Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chestnut Fettuccine with Robiola and Brown Butter

I wrote a wonderful Valentine’s Day post. It was witty, charming and hilariously funny. It was a glorious manifestation of where I am going as a writer. Unfortunately, I wrote it in my head while waiting in the supermarket line and by the time I came home, I forgot every single line, and every single word of my masterpiece. In retrospect, I should have typed it into my iPhone, except that it is 20F outside, and just like hedgehogs, hamsters, skunks and ground squirrels, my iPhone hibernates at below freeze temperature. (Hello Apple people, I hope you are listening.)

I am not exactly a creature that celebrates V-day. I said that loud and clear. I even wrote about it. In my book, V-day typically goes unnoticed. Well, not exactly, because the greeting card industry and the chocolate makers of the world do not allow us to forget. But I try to ignore. So what made me flip-flop?

OK... It goes like this... I have a terrible confession to make. About a week or so ago, I saw an Imperia pasta machine on Williams Sonoma web page. (Btw, this is not an add, you know that I do not do adds and pay everything with my own money. And this is a true story.) Anyhow, the Imperia I saw was exactly the same as the Imperia pasta machine I already have. Except that it was red. It came in the most beautiful red color -- the color of Burmese rubies, the color of red Ferrari, the color of my Le Creuset pots. And we all know that I have a thing or two for red. So, I zoomed the picture of the red Imperia to 300% and left it on my computer. Then I left my computer on the dining table for everyone to see. (Everyone = Dr. V) When, after a couple of days, Everyone did not register, I made a casual comment, which if I recall correctly, had to do with the beauty of that particular pasta machine. I also remember mentioning the V-day and the location of the nearest Williams Sonoma. I am happy to report that I am now a proud owner of a red Imperia pasta machine, which, needless to say, I got as a Valentine’s Day present from my hubby.

I am seriously loosing sleep over this. I am a hypocrite. As in “a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs”, according to Webster. So, perhaps by coming clean via this public venue, I will not burn in Hell for my lack of virtue(s). Or perhaps, the Grill Masters upstairs will turn the temperature a couple of degrees down and I will burn a little bit less.

Although, to my defense, pasta IS about love. There is no dish that is more universally loved than a bowl of pasta. And there is no dish that I love more than a bowl of homemade fettuccine. When I want to treat someone to a glorious dinner, I make them homemade pasta. PASTA = LOVE. Remember how Sting used to sing “if you love somebody, set them free.” As much as I love, love, love Mr. Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, I will have to disagree. If you love somebody, make them a bowl of pasta. Hence, every time I make fresh pasta I live the spirit of the Valentine's Day.

One of my favorite pasta dishes at the moment is Marcia Kiesel’s Pasta with Robiola and Truffles. (Minus the truffles, the dish is perfectly glorious without them.) We ate so much of it recently that they will have to increase the production of Robiola in Italy. For a while, I thought it to be the most perfect pasta dish ever, until I found a way to redefine the boundaries of perfection, by making it with chestnut fettuccine. Pasta made with chestnut flour makes this world a better place to live. And that, my friends, is how I will be celebrating this V-day.

After all, maybe I am not such a humongous hypocrite.

Just a tiny one. Happy V-day.

Chestnut Fettuccine with Robiola and Brown Butter 

* 10 oz chestnut fettuccine 
* 6 tbsp butter 
* 10-12 oz Robiola cheese 
* salt and freshly ground pepper 
* (optional) one small fresh truffle of your choice, peeled and sliced super-thinly

About an hour before you will be preparing the dish, cut the robiola into 1/2-inch cubes and let them come to room temperature.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Cook over medium-low heat until the milk solids turn a rich brown and the butter smells nutty, about six to eight minutes .

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Reduce the heat to low. Return the pot to the stove, add the reserved water and the browned butter and toss well. Add half of the cheese and toss until the cheese melts completely and incorporates itself into the butter sauce. Then add the rest of the cheese and toss until the cubes begins to melt. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to individual bowls, shave the truffle on top and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Chestnut Fettuccine

* 7 oz (200 g) chestnut flout
* 7 oz (200 g) all purpose flour (I used King Arthur Organic Unbleached Flour)
* 4 extra-large organic eggs
* semolina flour for dusting and sprinkling

Pour both flours into a bowl and mix well. Make a crater in the flour and crack the eggs and into it. Mix the eggs with a fork until they are completely blended with the flour. Knead the mixture with your hands until it is somewhat homogenous. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit of water; if it is too soft, add a bit more all purpose flour. (You will find that the dough made with chestnut flour is a little bit stickier than the dough made with regular flour.) Remove the mixture from the bowl and place it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough with the heel of your hand for about ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Make the dough sheets: Cut a piece of dough and using a rolling pin flatten it into a rectangle thin enough to go through the rollers at the widest setting. Flour it lightly. Work the dough through the machine, by progressively reducing the width of the rollers. Starting at the second to widest setting, pass the dough repeatedly through the rollers two times at each setting. Then set the rollers one notch narrower and repeat. . (If the dough sheet becomes sticky in the rolling process, you may want to flour it again.) Roll the pasta sheet finishing with the second thinnest setting.

Install the fettuccine attachment and pass the sheet through the cutter. Gently gather the fettucinne and place them on the drying rack. If you are not using the rack, carefully shape the pasta into small nested mounds on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted with semolina. Sprinkle some more semolina on top of the fettucinne, that will prevent them from sticking.

Cook the pasta right away. (If I am not using the pasta right away, I like to wrap it in parchment paper, and then cover it with plastic wrap tightly to minimize drying, and store it in the freezer. I then put the frozen pasta into the boiling water – no need to defrost – it will minimize the likelihood that your fettuccine will stick.)

Yields about 1 lb 4 oz (550g) of pasta


  1. I only celebrate V day on my blog, it's an excuse to make something glorious and decadent. I myself do not celebrate but I also would love that shiny red pasta machine. Mine is so old an Imperia over 15 years old the blades are no longer sharp enough and the pasta does not cut properly. Good reason to get one I dare say. I loved your post, I thought it was perfect as is this pasta dish, I agree about the chestnut flour, and that pasta =love. So happy you got your machine. I also love Williams Sonoma!!

    1. Oh Suzanne, I already gave my old pasta machine to a friend. Had I known, I could have kept it for you. There is no one more deserving. But I do have an extra cutting attachment for pappardelle. If your old machine uses the same attachments as new Imperias, let me know.

  2. The beautiful red pasta machine deserves hypocrisy! (we don't do V-day either, but I won't complain if my boyfriend cooks dinner for me that night for a change...)


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