Tonight I cooked Ina’s “Straw and Hay with Gorgonzola”. This is basically tagliatelli finished in pretty much pure cream, with all kinds of other *great* ingredients mixed in. The sauce consists of pure cream added to some sauteed onions and garlic, with some “soft gorgonzola” melted in. Once the sauce thickens, you add the fully cooked tagliatelle to it. I had never made a cream sauce like this before. I’ve made wine / cream sauces, I’ve made cream / chicken stock sauces, I’ve made cream / gr. Marnier / brandy sauces (for shrimp), but never just straight cream for the liquid. It was nothing short of fantastic! The cream thickens up beautifully with a little heating, and not just because of the gorgonzola – I had a second pan with no gorgonzola, because my son hates it … and it thickened up just as much. Then you put in the hot pasta, and the cream just COATS every strand. It was delectable. Then you get to add in some crispy pancetta, julienned basil, some Parmesan and PEAS! I love the peas / pancetta combination – I first tasted it in the 90′s at an Il Fornaio take-out lunch place in Palo Alto. Loved it then, loved it tonight! The only twists in the process were that I forgot to reserve some of the cooking liquid from the pasta to thin the sauce a touch … it could have used it, although it was fantastic without. AND I had happened to pick up some freshly shelled English peas at Trader Joe’s a few days before instead of using frozen peas … These were good, but probably needed a quick dip in some boiling water for a few minutes to soften them up. I think frozen peas are pretty much cooked, so once they’ve been thawed and heated, they’re perfect. But the fresh ones were, well, fresh, and not cooked, and while I didn’t mind them (I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan where my mother planted a huge garden every summer, and freshly shelled peas were some of our favorite treats), I don’t think my own family enjoyed them nearly as much. So that’s an important note for next time.
I would definitely make this recipe again, probably with less Gorgonzola though. Not that the Gorgonzola wasn’t good, but it took away a bit from the flavor of the pancetta, and with the cream / Parmesan cheese, this recipe could do with a little lightening of fat. Oh well, salads for the next week or two to make up for it, but that’s okay! It will be worth it!
(Okay, it’s not completely true that I’ve never made a sauce of pure cream before. I have, but not with this method. My family is of Ukrainian / Polish descent, and each year for Christmas Eve, my mother, and now I, make a sauteed mushroom sauce to serve on top of the potato pierogies, and sour-cabbage rolls stuffed with buckwheat. Okay, you want to talk about another kind of heaven eating those dishes, but we’ll have to save that for another post … in any case, for that sauce, I saute the mushrooms, then add the cream to them, and typically cook the cream/mushrooms for quite some time. But I’m never totally satisfied with the consistency of the sauce when it’s done. It’s always a little too thin, but I leave it like that, because I don’t like thickening it with flour. However, I think I will try this technique next time … saute the mushrooms just until well browned on the outside … not overly much … I’ve noticed that the more I cook mushrooms, the more liquid seems to come out. So I will do a quick saute, brown them, and just get them cooked through, then add to some heated, thickened cream … and STOP THE COOKING at that point. I bet I’m going to get a better result. Probably shouldn’t wait until Christmas Eve to test this out…)