Valle d’Aosta – Wines from the Alps

Mont_Blanc ski holidays italyIn the most northwest corner of Italy, tucked away in the Alps beneath majestic Mont Blanc, is the smallest Italian wine region, full of obscure, but wonderful wines. To quote Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch in their “Vino Italiano – The Regional Wines of Italy”, “Given the minuscule quantities of wine…, very little Valle d’Aosta wine makes it out of the region, never mind overseas. But if there were ever a wine region that merited a field trip, Valle d’Aosta is it. The valley often feels like a land that time forgot, with a string of Medieval castles set on dramatic hillside perches and terraced vineyards where tractors would fear to tread.” Not to mention world class skiing at venues like Cervinia, Courmayeur, Alagna, La Thuile, and many more. A perfect spot for one of our Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine gourmet Italy ski holidays.

On the label of any bottle of these Alpine wines, you may find the French Vallée d’Aoste as often as the Italian Valle d’Aosta. Vineyards in Valle d’Aosta perch on steep slopes at the highest elevations of any in Europe. The precarious position of these vineyards means every task must be performed by humans, as tractors cannot function on these slopes. The wines are by both tiny producers, such as the Viticulteurs Encaveurs Vallee d’Aoste, many of whom still age their wines in the traditional stone cellars, as well as bigger cooperatives. You will find a few familiar grapes, a mixture of Swiss, French and Italian, such as Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, and Gamay, as well as some varietals rarely seen elsewhere, like Cornalin, Fumin and Petit Rouge.

les cretes fumin ski holidays italyThe wine designations here are a bit confusing. There is one overarching Valle d’Aosta DOC, with around 25 styles included – some defined by their varietal, others by a geographical designation – so the labeling sometimes may indicate the grape, others a location. These designations are summarized below.

Valle d’Aosta DOC

Varietals

White:

Chardonnay, Muller-Thurgau, Petit Arvine (Swiss Valais), Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir Blanc/Bianco (Pinot Noir vinified as a white, separating the juice from the skins.)

Rose:

Prëmetta (a red grape with very thin skins)

Red:

Fumin (native grape, similar to Syrah), Gamay, Petit Rouge, Pinot Noir

Blends:

Rosato (rose wine made from a blend of approved local grapes), Nouveau/Novello (blend from new grapes), Rouge/Rosso (blend of approved red)

Geographic subzones

Arnad-Montjovet DOC

This subzone is located in the east part of Valle d’Aoste, near Arnad. The red wine produced here are based primarily on the Picotendro, or Nebbiolo grape (min 70%), with Dolcetto, Pinot Nero, Neyret, Freisa and Vien de Nus (max 30%). The Supérieur version comes from limited production vineyards located in the heart of this area.

These wines display an intense aroma, with hints of spices and nice tannic structure. Producers include the co-op La Kiuva which I have found here in the US.

la kiuva arnad montjouvet ski holidays italyBlanc de Morgex et de La Salle DOC

The Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle DOC is particularly interesting, made from grapes harvested in the highest vineyards in Europe at the foot of Mount Blanc. The name is a combination of varietal (Prié Blanc) and place (Morgex and La Salle), and the vines used for its production are still planted ungrafted. Two types of wines are produced in this subzone, a sparkling wine produced using the metodo classico (Champagne method), as well as a crisp, dry white. Perfect aperitif after a day of skiing!

Chambave Muscat DOC

This subzone covers a white wine produced from Moscato (Muscat) grapes cultivated in the commune of Chambave, in hills just east of Aosta. It is a full-bodied wine that is dry, with a subtle bitter aftertaste. Ideal as an aperitif, it is also used to prepare zabaione.

A sweet wine is also produced here, known as Chambave Muscat Flétri. The best white Moscato grapes are left to dry in an area away from the sun, concentrating their sugar and aromas.  The result is an intensely perfumed wine, wonderful with the local Fontina cheese.

Chambave Rouge DOC

From this same geographic area, a red blend is produced, mainly from Petit Rouge grapes (min 70%), blended with Dolcetto, Gamay and Pinot Nero. A ruby red wine, with floral hint and nice fruit, it is perfect with the local pork and hearty soups.

Donnas DOC

The Donnas DOC is an important wine, and used to have it’s own DOC designation before being incorporated into the Valle d’Aosta. It is a favorite of Nebbiolo fans, and has been referred to as “the mountain equivalent of Barolo”. Its production uses primarily the local Nebbiolo grapes, here called Picotendro (min. 85%),  blended with Freisa and Neyret. Full bodied and well balanced, with persistent tannins, it pairs well with grilled and roasted meats and game, as well as aged cheeses.

Enfer Arvier DOC

Produced in the Arvier territory, originally in vineyards located in a natural amphitheater where they received strong sunshine, from which the name Enfer, or “inferno” was derived. These dry, intense wines are a blend Petit Rouge grapes (min 85%) with Vien de Nus, Neyret, Dolcetto, Pinot Nero and Gamay. They are ideal with the local meats such as mocetta or bresaola, traditional soups and local cheeses.

Nus Malvoisie DOC

The name of this subzone is a bit confusing, as the Malvoise grape is actually a clone of Pinot Grigio cultivated in the commune of Nus, and is not related to the varietal Malvasia seen in other regions in Italy. More aromatic than a typical Pinot Grigio, this dry white is pleasant and versatile, great as an aperitif, with first courses of pasta or risotto, and white meat.

Here we also find another dessert wine, also called Flétri, the Nus Malvoisie Flétri. Once again, the best grapes are left on the vines to desiccate, then undergo slow fermentation and aging in small, wooden barrels. A wine with aromas of peaches and hints of dried fruit balanced with a nice acidity.

Nus Rouge DOC

Again from the commune of Nus, this red blend is based primarily on a practically extinct local grape, Vien de Nus (min 50%), with Petit Rouge, Pinot Noir and other authorized local grapes. Local legend claims that this elegant, dry red was much appreciated by Pontius Pilot, although I am not quite sure why they came up with this as a selling point. Ideal with the local meats and cheeses, it is very hard to come by.

Torrette DOC

The most produced wine of the Valle d’Aosta, this area is the largest geographical region, covering eleven municipalities include Aosta, Gressan, Saint-Christophe and Villenenuve. A blend which must be based on Petit Rouge (min 70%), with Pinot Noir, Gamay, Fumin, Vien de Nus, Dolcetto, Majolet or Prëmetta. A full-bodied red, crisp and dry, spicy and juicy, it is a versatile red that can be enjoyed all year round, either after a summer hike or winter ski day. A Supérieur version is also produced from the sunniest vineyards with per hectare yield restrictions, and longer aging requirements.
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Tagliatelle di Grano Arso con Spinaci, Gambero e Mille Fagioli

alta badia Italy ski holidays italiaoutdoorsRecently, we led a private group on a gourmet Dolomites ski holiday, spending a fantastic week skiing and dining in lovely Cortina. While visiting the slopes at Alta Badia,  we came across a local recipe book featuring recipes from the many wonderful rifugios and hotels in and around Alta Badia. I love bringing these home and recreating the dishes in my own kitchen.

tagliatelle con spinaci Italy ski holidays italiaoutdoorsOne recipe for a fresh pasta caught my attention – a recipe from Hotel Diamant, Tagliatelle con Spinaci Selvatici. The ingredients included grano arso semolina flour, or burnt wheat flour. I had never seen this used outside of Puglia, so to find it included on the menu in Trentino took me by surprise. But it has always intrigued me, so it was time to try it.

grano arso Dolomites ski holidays italiaoutdoorsThe origin of grano arso is embedded in the traditional cucina povera – cuisine of the poor or peasants – that you see in every region of Italy. In Puglia, poor field workers labored to produce durum flour for their estate owners. Following the harvest, the fields would be burned to prepare them for next season’s planting. Afterwards, the farmers would search the fields for any remaining burnt wheat kernels, gathering them and grinding them into a burnt wheat flour (grano arso), and used in the preparation of bread and pasta. Pasta made with the flour would be called pasta nero, or black pasta. Traditionally in Puglia, it would be orecchiette with broccoli rabe.

flour and eggs Italy ski holidays italiaoutdoorsIn modern times, with flour inexpensive and easily available, the use of grano arso had all but disappeared. However, the Slow Food movement has resurrected traditional foods like this, and recently a company called Pivetti in Bologna started producing a modern version of scorched flour, roasting hard wheat just like coffee. They are marketing it to chefs in the US, so I suspect that is how it has made it’s way up to Trentino. But the idea of incorporating the nutty flavor of grano arso into a pasta certainly sounded enticing, and fairly straightforward to include.

grano arso pasta Italy ski holidays italiaoutdoorsGrano Arso flour still is almost impossible to find in the grocers, but it is something pretty simple to do at home. The recipe below includes instructions on toasting the flour – basically spread it on a sheet pan and toast in the oven. Just keep an eye on it, removing from the oven to shake and redistribute so it toasts evenly and doesn’t burn.

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Tagliatelle di Grano Arso con Spinaci, Gambero e Mille Fagioli

Number of servings: 4

Per Serving 560 calories

Fat 12 g

Carbs 90 g

Protein 26 g

4

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups durum wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup burnt wheat (grano arso) semolina flour (directions below)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces dried borlotti beans
  • 2 ounces dried fava beans
  • 2 ounces dried chick peas
  • 2 ounces pancetta
  • 1 medium carrot, 1/4” dice
  • 1 onion, 1/4” dice
  • 1 celery stalk, peeled and 1/4” dice
  • 1 potato, cut into 1” dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 large shrimp
  • 8 ounces baby spinach

Instructions

  1. Preparing the grano arso flour:
  2. Spread the semolina flour out on a sheet pan. Toast in a warm oven (375°F) until golden brown. Remove from the oven every 7 - 10 minutes to shake, and make sure it doesn’t burn.
  3. Making the dough:
  4. Light, delicate pasta comes from working the dough as much as possible to develop the elasticity of the flour’s protein, or gluten. Kneading and then gradually rolling, stretching and thinning the dough lengthens the gluten strands, producing tender and resilient pasta. Shortcutting the process results in heavy noodles. There is nothing difficult here, but like any craft the pleasure of achievement comes from learning a few basics and then practicing. Take time to work the dough well and it will pay you back tenfold in dining pleasure.
  5. Mound the flour in the center your counter. Make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, and using a fork, beat until well mixed. Gradually start incorporating a bit of the flour from the sides of the well into the eggs. As you continue to work the flour into the eggs, the sides of the well may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Do not worry if it looks like a mess at this point!
  6. With the aid of the scraper to scoop up any pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour from the work surface. Knead the dough about 3 minutes. It should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. Poke your finger into the dough - if the indentation made by your finger does not disappear, continue to knead. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 3 hours. Skipping this rest step does not have much effect, according to Kasper. I skip it all the time.
  7. Work with one fifth of the dough at a time, keeping the rest wrapped. Lightly flour the machine rollers and the work surface around the machine. Set the rollers at the widest setting. Flatten the dough into a thick patty. Guide it through the rollers by inserting one end into the space between the two rollers. Turn the crank handle with one hand while holding the upturned palm of your other hand under the sheet emerging from the rollers. Keep your palm flat to protect the dough from punctures by your fingers.
  8. As the emerging sheet lengthens, guide it away from the machine with your palm. Pass the dough through the rollers five to six times, folding it in thirds each time. Then set the rollers at the next narrower setting and pass the dough through three times, folding it in half each time. Repeat, passing it through three times at each successively narrower setting. Repeated stretching and thinning builds up elasticity making especially light pasta. If the sheet becomes too long to handle comfortably, cut it in half or thirds and work the pieces in tandem.
  9. Don’t worry if at first the dough tears, has holes, is lumpy, or is very moist. Just lightly flour it by pulling the dough over the floured work surface. As you keep putting it through the rollers, it will be transformed from slightly lumpy and possibly torn to a smooth, satiny sheet with fine elasticity.
  10. For cut pastas like tagliatelle, continue rolling the sheets until you reach the second or third to narrowest settings; the thickness you wish your finished pasta to be. If you have a pasta cutter on your pasta machine, use that to cut it into strips. If you don’t, fold the sheet into quarters and cut into strips with a sharp knife. Spread on a floured sheet pan, and cover with plastic wrap. Continue until all the dough is processed into tagliatelle.
  11. For the sauce:
  12. In separate bowls, soak the various beans overnight in cold water.
  13. Drain all the beans. Put each type of bean in a separate saucepan. Divide the pancetta, carrot, onion, celery, potato and 1 clove of garlic between the three saucepans. Cover with cold water. Season with salt and pepper, and add a bay leaf to each. Place each saucepan over medium high heat, turning down to a simmer when they begin to bowl. Cook until the beans are tender, they will cook at different rates. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Pull half of each batch of beans out of the vegetables and reserve.
  14. Place the remaining beans with the vegetables into a food processor, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and puree until smooth, adding the reserved cooking liquid as necessary. Keep warm.
  15. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.
  16. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté over medium high heat. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked through. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  17. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the sauté pan. Add the spinach, and cook until wilted. Add the remaining garlic and cook for another minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  18. Salt the boiling water. Cook the tagliatelle until al dente.
  19. Add the reserved whole beans and the shrimp to the spinach in the sauté pan.
  20. Place a pool of the bean puree on the bottom of each serving dish. Top with the tagliatelle. Place the spinach, whole beans and shrimp (3 shrimp per serving) over the pasta. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

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A Midwinter Night’s Dream – Dining at Rifugio Averau, Cortina

deck at averau ski tours dolomites italyA highlight of our last Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine Dolomites ski adventure was a rare chance to visit Rifugio Averau at night. Open for dinner only once a month, a visit to this rifugio, reputed to be “one of the best restaurants in the Alps”, is an adventure not to be missed.

rifugio averau ski tours dolomites italyGetting there is a huge part of the fun. Your adventure begins from the Cinque Torri base area, a 35 minute drive up the road to Passo Falzarego from downtown Cortina. Here, you load on to the 5 Torri lift. The lift does not run continuously, so check the departure times in advance. This evening we were first on the lift, followed by about 50 other people, wearing a mix of skis and snow boots. Some were heading up, like us, for dinner. Others were heading to Averau or nearby Rifugio Scoiattoli to spend the night, ready for first tracks in the morning. Each chair has a cover you can pull down, keeping us warm and sheltered on our ascent.

As we exited the lift – a little awkwardly without skis on our feet – we see a fleet of about 7 or so snowmobiles ahead of us. “Averau” say the drivers. We load ourselves on to the back of a few snowmobiles, just behind the drivers, and are whisked off into the darkness. A rush of exhilaration as we race up the ski slopes we had traversed on skis a few days prior. As the lights of the lift disappear, the full moon enables us to appreciate one again the majesty of our surroundings – the moonlight reflecting off of the snow and light limestone rock of these spectacular and rugged peaks. After a few minutes in the darkness, we spot lights ahead, and are soon pulling up to the doorway of Rifugio Averau.

rifugio averau interior ski tours dolomites italyA quaint and cozy rustic mountain hut, it’s warm interior welcoming after the brisk ride. Immediately upon shedding our coats we are handed a festive red aperitif – fresh juice and a liquor, mixed with prosecco. After settling in, we are shown to our table where we are snuggled against the rifugio’s warm stua. We take a few moments to enjoy our new surroundings, and thoroughly review the offerings on the menu and the extensive wine list.

antipasti averau ski tours dolomites italyOnce again, so many antipasti look appetizing we order the mixed platter, asking for it to include the special eggplant antipasti of the day. We are soon delivered a beautiful wooden platter arrayed with a nice selection of meats and cheeses, a scoop of pate, sliced eggplant stacked with cheese and topped with cherry tomatoes, a crostini with lardo. In the center is a small bowl with mostarda di pere (pear mostarda) which quickly disappeared, and was just as quickly refilled for us. Sampling the many offerings on this bought us some time to decide on our next courses.

foradori teroldego ski tours dolomites italyIn selecting the wines for our meals this week, I favor introducing our guests to some great Italian wines that they have never experienced. Cortina itself is in the Veneto region, but our skiing today in Alta Badia led us into neighboring Trentino. A varietal found only in Trentino is Teroldego Rotaliano, one of my Top 12 Undiscovered Wines of Northeastern Italy. In spite of many efforts to reproduce the vineyards, environment, and irrigation in other regions, no one has successfully replicated these high quality wines anywhere else. Teroldego Rotaliano wines are quite distinctive, with intense fruit, full body, and a strong, dry taste. We enjoyed one of my favorite producers, which I can even find here in the US: Foradori. Run today by Elisabetta Foradori, she has garnered quite a reputation as one of the premier producers of Teroldego. Similar in style to a Syrah, it has a robust, full bodied palate, with a nice balance of tannins and acidity. Its acidity and snap make it a versatile food wine.

casunziei averau ski tours dolomites italyVersatile is good, because we had quite an array of flavors in our main courses. We enjoyed some Cappelli d’Alpino, pasta stuffed with mountain cheeses, garnished with fresh chopped tomatoes. A wonderful plate of perfectly cooked lamb chops – medium rare, and we were not asked how we wished them to be done. I ordered the famous local pasta speciality, casunziei ampezzani, a half moon shaped stuffed pasta filled with a bright red beet mixture, served in a simple butter sauce with poppy seeds. All dishes were excellent.

After a leisurely cup of coffee to follow our sumptuous meal, we bundled up for the return journey to our car. The lift had closed for the night, so the snowmobiles took us all the way back down to the Cinque Torre base area. We were alone on the slopes, rapidly descending down steep ski pistes, marveling at the lights of Cortina in the distance, surrounded by the glow of the mountains on all sides. A perfect ending to a fantastic week of skiing in Cortina. Tomorrow, a visit to the Prosecco region – where else can you indulge in superb skiing and gourmet food, followed by a day exploring wineries in an internationally renowned wine zone?

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Sformatino di Ricotta con Tartufo Nero

sformatino bike tours dolomites italiaoutdoors food and wineOne of Italy’s most renowned culinary indulgences is the truffle. Found throughout northern and central Italy, we enjoy them on many destinations on our Italiaoutdoors cycling tours, from the Veneto and Piedmonte to Umbria and Tuscany. Hidden away in forests, buried at the foot of oak trees, truffles are difficult to find, requiring the use of a trained pig or dog with the olfactory capabilities to smell the tuber that we humans lack. But it is precisely this intense, earthy, ripe flavor that makes it such a sought after specialty for chefs and gourmets.
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White truffles hail from the Piemonte region, as well as Tuscany and Umbria. My first experience with truffles was a visit Piedmonte one November with Chef Jody Adams. We explored the annual truffle festival in Alba, and then headed down to Umbria where we stayed a few days with food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins. I still recall the wonderful dinner the three of us cooked one evening in her home just outside of Cortona – a first course of simple fresh pasta with shaved truffles, followed by a large Chianina steak grilled in her fireplace on her Tuscan grill. One of my favorite meals of all my visits to Italy.

truffles at market bike tours dolomites italiaoutdoors food and wineBlack truffles are more widespread, found in the Veneto region, as well as Tuscany and Umbria. There are different types of black truffle, from the Tuber melanosporum, known as the Perigord black truffle in France, but which is known in Italy as the Tartufo di Spoleto or Tartufo di Norcia. The other main edible black truffles are the black summer truffle also known as the scorzone (Tuber aestivum) and its relative the uncinato (Tuber uncinatum).
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Truffles are customarily served as the elegant ingredient in a pretty simple dish, allowing the wonderful aroma and deep, dense flavor to shine – competing flavors in this dish would be overly complicated and detract from this culinary gem. They are often served over a simple fresh pasta, or accompanied by an egg, or cheese.

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Pienza, Italy

Last October, after our Bike the Wine Roads of Umbria tour, I stopped at a market in Pienza, Italy and picked up a few jars of the local truffle products. A jar of truffle sauce made for an easy and very elegant first course when served as a topping for a sformatino di ricotta. Sformato is a souffle-like dish, made from various ingredients – vegetables, cheese, bread crumbs – held together with a bechemel or egg. It is not as light as a souffle, but quite nice, and much easier to prepare! Sformatino is a small, individual sformato, made in individual ramekins. If you don’t have access to truffle sauce, a good substitute would be sautéed mushrooms seasoned with some truffle oil.

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Sformatino di Ricotta con Tartufo Nero

Number of servings: Serves 4

Per Serving 144 calories

Fat 10 g

Carbs 3 g

Protein 11 g

4

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons salsa tartufo (truffle sauce)
  • (Substitute sautéed mushrooms and truffle oil)
  • 8 ounces ricotta
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 egg whites, beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Mix together the ricotta, parmesan, and beaten egg whites. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Take 4 individual aluminum moulds and put a tablespoon of the truffle sauce or mushroom mixture at the bottom. Divide the ricotta mixture between the 4 moulds.
  4. Cook in a bain-marie (water bath) in the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  5. Reverse the mould onto a serving plate. Garnish with additional truffle sauce, grated parmesan, grated truffle, and/or truffle oil.

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Orecchiette con Salsiccia, Cavoli Rapa e Pignoli – and 4 Easy Tips for a Great Pasta Dish

orecchiette kale sausage plate bike tours italy italiaoutdoors food and wineAs a ski instructor, a busy winter vacation week doesn’t leave much time or energy for elaborate dinners. So this past week, dinners were quick and easy. Luckily, Italy serves up many deliciously simple pasta recipes which can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.
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During our cycling and skiing tours in Italy, we rarely see pasta dishes that are heavily tomato sauce based; instead, we see many flavor combinations that we wouldn’t think of here in the US – pasta with beans, pasta with potatoes, pasta with all sorts of meat sauces from pork and beef to sardines, rabbit and duck. Even fruits and sweet flavors can play a role, like the apples in the Christmas lasagna from Friuli. So the sky is the limit as to the dishes you can create.
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For the following recipe, I used what I had on hand; great garlic lamb sausages from French Hill Farm here in Maine, baby kale, pine nuts, and wonderful authentic parmegiano reggiano cheese. I used orecchiette pasta; orecchiette, or ‘little ears’, originally comes from Puglia, but are now found all over Italy. The classic Italian cookbook, The Silver Spoon, recommends vegetable sauces to accompany orecchiette, so a perfect combination with kale. But I think any good quality pasta will do.

parmigiano grater bike tours italy italiaoutdoors food and wineTo make the most of the few ingredients, here are four simple tips for making any pasta dish perfect:

  1. Be liberal in salting the pasta water. Add salt until the water tastes like the sea, as I was coached in culinary school. It won’t all absorb in the pasta, just enough to flavor it well.
  2. Cook just until al dente, and use a good quality dried pasta. We want a nice, somewhat firm texture. Too much cooking, or a low quality dried pasta (or even worse, both) will end up with mushy pasta.
  3. Reserve a bit of pasta water to loosen up the sauce. I take a cup full out before draining.
  4. Use a high quality cheese, not pre grated ersatz “Parmesan”.

Orecchiette con Salsiccia, Cavoli Rapa e Pignoli – and 4 Easy Tips for a Great Pasta Dish

Per Serving 470 calories

Fat 17 g

Carbs 61 g

Protein 19 g

6

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces sausage
  • 5 ounces kale
  • 1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound dried orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese

Instructions

  1. In a large sauté pan, cook the sausage over medium low heat until just done. Remove from heat and cut into small pieces.
  2. In the same sauté pan, increase the heat to medium and add the kale. Cook until tender, then add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 more minute. Add the cooked sausage and stir to combine. Season with the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Turn off heat.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt until the pasta water is salty like sea water. Cook the pasta until just al dente - you want the pasta to have some firmness, not mushy. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, then drain.
  4. Add the cooked orecchiette to the sautéed kale and sausage. Stir to combine, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if you prefer it a bit looser in texture. Stir in the pine nuts and grated cheese, and season to taste with ground pepper. Serve immediately.

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