Pennoni and Cheese with Kale, Peas, and Mint

by 2gourmaniacs on April 14, 2014

Some time ago I glanced through a recipe for paccheri, the giant round tubes pasta, with fresh peas and mint. I don’t recall the source, but I remember that it wasn’t fresh pea season. So I waited until I could get some fresh peas and by the time I was ready for the recipe, I had changed it considerably. The pasta I used was a bag of pennoni I had in the pantry; I substituted kale for spinach, and since I could hardly recall which cheeses were used with the paccheri, I came up with my own combination below. Apparently I simply cannot resist tampering with a good pasta dish. You will not be disappointed.

Ingredients (Yield: 6 to 8 servings):

  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano for dusting pan
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano
  • ½ cup grated Primo Sale cheese (or Fontina)
  • ½ cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk (lowfat is fine)
  • 1 large egg
  • Fresh ground salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound pennoni or your favorite large rigatoni (or paccheri)
  • 1 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped kale, blanched, hard stems removed (spinach or arugula works well too)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • A dusting of nutmeg powder
  • A dusting of red pepper flakes


Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 12” springform pan; dust bottom and sides with 1/3 cup Parmigiano cheese. Melt the remaining butter stick in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add flour, whisking it in for several minutes. Slowly add in the milk, whisking often. When sauce begins to simmer, lower heat to medium. Continue whisking for 15 minutes, until sauce is thickened. Remove sauce from heat and add Primo Sale (or Fontina) cheese, 1 cup Parmigiano  and half cup Asiago.  Add egg and whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Cover sauce and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until crunchy al dente; it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain pasta and transfer to a bowl. Add peas, kale, parsley and mint; stir in cheese sauce, mixing well to incorporate.

Transfer half of pasta mixture to prepared springform pan; add a layer of ricotta and half the lemon zest. Layer the remaining pasta mixture, filling the pan, and top with the rest of the ricotta and lemon zest. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Asiago cheese on top.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake pasta for 30 minutes. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano and bake uncovered for about 10 more minutes, until surface is golden brown. Let rest for 20 minutes; remove springform pan sides to “unmold” the baked pasta. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons each of chopped parsley and mint, cut into wedges and serve.



Plum Tart

by 2gourmaniacs on October 1, 2013

On the East End of Long Island, September is the season of mild temperatures and low humidity, bountiful harvests at local farms, and the greatly anticipated exodus of summer’s tourists. It’s also the season for prune plums; that wonderful small, purple-black fruit which begs to be eaten by the handful, or to be used in a number of different desserts. One of my favorites is a plum tart. Our friend Ilse had just returned from a family visit to Germany. In addition to bringing us food goodies from Europe, she whipped up a plum tart to share with us before she came over to our kitchen to catch up on what she had missed here at summer’s end. I had almost forgotten that it was plum time, and inspired by a tip she gave me for cutting the plums, I made a couple of plum tarts over the following few days.

My go-to pie or tart crust is, invariably a pâte brisée. For my plum tart, however, I chose to use a pâte à sucre crust instead. My feeling was that a “cookie dough” crust would be more impervious to the plum juice released during baking, and it would remain more crunchy. And that’s certainly true, especially if you enjoy the tart the day it’s baked.

Over my baking career, I’ve tried many pâte à sucre formulas. My first was one from Julia Child; since then I’ve settled on Rose Beranbaum’s formula from The Pie and Pastry Bible. It’s easy, it’s forgiving if you have trouble transferring it from rolling it out and moving it into the tart form or pie plate, and it’s deliciously crisp and crunchy with just a hint of sweetness.

Pâte à sucre:

Unsalted butter            113 g  (8 Tbsp)
sugar                                50 g  (¼ cup)
salt                                              1/8 tsp
egg yolk                           18 g   (1 large)
heavy cream                   28 g   (2 Tbsp)

Although you can make this by hand, I always use a food processor for making pastry dough. So, with a food processor fitted with its metal blade, blitz the butter and sugar between 15 and 20 times until the two are well combined. Add the salt and flour and blitz it again 15 to 20 times, until the mixture resembles small peas. In a small bowl beat the egg yolk and the cream together until well blended, and add it to the food processor work bowl containing butter and sugar. Pulse until amalgamated.

Transfer the dough into a gallon size zip lock bag. Squeeze out the air and knead the dough with your fingers, working it into a 5 or 6 inch disc. Once you form the doughy disk, remove it from the plastic bag and wrap it tightly in a piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.

For the Plums:

Cornstarch                           1 tsp
Prune Plums                        2 ¼ lbs
Sugar                                    50 g (¼ cup)
Ground cinnamon                         ½ tsp
Nutmeg                                           ¼ tsp
Apricot preserves                          ½ cup
Cointreau                                        1 ½ oz

While the dough was chilling in the fridge, I washed and de-stemmed the plums. Employing my friend Ilse’s prep tip, I took a sharp pairing knife and sliced each plum, starting from the stem end, continuing down to the bottom portion of the plum and around to the opposite side. The trick is not to cut all the way through but rather stop at around a quarter of the way up the back side. Then I went back to the stem end and cut the unsliced end a quarter of the way down. The idea is to open the plum like a book, leaving a scant “hinge” of flesh and skin on one side of the pit.

Remove the pit and carefully cut each of the to halves into two slices, again leaving a hinge on the back side of each half. You now have four plum slices that are still connected. Continue slicing and pitting the rest of the plums. After three or four plums, you’ll be an expert and the entire process will take you less than ten minutes. The key to this is a sharp knife. When you’re finished set the bowl of plums aside.

After thirty minutes, remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Here’s where a little experience with pâte à sucre helps. You’re looking for a dough that is cold yet still malleable. There are several schools of thought on how to roll out a pâte à sucre. Interestingly, one is not to refrigerate the dough but to put it in the freezer, and then grate it into the form and shape it into a crust with your fingers, basically shaping the shavings into a crust shape. Another is to roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap, then remove the top layer, position the tart form over it upside down, and quickly invert it. My method is to flour a pastry cloth and a rolling pin. Place the chilled dough on the pastry cloth, and roll it out about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will crack and separate around the edges. Push it together with your fingers, and gently persuade it together with your pin. Don’t be shy about using additional flour on the dough and your pin. When you have it rolled out the size that will exceed the size of your form, take a pot, pan or whatever is handy that is slightly larger than the size of the tart form, and slip it under the pastry cloth that still has the expanded dough on it.  Place the form upside down over the dough and gently lay it on top. Then carefully and quickly invert the pan, the pastry cloth and dough, and the form. Voilà!

Well, hopefully. If the dough cracked over the edges or the form cut the dough, no worries. Here’s the cool thing about pâte à sucre: it’s easy to fix and repair cracks and tears because once it’s baked, it’s going to look perfect.

Now take the dough in the form, and blind bake it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. To blind bake, place a piece of parchment paper to line the dough in the form and weight it down with dried beans or ceramic pie weights. After ten minutes, or when the exposed edge crust starts to turn golden, remove from the oven.

First sprinkle with the cornstarch; I put the cornstarch in a small hand held sieve and coat the dough. Now get those plums that you so carefully cut and start leaning the first course standing up on one end, around the inside edge of the crust. Continue in concentric circles until you reach the center. If you have gaps along the way, don’t hesitate to use a single or two plum sections. Sprinkle the cinnamon (preferably fresh), follow with the nutmeg (preferably freshly grated), and finally the sugar and the Cointreau. Place the tart back in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. After 35 minutes, take a peek; the crust edge should be nicely golden brown and the tips of the plums should be just slightly singed. If not, let it bake for the full 45 minutes.




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