Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tagliatelle d'Ortica con Cozze


Update on our little vagabond puppy. His shepherd owner from up at the top of our mountain came to claim our little friend on Sunday, much to the chagrin of the inhabitants of #1 Serre Marchetto. The little fellow was only here a few days but stole everyone's heart and now he's back up the mountain, learning to herd the cows that in the summer inhabit the meadow near the top of Cucetto peak. Maybe we'll see him again when he's ready for another Bella Baita Retreat.
And now a pasta for humans and not out of a package of "YUM" either.
Shopping at the market the other day for something for our Mercato, Mare, Monte Class our favorite fishmonger,
Fabio, was pushing the Ligurian mussels as the great deal of the day, and they were. We are inland from the seaside, but it is only about 3 hours away from the Ligurian seaside, and we do get some amazingly fresh fish on a regular basis. Fabio and his family sell some of the freshest and diverse fish at the Pinerolo market. It's always worth a good nosy around.

photo courtesy of Jason Bleyl
This recipe couldn't be easier if you have some fresh pasta on hand it's even faster, but, of course, dried pasta can be substituted. I like to make a large batch of pasta when I mix some up and put part away in the freezer for another day and a fast fresh pasta selection. I made this batch with the addition of the dreaded stinging nettle, of hiking in shorts fame, or ortica in Italian. Cooked greens and other types of colorful additions to pasta doesn't really add much in the way of flavor, but does make for an eye appealing change of pace.

For the pasta
I used about 1/3 of this batch and froze the rest.

400 g flour
4 eggs, large
a couple of large handfuls of stinging nettle leaves
Preparation:
Wear gloves when gathering nettles
Use leaves from stalks before they have flowered and not too old and tough for a less strong flavor
Strip leaves from the stalks and lightly boil in a small amount of water with a pinch of salt.
Drain, cool and squeeze dry.
Chop fine or blend in the food processor with one of the eggs before adding to the flour.

Make a well in the flour add the eggs and dry greens.
Begin incorporating the eggs a little at a time to make a smooth pliable paste.
Add more liquid, like a table spoon or twoo of olive oil if the pasta seems too dry or a bit more flour if too wet.
The dough should be firm and pliable.
Cover and let the dough relax for about 20 minutes for ease of rolling out.
Roll thin and cut into long strips and cook just a few minutes to retain a bit of a bite.
Time to be done at the same time as the sauce, serving individual plates or mixed in with the mussels moments before serving

For the Sauce:
In a large sauté pan with deep sides
Add
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced or some chopped leaves if you don't have any celery on hand
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bay leaf
a bunch of fresh herbs tied up: thyme, oregano, parsley and a large sage leaf (these are what looked good in my pots of herbs on my balcony)
a sprinkle of fennel seeds
Begin to sauté all in
2 Tb of olive oil, to soften the vegetables
Before adding
8 or so large cherry tomatoes (we have some lovely large small tomatoes called pachino that are wonderful for salad or sauce)
When all is bubbling away,
Add
500g (about a pound ) of fresh mussels, washed and cleaned (remove the "beard" by pulling the threads toward the the hinge, not the opening)
Stir and add
generous splash of white wine
Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes or when all mussels have opened and the vegetables are soft.
Add cooked pasta and mix or place a portion of past on individual plates and serve the mussels with some vegetable and sauce on to individual plates to serve.


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