Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday Morning Blues and a Pasta Fix

Trapper shared my Monday morning blues. Within moments of being tossed outside on a rainy day, he retreated to the shelter of the doorstep sporting a kinky hairdo and look of disgust. Less than 10 minutes later, I was stranded on the side of the freeway with a flat tire, in pouring down rain and rush hour traffic. My hair was also frizzed from the rain and I can assure you my look of disgust wasn't nearly as cute. I called work, only to find out the network was down and there was no point coming in. So, I waited for the CHP to escort me off the freeway and John to come to my rescue. Razor blade in my tire. Nice.

The storm has passed, the sun is shining, and Trapper is still adorable. He's quite content with our early morning Starbucks routine, and is rapidly accumulating his own fandom. Brother Nicolas may come for a puppy play date on Sunday, and puppy photos are likely to continue for quite some time.

Several days of rain...

Sunny skies and flowers in bloom to welcome spring...

Inspiration for this Rigatoni alla Castellana came from Il Fornaio's Trentino-Alto Adige menu, and two leftover pork chops. In addition to thinly sliced pork and thick, chewy rigatoni pasta, it soaks up flavor from bacon, cream, brandy and cheese. But the fattening ingredients are balanced by a healthier additions - shiitake mushrooms, garlic, shallots, thyme, and a few handfuls of fresh spinach. A small serving (with a hefty glass of wine) is all I needed to chase away my Monday blues, bid farewell to the rain, and welcome the first day of spring.

Rigatoni alla Castellana
Inspired by Il Fornaio
Serves 4


½ cup stemmed dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup hot water
12 ounces rigatoni pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices thick bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
4 ounces thinly sliced cooked pork (from leftover pork chops or tenderloin)
¼ cup minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup brandy
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces fresh baby spinach
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1.  Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl, cover with the hot water, and let sit until reconstituted and soft, about 15 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and their liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl, squeezing the mushrooms to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve ½ cup of the liquid and roughly chop the mushrooms. Set aside.

2.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes (or according to package directions).

3.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté until browned and just slightly crisp, but still chewy.  Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel and set aside.

4.  Add the shallots to the pan and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the ½ cup reserved mushroom liquid, and ¼ cup brandy, and bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is nearly all evaporated. Add the cream, thyme, salt, and pepper and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream is reduced and thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the half of the cheese and stir to incorporate. Add the bacon, sliced pork and spinach and heat just until the pork is warmed through and the spinach is slightly wilted.

5. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce, tossing well to coat. 

6. Divide the pasta between four serving bowls, garnish each with the remaining cheese, and serve immediately.


Bunkycooks said...

Your pasta dish would take away my blues, too. That is a rich one, but am sure the hefty glass of wine balances it nicely. :-) How much does Trapper weigh now?! He is one big pup!

Liz said...

Now THAT'S a pasta dish! Sounds absolutely wonderful! and by the way, that is ONE CUTE PUPPY!! Keep those photos coming!