni and mozzarella and tomato goodness are perfectly gloopy, with firm springy noodles laced with rich sauce, dotted with savory sausage, and threaded with creamy chewy cheese. Served with buttery baked cheesy garlic bread, served with love, served with hard working man man in mind. Clayton husband needed something from the heart to fill his stomach, and judging by the love-looks he’s been shooting my way since we walked away from the dinner table, he’s happy as can be.  Mission accomplished!

Macaroni alla Telefono

Broiled Shrimp in Lemon Garlic Butter with Rotini Alfredo

An evil god named Bursitis has struck me down. Touched in the shoulder by his vengeful finger of doom, I’ve been in owie-land all week, and therefore sucking down the delivery like the lazy hag I am when I’m feeling low. But after 8 days of it’s-not-getting-better-yet, I sloughed my way to the doctor today to see if modern physik could do anything to ease my suffering. One shot in the butt of magic healing juice later, and I felt good enough to cook tonight, with only an intermittent staccato of “OW!” and “OH!” and “YOUCH!” punctuating the event, instead of the relentless base-line drumbeat of the wailing pain of last week. El husband picked up some lovely shrimp at Whole Foods yesterday, and with them, a lemon, some butter, and some pasta ‘n stuff, I put together a steakhouse-style shrimp broil with a side of Alfredo worthy of dipping and dunking and lip-licking extraordinaire.

What you’ll need, for two:

1lb 16-20 ct. shrimp
1 lemon
1 stick butter
1 cup grated ParmigianoReggiano cheese
1 cup heavy cream
6 cloves garlic
4 cups rotini pasta
handful of fresh chives
sea salt
cracked black pepper
white bread (this is the bestest sweetest heavy cream bread Bursitis’s arch-enemy, the good god Yummiliciousness, bakes)

In some large white monkey dishes…

… add a few tablespoons of butter and some smashed garlic cloves. Set into a preheated 350° oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel everything but the very tail ends off your shrimp.

Check your monkey dishes; the butter should be slightly browned and bubbling, and the garlic should be starting to turn ever-so-slightly-golden on the edges. Set aside to cool for a few minutes – about 10. The garlic will continue to cook slightly.

Set your pasta water to boil. You’ll need only about 10 minutes to broil off the shrimp, and about 15 minutes to finish off your pasta, so plan accordingly. When the water is boiling, layer your shrimp into your monkey dishes, coating each one with the melted butter, and studding the roasted garlic gloves over into some well-placed nooks and crannies.

Add your pasta to the water, and bring back to a boil. Add about 1 more tablespoon of butter to the center of each shrimp-filled monkey dish, and squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon over each one, too. Place the dishes back into your 350° oven, and bake for 10 minutes (just enough time for your pasta to cook to al dente.)

Remove your pasta to a colander…

… and put the empty warm pot back on the heat. Add two tablespoons butter, and melt thoroughly.

Add 1 cup heavy cream to the hot butter, and stir well to incorporate. Add your cup of grated cheese, and do the whole stirring and incorporating thing again. The sauce will be nice and thick.

Add your pasta to the pan, and stir well again, tossing it thoroughly with the sauce, and heating it all through nicely.

Sweet succulent sizzling garlic butter and lemon soaked shrimp, served alongside a rich and creamy rotini alfredo splattered with snipped fresh chives. Toast off some heavy cream white bread, perfect for butter sauce and roasted garlic sopping, and stuff forkfuls of firm crustacean flesh and perfectly al dente ribbons of perfect pasta into your waiting mouth which waters with desire for a dinner done just right.


Papardelle alla carbonara

Today was a long day… a LONG day… but I had something to look forward to when I got home. Is it wrong to fantasize about a slab of cured meat? Because I did – O I did. A visit to the Salumeria recently brought me face to face with this beautiful hunk of guanciale – a word I mostly massacre every time I say it, but a meat I simply must masticate whenever I see it. Some people I know might be, er, put off by the concept of “cured pig jowls”–otherwise known as “cheeks”, of the facial persuasion–but not me! I’d actually been considering some lovely pancetta, but I made the mistake (or carefully calculated choice, depending on your POV) of uttering “carbonara,” and the beautiful man behind the counter would not let me leave without this last hunk of this most traditional of carbonara meats. You can use bacon, pancetta, even prosciutto – but guanciale is a true treat. This is cured with black pepper and juniper berries, and when it’s diced, tried, and tossed with hot papardelle, parmesan, pepper, yolks, and aromatics, it makes simple heaven on a plate.

What you’ll need:

4 eggs
4 shallots
4 cloves garlic
cracked black pepper
shredded parmesan cheese
olive oil
1/4lb guanciale (or bacon, or pancetta, or prosciutto)
sea salt
paparadelle (or your favorite pasta – spaghetti is traditional)

The trick to this meal is having everything prepped and ready so you can execute it all at the same time. Your pasta will take 10-11 minutes to boil; your protein will take about 3-4 minutes to cook; your aromatics about 3-4 minutes to soften; your finish (adding the al dente pasta to the hot sauce) about 3-4 minutes to wrap up. So, get your pot of water set up and turn on the heat. The 10-15 minutes it should take you to prep should be long enough to get your water to boil.

Guanciale. Pig’s cheek. Pig’s jowl. Peppered and juniper berried. And cured. And perfect.

Dice it very very finely. This stuff is very strongly flavored, and you want it to be crispy and well cooked. Not because you’re worried about, like, food poisoning (if you are, the mostly raw egg yolks later may, er, put you off), but because you want the full meaty salty flavor only seared edges will bring.

Here’s my favorite kitchen gadget: The Garlic Twist. Stick about 4 cloves of garlic into its gnashing teeth and twist like the dickens.

And halve and slice four or so shallots (or a small white onion).

Add about 2 tbs olive oil to your hot Ikeawok.

And throw your meat into your hot fat, setting it to sizzle.

See how the edges of the cooking piece begin to turn opaque, while those bits which still need to sear are still translucent? You want no translucence.

When all your guanciale is browned, remove it from the pan to some paper towels to drain, and dump out all but 2 tbs of the remaining fat before returning the pan to medium heat.

Add your aromatics – the shallots and garlic – to your pan.

Stir well, for about 2-3 minutes, then add the guanciale back to the pan to heat through.

My yolks; one broke. Whisk them with a fork about 3 or 4 times (read: don’t whip or scramble them).

When your pasta is a perfect al dente (which you can test by just tasting a pinch), scoop it out of its water (do NOT drain the water, and keep it boiling, because you’ll need it!) and toss it into the pan with the shallots, garlic, and guanciale. Remove the pan from the heat!

Now add your yolks. ½ cup of grated/shredded fresh quality parmesan cheese, some cracked black pepper, and some sea salt, and mix well but gently, so as not to scramble your yolks. Keep tossing, and add as much of your still-boiling starchy pasta water to the pan as you need, a little at a time, until the yolks, cheese, and pigoniongarlic bits are thinned to a thick yellow sauce. The more water you add, the thinner the sauce will get, so don’t overdo it!

Nests of tenderfirm paparadelle with a sweet shallot, savory garlic, silky egg and salty pig sauce. A small but rich, easy everyday meal. Obi-wan Kenobi assumes an attack position, not satisfied to merely defend this plate, but instead willing to fight – to the death, if necessary – for one Force-filled and flavorful forkful.