Double Sauced Rigatoni
24 (the “24” is a sizing given by Italian pasta
makers) works very well with this sauce. The medium-sized cylindrical shape holds the sauce well, but also satisfies the impulse to eat enormous quantities of pasta
without actually doing so, since it is filled with air
. So, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Basically, lots of salted water brought to a boil, cook for about 10 to 12 minutes.
First, the Buttermilk Garlic Sauce: Be generous. Mince a very generous amount of fresh garlic and sauté in a good amount of melted butter, along with salt, freshly ground white pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. The dried powders are best added during the sautéing. When the garlic is cooked, but not browned, and the powders are incorporated slowly dilute with buttermilk to achieve enough sauce to cover the amount of pasta you are preparing and reduce the heat to prevent boiling as this would cause the buttermilk to separate and your sauce to “break”. Add some grated Parmesan cheese. You may wish to add more butter at this point, allow it to melt and then use a wire whisk to briskly mix the sauce, rendering it smooth. This is a bit like an Alfredo sauce but very low in fat and with a clean tang from the buttermilk.
When the pasta is just barely al denté, drain and then pour it into the sauce and toss, allowing it to finish cooking and absorb the sauce.
Now, all along you have also been working on the second sauce, the Succulent Mushroom Topping: Sauté chopped white onions in a little butter and extra virgin olive oil. Using a damp paper towel, clean the caps of portobello mushrooms, removing and cleaning the stems. Use a spoon to scrape and remove the gills so that the mushrooms will not discolour the pasta. Chop the caps into approximately one-inch cubes, the stems into cubes a little over ¼ inch. Also clean cremini mushrooms, leaving smaller ones intact. Larger cremini can be sliced in half. Add these to the cooking onions. Season with salt, fresh cracked black peppercorn, and then add a good quantity of port and allow this to reduce until the sauce is almost dry. Season with fresh oregano, paprika and Tuscan herbs (a mixture of rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, bay leaf and marjoram) and fresh lemon juice.
Plate this dish individually by serving the rigatoni in a shallow pasta bowl or a plate; top with a good ladle of the mushrooms; garnish with red chile threads and a few sprigs of Italian parsley.
Pea Green and Pigeon Peas Salad
This salad features beautiful curly green pea shoots (not sprouts but rather the very young shoots with leaves and tendrils, often available in Chinatown) and pigeon peas. The pigeon peas complement the pasta and the combination of these two along with the mushrooms create a complete protein. Dice white onion and seeded roma tomatoes. Mix these with tinned dried pigeon peas and season with fresh oregano, celery seeds, cumin seeds, kosher salt and fresh cracked black peppercorns, fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. While cooking the pasta, we simply placed the fresh, cleaned pea greens in a wire strainer and suspended them over the cooking pasta, covered with the pot lid to steam them lightly. Do not overcook the pea shoots, they should be slightly wilted, just enough to break down some of the fibres. Toss the wilted pea shoots with the salad.
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