Peculiar Pastas #5

2017.Aug.01 Tuesday · 0 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

This time around, Umbricelli, a traditional thick noodle from Umbria, in central Italy. Now, as I understand it, in local dialect, umbricelli is the word for earthworms, and the idea is to, more or less, end up with something the length and thickness of those. The debate, if there really is one, seems to be as to whether umbricelli should be round or squared off. You can find plenty of examples of both. I’m going, as always, with the way I learned to make them, which is left with squared edges, almost like thick fettucine.

This is the simplest of our three “thick” pastas from our class. The dough itself, the most complex, in that it has a whole four ingredients – flour, water, salt, and, olive oil! But after letting it rest, you simply roll it out into, more or less, a rectangle, about 2mm thick, and cut it in strips about 4mm wide. Done. (Unless you’re going to go the cylindrical route, in which case, at this point, take each one and roll it back and forth on the counter until you smooth the edges off.)

One of my favorite, easy to make sauces: alle olive i funghi. Mixed mushrooms, sliced; green olives, sliced or, as here, cut in quarters; chopped garlic, chopped pepperoncino (dried Italian chilies), equal parts soured cream and chicken stock. You want to make it vegetarian, use vegetable stock.

A little olive oil in a saute pan, toss in the garlic and chili and  swirl around as it bubbles away, to make sure the oil gets well flavored. Less than a minute, and then…

…add the mushrooms and saute for about 5-6 minutes. While normally when sauteing, I’d put in a generous pinch of salt here, I generally don’t add any at this point, because it’s going to get a big hit of salt from the other ingredients. A couple of grinds of pepper is a nice touch.

Add the green olives and cook another minute or two – here’s the first hit of salt.

Add the soured cream (you can use actual sour cream, though for me that can be a bit too rich, I usually use a light whipping cream and squeeze in some fresh lemon juice, stir it up and let it thicken for a few minutes), and the chicken stock. This is a good moment to toss your pasta in the boiling salted water you’ve got going on another burner.

Cook, bubbling away, until it thickens up nicely. Because it’s concentrating down as the liquid evaporates, you’re getting a big hit of salt right here from the stock.

And, add a ladle of the pasta cooking water just before you drain the pasta. This puts a bit of starch into the sauce, that’s dissolved into the water, as well as more salt. See why I don’t add salt at the beginning on this one?

Drain the pasta and toss it with some good, spicy olive oil. The one I use is made from frantoio olives and is a favorite for bolder pasta dishes.

Toss the pasta with the sauce, and mix to coat well, for about a minute, until the sauce thickens right back up again.

And, back to our money shot, Umbricelli alle olive i funghi.

Where to for our next pasta explorations? Maybe some pastas made with wine. Not wine sauces, but wine in the pasta dough, and/or pastas cooked in wine. Maybe something else.

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