28 July 2010

Summer Pasta ... Albeit Veggies Are the Stars

Tonight I am craving crusty bread dripping with olive oil and black pepper, a big bowl of pasta in a creamy white vegetable sauce, a glass of good Pinot Grigio, and a salad to round things out ... I'm wishing I could be walking down Hanover Street in Boston's North End smelling the wonderful smells coming from the various Italian trattorie and listening to the neighborhood chatter. I'm wishing to linger over capuccino and a small piece of tiramisu. And finally ... a small snifter of Strega.

 I might as well wish for the moon ... the North End is NOT in the budget this month.

So what's a girl to do? Make my own Italian food fest ... so, here we go! I have some beautiful green beans from the garden, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, some lovely pinenuts to toast, some fresh basil,  fresh white mushrooms,  butter and cream to round out this sauce. I've got fettucine nests to boil al dente.  Hell, I even have a decent bottle of Pinot Grigio and some fresh rustica bread! This evening may just turn out fine!  The tiramisu and capuccino are still haunting me, but I'll get over it. As for the Strega ... no one in New Hampshire seems to know about it.

So ... I will slice and dice and make a lovely sauce, boil some pasta and 'make do' until I can convince SB to head for the North End. All I need now is Zucchero singing to me as I fix dinner ... thank God for You Tube!  Right click and open the link in a new window,  while you read on.  Listen and just keep hitting the additional links... if you like.

Okay, so the rustica toasts were made, the salads were put together, and the slice and dice was done. The pasta water was on the boil and the sauce was ready to assemble ... and here is where things went 'sort of' wrong.  I opted to use a no-fat half and half in the recipe ... big mistake. It curdled and made my cream sauce a watery  'BLECK-looking'  something. I tasted it and it was delicious, but aesthetically, it sucked (pardon the term!).  What a shame because the green beans were so nicely crunchy, the pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes were little flavor bombs, the mushrooms were still slightly firm. The veggies were perfection, but they were swimming in ... THIS SAUCE.

Cringe ... I just can't post the picture of the final dish. I can't! It's too much for my tender sensibilities! You will just have to imagine it and take a lesson ... DO NOT try substituting no-fat for the real thing! It's evil and should be banished from the fridge! I was so upset that I poured the rest of that nefarious half and half down the drain!

Parden me while I go drown my disappointment in another glass of Pinot Grigio and listen to some more Zucchero ...

Punchline: DO try the recipe. DO stick to the ingredients. DON'T forget the Zucchero!

Summer Pasta and Vegetables in a Cream Sauce

adapted from a recipe in the essential vegetarian cookbook


2 hands of fresh green beans, tipped and sliced on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
8 oz. white mushrooms, thinly sliced
¼ c. sundried tomatoes in olive oil, slivered
½ c. pine nuts, toasted
3 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
2 servings of fettucine nests
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. butter
½ c. vegetable stock
½ c. white wine
1 c. heavy cream
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
¼ to ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese

Making the Dish:

1. Using a small saucepan, blanch the green beans in boiling water for three minutes and then drain and chill in a cold water bath. Set aside.

2. In a small fry pan, toast the pine nuts and then, set them aside on a cool plate.

3. Put the pasta water on in a deep pasta pot and bring to a boil.

4. While you’re waiting for the pasta water to boil, heat a deep fry pan and add the olive oil, onions and garlic. Sauté for about 3 minutes and then add the mushrooms. Continue to sauté for another minute.

5. Pour in the white wine, stock, and cream. Lower the heat and warm the sauce gently, but do not boil.

6. Cook the fettucine until al dente and while it’s cooking, finish the sauce.

7. Beat the egg and add some of the hot sauce to the egg. Then, gently stir the egg mix back into the sauce and stir well to incorporate. Continue stirring over very low heat until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and turn in the sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, and green beans. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. Drain the pasta and toss it with the butter. Plate the servings.

9. Top with the sauce and Parmesan cheese.


  1. what a shame! but lesson learnt right? sounds delicious though... x

  2. Ooo, it sounds so delicious and fresh. I've got to make some summer veggie pasta after going to the farmer's market!

  3. That cream looks so innocent in the photo. Drat no fat! My husband being a coffee snob, we have an espresso machine. He generally uses half 'n half for lattes and cappuccino, and has informed me that to store brand just will not froth. I don't know if it's lower fat or because it's ultra pasteurized. Any idea?

  4. I would suspect the fat content is the culprit ... let's think about this... when one makes whipped cream, one always uses heavy cream ... higher fat content equals big fat molecules equals air in between equals froth ... the ultimate froth. So ... let's extrapolate to a low fat half and half or even lower fat milk ... it just won't froth as well if the fat content is lowered too much. That's my take ... I'd ask Didactic Dick, my science nerd brother, but he's out training for an ALS bike trip. I'll get back to you!


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