Happy Thanksgiving!  (And a non-Thanksgiving dish for you ...)

 

I’m in love with orecchiette.  Something about then looks so much more elegant and enticing than say elbow macaroni or mostaccioli.  It’s possible that I choose recipes just for their inclusion of this sweet little ear-shaped pasta.  I don’t know why I do this, though, because I have NEVER once found orecchiette at any of my grocery stores.  They are simply nonexistent.  There is cavatelli, shells, linguine, fettucine, and angel hair.  And even sometimes campanelle, which is what I substituted with in this case, but never my beloved orecchiette.  Oh I know they exist.  They exist at those little, kitschy gourmet food stores for $8/lb. but I’ve got principles that keep me from that ludicrousness.    And so I pick recipes for their cute little orecchiette and end up with pasta made from campanelle.

 

I’d give this recipe mixed reviews.  I liked that it highlights some lesser-used ingredients for pasta.  It’s got all the elements needed to pack some major flavor punch.  And yet it just didn’t quite get there.  I expected an explosion of flavors in my mouth and what I got was good pasta instead of great pasta.  I don’t think this recipe is dead, though, so if it appeals to you I’d encourage you to play around.

 

 

I think if I tried it again I’d do two things differently.  First, I would not mince the shallots.  I’d keep them in long stringy strips and sauté them until thoroughly caramelized.  (I don’t even eat onions, but I love the flavor enhancement that they give and know that many others consider them a real treat.)  Second, I would greatly enhance the lemon flavor.  Adding some lemon zest to the cream sauce and then upping the amount of fresh lemon juice at the end.

 

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola, and Brown-Butter Pecans

From Fine Cooking 102, pp. 107

Serves 4-6

 

Kosher salt

20 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed (4 cups)

3-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. dried orecchiette

1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

2 large shallots, minced (3/4 cup)

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled (1 cup)

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

 

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, set a heavy rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 500°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

 

In a food processor fitted with the medium (4 mm) slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts. Transfer them to a large bowl, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with 1-1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper, and toss until well coated. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and spread the Brussels sprouts on it in a single layer. Roast, stirring once about halfway through the cooking time, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and flecked with charred bits, 15 to 20 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette according to package directions until just al dente.

 

In a medium heavy-duty skillet, melt 1/2 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter is deeply browned and the pecans are toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

 

Melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Off the heat, add 3 oz. (3/4 cup) of the Gorgonzola and stir until melted.

 

Drain the orecchiette and return it to the pot. Add the Brussels sprouts, Gorgonzola sauce, and lemon juice and toss well. Serve, sprinkled with the pecans and the remaining Gorgonzola.

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