Three ribbons pasta
Okay, so in retrospect, the vegetarian <i>faux</i> tripe I featured a couple of weeks ago may have been a little <i>too</i> bizarre. I realized it might have been a little over the top when I noticed that I got almost no E-mail about it ... everyone seemed to be ignoring me the way you discreetly pretend not to be paying attention when that crazy uncle tells loud, bad jokes at a family party.
It probably would have been an easier sale if I hadn't translated "<I>Uova in trippa alla Romana</i>." But the concept - fashioning a thin omelet and cutting it into long, thin strips that look like pasta but present an entirely different flavor and texture - was good ... good, I tellya!
So, only slightly chastened, I thought I'd take another run at the procedure, but this time creating a new dish that's more stylish and not as offputting as, well, tripe.
First I considered simply substituting these silken egg ribbons for pasta in a standard dish - egg-strip Alfredo, for instance, or maybe an egg-and-bacon egg-strip carbonara. But this didn't seem quite right. <I>Al dente</I> texture is pasta's thing, and replacing it with the softer egg strips would be a net loss. But how about a mix of textures, like the contrast of soft rice noodles and crisp bean sprouts in <i>Pad Thai</i>?
Now we're onto something ... a mixed blend of al dente linguine or fettuccine and softer egg ribbons would offer a yin-yang set of textures, and with yellow egg strips and green spinach pasta, we'd have an attractive color contrast reminiscent of the traditional Italian pasta mix called "straw and hay" ("<i>paglia e fieno</i>").
Now we're on track, but to kick it up another notch (thanks, Emeril), how about a <i>third</i> contrasting color, flavor and texture? Earthy, dark-flavored <i>bresaola</i>, the air-dried beef specialty of sub-Alpine Northwestern Italy, rolled and sliced into similarly long, narrow strips would make an even more intriguing addition to the mix. Dress it with something simple but compatible - I chose a basil-scented, creamy "pink" puree of ricotta, a little milk and a couple of San Marzano tomatoes - and you've got an impressive, restaurant-style dish. It's surprisingly easy to make, and well-suited for a summer evening since it requires virtually no stove time other than firing the omelet and boiling water for pasta.
There's room for creative variation here. You could try it with different meats (or no meat) and all sorts of sauces; although whatever you use, I recommend keeping the flavors simple and compatible so as not to draw attention away from the disparate textures that make this dish an exceptional bowl of ... pasta, and more.
If you try it, please let me know how it goes. Are you listening? Hey! Why's everybody looking discreetly away ...
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (30ml) water
1 sprig flatleaf Italian parsley
1/2 cup (120g) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces (90g) Italian-style <i>bresaola</i>, sliced thin
3 ounces green spinach linguine or fettuccine
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup milk
2 small San Marzano tomatoes
1. Repeating the procedures outlined in the first two steps of the May 11, 2006 <I>FoodLetter</I>, break the eggs into a bowl, add 1 tablespoon water per egg, mince the parsley, and stir the parsley and 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese into the egg mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour the egg mixture into a large, hot nonstick skillet lightly greased with olive oil. Cook the omelet over medium heat as a large, thin round and, when it's done, take it out to a greased plate and let it cool a little.
2. Put salted pasta water on to boil, and while it's heating, make the ribbons. Cut the omelet into two half-circles, dust one with a little more of the grated cheese, and put the other half on top. Roll both like a rug, then, starting at one end, cut it crosswise into narrow ribbons about the same width as your pasta. Scatter the cut strands on a large plate and dust them with a little more grated cheese.
3. Stack the <I>bresaola</i> rounds and, as you did with the omelet, roll them and slice across the rolls to make noodle-thin ribbons.
4. Cook the pasta as per package directions, and while it's boiling, make a quick sauce: Blend the ricotta, milk and tomatoes into a thick, light-pink puree, which may be used at room temperature or heated just to the boiling point as you prefer.
5. When the pasta is <i>al dente</i>, drain it well, then toss it gently with the egg ribbons and about two-thirds of the <i>bresaola</i> strands. Pour into warm bowls, top with the pink sauce, and garnish with the remaining <i>bresaola</i>, passing the remaining grated cheese at the table.
<B>WINE MATCH:</B> Any light, fruity and tart Italian red should work fine, such as a simple Chianti or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo or a fresh Valpolicella (<i>not</i> a Ripasso or Amarone). A Dolcetto might be perfect, or a Barbera or Argentine Malbec, preferably not made in the fruit-and-oak "international" style.