This meal built around
- truffled reggiano cheese
So you’ll want a very good cheese shop. You can substitute (or magnify the effect) by using black truffle oil when you “dress” the cooked pasta.
In a market you trust, buy:
- fresh pasta (gnocchi, tortellini or other “small bits” shape works best)
- sweet italian sausage
- red peppers – sound, ripe
- asparagus – look for finer, slender stalks and good green color
- mushrooms – look for clean, tender ones. almost any variety is ok
Rinse the red peppers and asparagus, but NOT the mushrooms. Set the asparagus aside to drain and pat the red peppers dry.
Prepare the Asparagus. Hold your hands as if to play the piano and take each end of a spear of asparagus lightly between thumb and fingertips. Hold the whitish end near the base and the budding end 2/3 of the way along. Gently flex the stalk while rolling your right thumb up the back of your finger, twisting slightly. Allow the stalk to snap where it wants to. Don’t be anxious about how much “good” asparagus is wasted. It’s NOT that good. And, you can use it in stock or compost it.
Prepare the Mushrooms. With a very clean dishtowel, lightly whisk off any flecks of dirt. Do not wash. Slice. Sautee in a small amount of olive oil or butter, almost as if you were toasting them lightly. Cover and allow to weep. You can add minced shallots or a very small amount of finely chopped onions to the oil before the mushrooms, if desired. Fleck with black pepper. Set aside.
Boil Water. Fresh pasta won’t need to cook long, but have the water ready.
Light the Grill. Fire roast the red peppers until they’re charred on all sides. Remove from the grill, cool slightly, and place into a paper bag. Grill the sausages. Tag someone who’s drinking a beer and shooting pool to be your grill buddy and keep an eye on them for you. After the grill is off, set your crusty bread, wrapped in foil, on or near it to warm lightly.
Finish the Red Peppers. Once cool enough to handle, rub the charred skin off the red peppers. Work under cool running water, and peel/rinse away the stem and seeds also. Tear the peppers into slabs and slice the slabs into neat strips. Serve them cool or rewarm them in the steam or hot water from the pasta, later. Dust with mixed spices and good balsamic.
Now you’re cooking. Set the asparagus tips into a colander or steamer insert and steam them over the boiling water. Boil the pasta lightly, drain and toss with just enough oil or butter to coat (butter, good olive oil, truffle oil, etc.). While the pasta is still very hot, shave plenty of the truffled regiano over all the pasta, tossing gently to mix well.
You can add finely minced ribbons of fresh, young basil or mention the phrase “freshly ground black pepper” while standing near the serving dish. Then again, you can use velveeta. Truffles are subtle. If you tamper, you could miss the point entirely. If you need more flavor, the answer is more truffled regiano, not more stuff.
When the asparagus is done, transfer it immediately to the serving dish. Arrange mushrooms, pasta, asparagus, red peppers and sausages on a large platter. Serve with warmed crusty bread, more regiano and a grater, plenty of red wine and laughter. Linger long at the table — you all have tales to tell.
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