Enriching your palette with North Italian dishes

October 14, 1992|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Contributing WriterUniversal Press Syndicate

Move over Marcella Hazan, Giuliano Bugialli and Lorenza de'Medici. Make room on your lofty Northern Italian culinary perch for Lynne Rossetto Kasper, author of "The Splendid Table: Recipes From Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food" (Morrow, $30).

For Ms. Kasper, a respected food journalist and professional cooking teacher, "The Splendid Table" represents a decade of work that embraces 500 years of culinary history, from the Renaissance that forever changed the way food is prepared to today's imaginative variations on a wide range of culinary themes.

The cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, which begins on the Adriatic Sea just south of Venice and stretches almost to Italy's west coast, "is as complex as an intricately woven tapestry," Ms. Kasper writes, and "rich in dishes of deep, layered tastes."

This is clearly evident as she guides the reader through antipasti, pastas (including a special chapter on the sweet pastas of the Renaissance), soups, meats and poultry, breads and desserts.

*

Ms. Kasper says this baked macaroni casserole is common throughout Emilia-Romagna. "Assemble it one evening, and serve it the next as a one-dish dinner," she says. However, if it is done ahead and refrigerated, let it stand 1 hour at room temperature before baking.

Baked macaroni with winter tomato sauce

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound small fresh button mushrooms, halved or quartered

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large clove garlic, minced

Sauce and pasta:

1 recipe Winter Tomato Sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/3 cups fresh peas, cooked, or tiny frozen peas, defrosted

6 quarts salted water

1 pound dried imported penne, sedani or fusilli macaroni

1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces mild Italian sheep cheese (Lago Monate Pecorino, Fiore Sardo, Pecorino Crotonese)

Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and parsley, and cook over high heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, 3 minutes, or until they start giving off a little liquid. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then add the garlic. Continue sauteing, turning often, 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden brown and all their liquid has evaporated. Cool, and taste for seasoning.

In a large bowl, combine the winter tomato sauce, cream and peas. Bring the salted water to a hard rolling boil. Drop in macaroni and stir to separate the pieces. Cook at a fierce boil 12 minutes, or until the pasta is barely tender enough to eat, still a little undone. Drain thoroughly in a colander. Fold the pasta into the sauce, along with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Use the 1 tablespoon olive oil to grease a 2 1/2 quart shallow baking dish. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread half the pasta in the baking dish. Spoon all of the mushrooms over the pasta. Using a vegetable peeler, shave half the sheep cheese over the mushrooms. Cover with the remaining pasta, then top with shavings of the rest of the cheese.

Cover dish lightly with foil, bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out warm. Uncover and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted but not browned. Serve hot

Winter tomato sauce

3 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 small carrot, minced

1 small stalk celery with leaves, minced

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

1 large clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves, or 2 fresh sage leaves and 1/2 -inch sprig fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon imported Italian tomato paste

2 pounds canned tomatoes with their liquid, or fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

pinch of sugar (optional)

salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a 4-quart heavy saucepan. Drop in the minced vegetables and parsley. Slowly saute, stirring often, 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Add the garlic and herbs, and cook only 30 seconds. Blend in the tomato paste and the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Bring the sauce to a lively bubble and keep it uncovered as you cook it over medium-high heat 8 minutes, or until thickened. Taste for seasoning.

Makes enough for above recipe or for 1 pound dried pasta.

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