Sunday, November 30, 2008

the tyranny of leftover turkey

So Turkey Day is over, doorstop sandwiches have lost their appeal, and there's still a mountain of leftover roast bird in the fridge. You have no cat. What to do?

I didn't grow up with Thanksgiving, for reasons that should be obvious, but destroying a turkey is among my family's Christmas traditions, and I am perfectly familiar with the attendant problem of leftovers.* Every year, the post-dinner scene is absolutely the same: no more mashed potatoes (my fault), leftover corn, leftover peas, and however much white meat is usually found on a turkey intended for a family of four, minus a slice or two.

(In my family, white meat is what you end up with if you're not quick enough to claim a leg.)

It tends to show up in sandwiches a day later, slathered in mustard in an effort to give it some kind of moisture and flavor, before my mother adds it to the soup she's already made from the carcass. Then it sits in the bottom of the stockpot until the soup runs out.

(In my family, the roast turkey dies not one, but three deaths.)

Which is why I decided that for my first Thanksgiving at home (rather than as a guest in someone else's home), I'd rather not have turkey at all.

Had I been alone, I might have made a mountain of mashed potatoes and gravy and called it good, but Lucille came to stay with me, and she had her own ideas for the menu. We ended up eating a meal of roast Cornish hens, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, white asparagus, and tiramisu. (Yes, tiramisu. We're neither of us fans of pumpkin pie.)

Unfortunately, a Cornish hen, though a lot smaller than even the smallest turkey, is still a bird with a lot of white meat. I knew the rest of the leftovers weren't going to be a problem, but it appeared that I had not succeeded in escaping the tyranny of leftover roast bird. The specter of dry sandwiches loomed large in my future.

Desperate to escape my fate, I engaged in some rapid thinking. The antidote to dry white meat is, of course, gravy. Lots and lots of gravy. The best way to get a good gravy-to-meat ratio is to cut the meat into small pieces. Gravy and meat in small pieces... pot pie!

So it was with considerable relief that I cut the leftover meat into small pieces, cut up some of the leftover vegetables into small pieces, whisked up another pan of gravy, and made a batch of biscuits for pie topping. The pot pie made for a satisfying dinner, and I knew that I wouldn't be worrying about leftovers later.

If you have that mountain of leftover roast bird and no cat, you may want to try doing the same.

(Photos will come if and when Lucille gets around to sending them to me.)

Poultry Pot Pie

Works for turkey, chicken, and any other bird that has bland white meat.

(Will serve one, because it freezes, but exact number of servings is determined by the quantity of leftovers you're trying to use up.)

Begin by assessing your leftovers. You'll want all the meat on whatever bird it was that you chose to roast, plus any remaining gravy. (If it was a particularly enormous bird, you might want to make more than one pot pie.) You might also be able to use some of your leftover vegetables if they weren't served in any kind of sauce or casserole, but you'll have to find something else to do with the rest.

To make poultry pot pie, start by taking a big, stove-and-ovenproof pan (a cast iron skillet is ideal) and putting it on the stove over low heat.

Add a small knob of butter. Once the butter melts, add one finely chopped white or yellow onion and two or three diced carrots to the pan. Let the vegetables cook, giving them an occasional stir.

Meanwhile, set a saucepan on the stove over low heat. Add a small knob of butter. Once it melts, sprinkle it with flour. Use a whisk to blend the flour into the butter until you have absolutely no lumps remaining, then pour in a generous amount of chicken stock. Turn up the heat slightly; keep stirring with the whisk until the mixture thickens slightly - it's supposed to be on the thin side. Whisk in any leftover gravy. Season with thyme and sage, or herbes de provence if you have no objections to something not entirely traditional. Turn off the heat.

Take all the meat you pulled from the carcass of the roast bird (you're going to use the carcass for stock, right?) and cut it into small cubes. Add it to the pan with the onions and carrots. Pour over the gravy mixture from the other pan, and give everything a good stir. If, by some freakish chance, you're a little short on leftover meat, you can add a handful of white rice to bulk up the mixture. (You can add it to the pan raw. It'll finish cooking when the pie is in the oven.)

If your leftovers included plain green vegetables, like green beans, you can cut them up and add them to the pan. If not, throw in a handful or two of frozen green peas.

Turn up the heat a little, and let the mixture simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Time to make the biscuit topping. Take out a big mixing bowl and dump in three cups of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, and a half-teaspoon of salt. Cut in three-quarters of a stick of butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until you get coarse crumbs with the occasional lump.

You have a choice at this point. You can use milk, half-and-half, cream, or sour cream as the liquid component of your dough. If you don't have a cholesterol problem, I strongly recommend the sour cream. Measure our one-and-a-half cups of the liquid of your choosing and add it to the other ingredients. (You may need a little more.) Mix lightly until a soft dough forms.

Pinch off small handfuls of the dough and shape into rounds. Place the rounds atop the pie filling in the pan. Put the pan in the oven, and bake for thirty-five to forty minutes, or until the biscuit topping is golden. Serve immediately.

*Australians do not celebrate Thanksgiving. I have met a surprising number of people who have failed to grasp this concept.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

indecent exposure

So I've already pushed the bounds of decency with barely dressed pasta. I guess it was only a matter of time before I crossed the line into pasta wearing nothing whatsoever.

No, not unsauced pasta. I'm talking about gnudi.

Gnudi are a Florentine specialty. Their name, literally translated from Italian, means "naked," because they look like little pillows of ravioli filling minus their outer layer of pasta. Made with ricotta cheese, sometimes with the addition of spinach, they're the lighter, lesser-known cousins of gnocchi.

And sometimes, they start out as exactly what they look like: ravioli filling. Excess ravioli filling, to be precise.

You see, after years of cooking meals for fifty with Hillel, followed by time in a hotel kitchen, my sense of proportion is sometimes a little off. At this point, I know how much pasta to prepare if I want dinner with leftovers for lunch (half a pound, dry), and how many people a three-pound roast chicken will feed (anywhere between four and six, depending on the sides and the size of the carnivorous appetites involved), but every once in a while, I vastly overestimate quantities and get them completely and utterly wrong.

For example, that sweet potato ravioli recipe? You'll probably want to make a double batch of pasta dough if you use two pounds of sweet potatoes for the filling. (Correction has been appended to the original recipe.) I'm afraid this didn't occur to me until this past weekend, because when I made the ravioli originally, I started out with five pounds of filling.

Of course, I couldn't catch the original error without compounding it: if two pounds of sweet potato filling correspond to two batches of pasta dough, then two batches of pasta dough will not stretch to an additional three pounds of spinach-ricotta filling.

The best part? I was supposedly teaching someone else how to cook. (Hi, Michelle!)

Fortunately, the ravioli turned out just fine, even if I did end up taking home a ridiculous amount of leftover spinach-ricotta filling. I figured that I'd just spend Sunday afternoon making up another batch for myself.

Which worked just fine until I ran out of eggs and reached the point where I felt like I never wanted to ever see another raviolo again.

Note that I still had a little over a pound of spinach-ricotta filling at this point. Note that the spinach-ricotta filling contained raw egg, and therefore couldn't be eaten straight.

That was when I remembered gnudi. It was the work of minutes to stir flour into the leftover filling, roll it out, and cut it into bite-size pieces. A quick sauce, a dip in simmering water, and I had solved the excess filling problem and made dinner, to boot. A pretty (in)decent correction for a silly error, I think.

Spinach Gnudi

You can serve these in a cream sauce if you, like me, have an unnatural fondness for creamed spinach, but a tomato-based sauce is really a better match. If you like wordplay, and don't mind it at the expense of mixing up your culinary geography, you can serve your gnudi in a puttanesca sauce.

(Serves one, with plenty of leftovers.)

Assuming you didn't make way too much ravioli filling and you're starting from scratch, you'll begin with a pound of washed spinach leaves.

Put the spinach leaves in a large pot or heatproof bowl, and cover with boiling water. Let it sit for a few minutes, until the spinach leaves wilt. Transfer the spinach to a colander. When it has cooled enough to handle, pick it up in handfuls and squeeze out all the excess liquid.

Chop the spinach finely. Gather it in handfuls once again and squeeze out any remaining liquid.

Put the chopped spinach in a big bowl. Set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a large pan, and add one finely chopped white or yellow onion. Season with a sprinkling of nutmeg, and cook until soft and translucent.

Transfer the onion to the bowl with the spinach. Add half a pound of whole milk ricotta, and stir until you have a smooth white mixture flecked with green. Salt to taste, then add a little extra - you're going to add flour, too. Crack in one egg and mix until fully incorporated.

Gently stir in three-quarters of a cup of flour, one quarter-cup at a time. Cover the bowl and let it sit in the fridge for fifteen minutes or so.

Clean off a section of your counter, and sprinkle it in flour. Set out a baking tray.

Take a handful of the gnudi dough and roll it out on the floured counter until you have a long rope roughly the thickness of your thumb. (A little smaller if you have large thumbs.) Cut the rope into half-inch widths, and set them on the baking tray. Repeat until all the dough is gone.

Prepare a pan of sauce. (See note above.)

Set a pot of salted water on to boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down to a hearty simmer. (Gnudi will fall apart if you cook them at a rolling boil.) Drop the gnudi in, a dozen or so at a time, and cook until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and deposit them in your pan of sauce.

Once all the gnudi have been cooked, turn the heat up under the sauce and cook, stirring gently to make sure the gnudi are well-coated, for two or three minutes. Turn off the heat. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

classic remedies

As I previously mentioned, I've been spending time with other law students outside of class. Tuesday's dinner-and-House M.D. with Kitty has expanded to include Tom, another law student with a twisted sense of humor. Socializing with law students has its benefits: no-one understands the misery of law school better than other law students. It also has its downside: it gives me greater exposure to other people's rhinoviruses.

Last week, Tom came to dinner with a head cold. Two days later, Kitty complained that she'd come down with a head cold. By Saturday morning, it became clear that I hadn't escaped unscathed, either.

Admittedly, it cleared up by Monday morning, but it was enough for me to soundly blame them both, and declare that we'd be eating matzo ball soup this Tuesday. And once I decided on soup, I thought I'd stick to a theme and serve beef brisket and potato kugel, too.

You might be thinking, given the story I told in my last entry, that this might be a menu I could whip up in my sleep. You'd be wrong. Ironically, I never once made matzo ball soup or brisket during my tenure as Hillel head chef during college. Kosher chicken stock and kosher beef were a little too pricey for our budget, and even if the cost hadn't been prohibitive, I knew my audience: there was no way I could measure up to expectations fuelled by all those Jewish grandmothers. Instead, I stuck to dishes like teriyaki salmon and mushroom quiche.*

In fact, the only other occasion on which I ever prepared matzo ball soup and beef brisket was a pseudo-Seder at the mad hippie engineer house. Of course, I only need one chance to start tinkering with a recipe. I behaved myself when it came to the recipe for matzo ball soup (after all, there is no sense in messing with perfection), but I couldn't resist putting my own spin on the beef brisket. It's got prunes and carrots, but it's spiced with coriander seeds and green peppercorns. The result is hardly traditional, but it is, I dare say, quite tasty.

Not Very Traditional Braised Beef Brisket

Beef brisket takes a long time to cook. It doesn't need much attention, but don't start this recipe unless you can stay at home for several hours.

(Makes a lot. Better to round up three or four people to join you, unless you really want to eat brisket sandwiches for a week.)

Take two to three pounds of beef brisket, trimmed of any excess fat, and brown briefly on each side in a heavy pan. Transfer the brisket to a large pot with lid.

Add one teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of ground coriander seeds (or crushed whole seeds, but you'll need to strain them out later), one teaspoon of crushed green peppercorns, a quarter-cup of brown sugar, and a generous glug of balsamic vinegar to the pan. Add enough water to fully cover the meat.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Skim off any grey scum that rises to the surface, then turn the heat down very, very low, and put the lid on the pot. You'll want the mixture at a bare simmer, with just a few bubbles breaking the surface. You'll want it to stay this way for the next three to four hours. Now go do something else - laundry, reading, outlining.

Check on the brisket once every hour, skimming off any scum. Once you've passed the three hour mark, stick a fork in the brisket and lift it up. If it starts to tear apart, let it cook at a bare simmer for another half an hour or so with the lid off. If it doesn't, put the lid back on and try again in another hour.

When the brisket has really started to lose structural integrity, lift it out of the pot carefully, and set it in a casserole dish. Use two forks to shred the meat into small chunks. Cover the dish and set it aside.

Bring the liquid remaining in the pot to a boil, and drop in four or five peeled, chopped carrots. Cook the carrots until you can just pierce them with a fork - they shouldn't be too soft. Lift them out of the pot, and add them to the casserole dish with the brisket.

(If you used whole crushed coriander seeds rather than ground, you'll want to strain the mixture at this point. Depending on how much you like peppercorns, you may want to strain the mixture anyway.)

Bring the liquid in the pot to a boil again. Add up to two cups of prunes, depending on how much you like prunes. (I like prunes a lot.) Cook the prunes until they swell up and turn soft but not mushy. Lift them out of the pot and add them to the casserole dish.

Bring the liquid in the pot to a steady simmer, and reduce until you have a thin, sticky sauce. Salt to taste. Pour the sauce over the brisket. Cover the casserole dish and put it in a warm oven for fifteen or twenty minutes. Serve with potato kugel, or something similarly starchy.

Note: Brisket can be made the day before serving and reheated.

*Teriyaki salmon with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach was a crowd favorite. Go figure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

stark ravioli mad

It seems that I've been going about my quest for kitchenware the wrong way. The trick is not to convince people to buy you kitchenware without getting married. The trick is to wait for other people to get married - and then take their unloved wedding gifts off their hands.

Like pasta makers. Googie Baba (the frequent partner-in-crime of Virgin in the Volcano) had one that she was using as a dust-catcher. I say "had," because when she heard me lamenting my sorry lack of a pasta maker, she offered to give it to me. Naturally, I jumped to accept it.

So now I own a pasta maker, and Googie gets fresh ravioli as a thank-you.

And now I will finally tell the story, which I've hinted at, of how I once tried to make ravioli for fifty (almost) single-handedly.

I cooked with Hillel, the Jewish students' association, during freshman year of college. Every Friday afternoon, I'd head over to the religious center, and spend several hours in the tiny kosher kitchen with a group of other students, helping to prepare the meal that would be served after Shabbat services. The head chef was a crazy drama major whose culinary creations trod the fine line between genius and madness, and we made everything from pad thai to chicken-fried steak.

Sophomore year, the crazy drama major landed a lead role in the theater department's big spring production. The rehearsal schedule left Hillel looking for a new head chef. They asked if I would be interested. In a fit of insanity, I said yes.

Which meant that come second semester, I was no longer going to be just helping out with Shabbat dinner. I was going to be responsible for making sure that Shabbat dinner would happen.

So naturally, for my inaugural meal, I chose to prepare the most impractical dish I could possibly come up with: butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter sauce. Granted, the rest of the menu wasn't so bad - minestrone, green salad, and brownies - but it was overwhelmed by the reality of twenty pounds of butternut squash and a mountain of wonton wrappers.*

Add in the fact that I hadn't quite grasped the basics of posting to the Hillel mailing list, and therefore hadn't confirmed that anyone else was going to show up, and I had all the makings of the oddest all-nighter I ever pulled in college. (It was a good thing I had no Friday classes that semester.)

The night before the dinner, I roasted twenty pounds of butternut squash, mashed twenty pounds of butternut squash, and seasoned twenty pounds of butternut squash. I chopped vegetables for the minestrone and assembled the salad.

Sometime in the early hours of the morning, I sat down with an enormous bowl of seasoned butternut squash and a mountain of wonton wrappers, and started to make ravioli.

My memories of the rest of the night are a little fuzzy. I know I stopped to get breakfast the next morning, and a few people did show up to help that afternoon. Somehow, we did manage to make enough ravioli to feed everyone, and I learned my lesson about planning meals for a crowd.

The following recipe is a reworked version of the aforementioned ravioli, using sweet potatoes in place of the butternut squash. The filling is seasoned with nutmeg and green onions, and they're served in herbed brown butter. If you're going to make these for anything other than personal consumption, it'll go much faster if you round up all the volunteers (willing or unwilling) that you can get.

But seriously? Don't even think about making them for fifty.

Sweet Potato Ravioli

You'll need a ravioli stamp if you want those neat little edges on each raviolo, but you can cut them by hand if you're not too worried about how they look.

(Makes four to six servings, depending on your appetite. They freeze well.)

Appended correction: You need one batch of pasta dough per pound of filling. The recipe as written below has the wrong ratios; you can correct it by either halving the quantities for the filling, or making a double batch of pasta dough.

This is not a complicated recipe, but it is a time-consuming one. You'll want two days - one to make the filling and the pasta dough, and the next to assemble the ravioli.

First, prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 400F. Take two pounds of sweet potatoes, peel them, cut them into chunks, and roast in a foil-covered pan until soft. Remove from the oven. Set aside.

Take a bunch of green onions, mince them finely, and saute in a pan with half a stick of butter.

Transfer the sweet potatoes to a big bowl. Break them up with a potato masher or a wooden spoon until you have a thick mash. Season with nutmeg. Add the cooked green onions, along with any butter remaining in the pan. Add a generous dollop of sour cream. Stir until the mixture is smooth and even. Salt to taste. Cover the bowl and stick it in the refrigerator. You can forget about it until tomorrow.

Next, make the pasta dough: Dump two cups of all-purpose flour on a very, very clean countertop. Make a well in the middle. Crack in four egg yolks. Pour in a tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of water. Add a dash of salt. Use your fingers to break up the eggs and swirl them around to pull the flour in, little by little. (More detailed instructions can be found here.)

Once you have a rather shaggy mass of dough, start kneading. Wet your hands if it seems very dry; continue kneading. Knead until you have a stiff dough that is very smooth to the touch. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. You can forget about the dough until tomorrow, too.

Is it tomorrow? Pull the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Get out your bowl of filling. Grab a teaspoon. Set out a few baking trays.

Set up your pasta maker, and roll out batches of the dough to the second-thinnest setting. (Probably about 5 or 6 on the dial, depending on your model.) Cover the sheets with a damp tea-towel.

Now the assembly begins.

Take one sheet of dough and cut it into rough squares, about two inches by two inches wide. (Combine all the scraps into a ball to be rolled out again later.)

Take one square of dough, put a heaped teaspoon of filling on it, and lay a second square on top. Push down firmly with your thumbs around the filling to create a tight seal between the two layers of dough. Use a ravioli stamp or trim the edges as necessary. Set your finished raviolo on the baking tray.

Repeat this process until you run out of filling or dough, or patience. The ravioli can either be frozen immediately for later use, or cooked for immediate consumption. (You'll probably want to do a little of both.)

To cook the ravioli, set a big pot of salted water on the stove over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, drop the ravioli in a few at a time. Cook for four minutes if they're fresh, and six to seven if they're frozen. (Just make sure the fillings are warmed through.)

Serve with browned butter (cook over low heat until it turns light brown in color) seasoned with rosemary or sage.

*I wasn't going to make ravioli from scratch. I wasn't that crazy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

a truly singular recipe

I collect recipes. I think I've mentioned this before, but it probably bears repeating, given the infrequency with which I will actually sit down and follow someone else's recipe through from start to finish.

I clip recipes from newspapers. I take recipe flyers from the supermarket. If you've ever been in a doctor's waiting room and found a magazine missing pages... that might have been me. (Sorry. I really like recipes for raspberry desserts.)

I have solicited recipes from everyone over the years. There’s my high school adviser’s recipe for stracciatella, barely a paragraph long. There’s that almond cookie recipe from Prunier’s, which I constructed from a list of ingredients and quantities. But no recipe is quite as singular as the one I have for polpettone, as served at La Cicala e La Formica in Rome.

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

La Cicala e La Formica was one of my favorite lunch spots in Rome. Located in Esquilino, not far from the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, on a quiet little side street, it had outside tables and a ten-euro lunch special. I also got a kick out of the name.*

For your ten euros, you'd get a bottle of mineral water, a primi and a secondi, with two options to choose from for each. The primi would be two different kinds of pasta (or sometimes a pasta and a soup), and the secondi a choice between meat or a vegetarian dish.

I studied Italian before I went to Rome, but my classes and textbooks didn't prepare me for the rich and varied vocabulary of menus. I ordered a lot of dishes without being exactly sure what they were. Polpettone was one of them - I knew it was some sort of meat dish, but that was all.

I didn't expect it to be the best meatloaf I'd ever eaten.

Polpetti, you see, are little balls of ground meat, usually beef or pork. Polpettone (the suffix "-one" denotes something that is bigger than usual) is therefore a very large ball (or log) of ground meat. So polpettone ai funghi porcini is a log of ground meat with porcini mushrooms - in other words, meatloaf.

Whatever you want to call it, it was delicious: moist, tender, and wonderfully savory. I scraped my plate clean, and then asked the waitress if I could get the recipe.

I did tell her I could decipher a recipe in Italian. Either she didn't hear me, or she didn't believe me, because... well, you can see the results above.

I can hardly claim to be a paragon of precision in my recipes - not with my handful of this, pinch of that approach. Not when I consider "glug" and "splash" to be perfectly valid measurements. And probably not when I use "gloopy," in perfect seriousness, to describe texture.

But "Everything mixed and cooked for 40 minutes in hoven [sic]" is a category of brevity unto itself.

Fortunately, it does provide quantities for meat and eggs, so I looked at a few recipes for meatloaf and filled in the gaps for the rest. My version is below; I suspect you'll find that it's easier to follow. Of course, if you'd like to try the original, stop by La Cicala e La Formica if you're ever in Rome during the autumn. (It's right near the Esquilino Metro stop.)

Let me know if they're still doing the lunch special.

Polpettone Ai Funghi Porcini

I'm sure this would taste best with fresh porcini, but unless you're in Europe, you're probably not going to find them. You can get dried porcini from Whole Foods and other specialty food stores.

(Serves one, as long as you like meatloaf sandwiches.)

Take two ounces of dried porcini, cover them in roughly one and a half cups of warm water, and let sit until reconstituted. Reserve the liquid, but discard the dregs (you don't want any dirt that may have been clinging to the mushrooms.)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a baking tray.

Chop the porcini finely, and combine in a large mixing bowl with one cup of fresh breadcrumbs. Add the reserved soaking liquid. Add a generous sprinkling of dried thyme and three cloves of garlic, finely minced.

Add one pound of ground beef (eighty-five percent lean) to the mushroom mixture. Crack in one egg. Add a teaspoon of salt and a dusting of ground black pepper. Stick your hands into the mess and toss until everything is well-combined and easily shapes into a ball.

Transfer the mixture to the baking tray, and shape it into a rectangular loaf. Bake for forty to forty-five minutes, or until thoroughly cooked all the way through. Serve in slices. It goes well with rosemary potatoes.

*"The Cicada and the Ant," like Fontaine's poem.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

if it's november, it must be fishy pasta

November. Ugh.

While November in Australia is really quite agreeable (not quite so scorching as December), November in New England makes me wish for a fast-forward button. Do we really need all these weeks of cold and rain and dreary grey sky as a prelude to three months of snow?

As you might imagine, November makes me even less inclined to do my reading than usual. Sadly, we've still got several weeks before the semester is over, so I've been loading up on brain food in an effort to maintain focus. (Or what passes for focus by my standards.) Which means - you guessed it - fishy pasta.

This time, it's a take on a traditional Roman recipe for pasta with broccoli and anchovies. A few of the stands at the Copley Square Farmers' Market have been carrying Roman broccoli, which is a wonderfully trippy-looking variety with fractal points. It tastes more like cauliflower than your usual round-headed broccoli, and it has a nuttiness that works nicely with the salt of the fish.

(Photo definitely not mine. It's from Wikimedia Commons.)

The dish is traditionally made with short pasta, like rigatoni or penne, but I was in the mood for fresh pasta, so I made orecchiette ("little ears") instead. I haven't yet gotten the hang of shaping them correctly, but they didn't require a pasta roller, and they're rather satisfying to make.

Now, I know I've called it fishy pasta, and I suspect I'm not going to convince any die-hard anchovy haters, but this dish really doesn't taste all that fishy. The anchovies really just add a salty note.

I suppose you could leave them out... but I wouldn't call it brain food.

Pasta with Roman Broccoli, Anchovies and Sausage

You can omit the sausage without much drama, but I strongly recommend keeping the anchovies in.

(Serves one, with leftovers.)

Set a pot of salted water on to boil.

Heat a generous quantity of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Add two minced cloves of garlic, a dash of red chili flakes, and one can of anchovies in olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies.

Once the pasta water reaches a rolling boil, add half a pound of short pasta, shells, or orecchiette. Cook until al dente, then drain and set aside.

Take one Italian sausage (sweet or spicy, your choice), remove it from its casing, and add it in pieces to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.

Add one head of Roman broccoli, cut into small pieces, followed by one cup of cheap white wine. When the alcohol fumes have burned off, cover and cook until the broccoli is tender.

Remove the cover, add the pasta, and cook until the liquid in the pan has reduced to a light sauce. Serve immediately.