Saturday, March 12

Bagna caôda (Bagna cauda) & Pasta with truffles, prosciutto and arugula

One of my favourite movies Ripley's Game (adapted from the third novel in the Patricia Highsmith's five-novel series about Tom Ripley - a con artist and occasional murderer), that I re-watched again this week, has been inspirational in many aspects. John Malkovich as Ripley is simply brilliant, as he is in every movie. I wonder how I couldn't think of this movie before and include it in my Food Movies page!
Well, the movie is set throughout Europe and mostly in Italy. That Italian ambiance and architecture is always pretty much enough for any kind of inspiration. The title character in the Patricia Highsmith's series known as Ripliad has a great taste for anything good - from art, music, places and homes to food...

So I am dedicating this post to truffles and pasta, Ripley's and mine favourites.

Truffles are known as the most expensive and very rare mushrooms, growing naturally underground in certain parts of Mediterranean and found by specially trained pigs and dogs. Usually, they are added in very small amounts to the food, like eggs, rice or pasta to enhance a flavour. It is very rare to find them in stores as a fresh produce, but they can certainly be found preserved in oil - whole or mixed with some other mushrooms, or sold as a paste or cream. There are black and white truffles, and to use them it's important to know that white "tartufo bianco" is best consumed fresh and it has much stronger aroma than black "tartufo nero" which flavour is best brought by cooking. White truffles' intense aroma is also known as a mix of best Parmesan cheese and garlic clove. Anna del Conte in her book Gastronomy of Italy recommends it as a perfect addition to carpaccio, meatballs, polenta or cheese frittata.
There is one special Italian dip/antipasti in Anna's book called "bagna caôda" that I find to be the best way to experience truffles. In Liguria this dip is served in a heated earthware as a fondue for seasonal vegetables. 

The pasta recipe provided below is quick and easy, and with some good vine and olives, could make fancy and flavourful dinner. I prepare it in my La Chamba oval pot. Since my discovery of La Chamba cookware, I try to cook all I can in it. I had a chance to compare it to the meals previously cooked in a different cookware, and realized that flavour of meals cooked in La Chamba is unbeatable. By now, all my family members developed "the taste " for La Chamba and recognize immediately what's been cooked in it, too. Note however, that Italians use their regular cookware for this pasta.

Pasta with prosciutto, truffles and arugula
(for 4-6 people)


2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
250 gr (1/2 lb) prosciutto diced
1 red onion, cut 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp black truffle paste (cream) in a jar
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano, plus extra for serving
1 bunch of baby arugula
500 gr (1 lb) big shaped dry pasta (penne, farfalle, macaroni) 

Bring  salted water to a boil in a large pot.
Meanwhile, in a saute pan or big oval La Chamba dish, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add prosciutto and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat. Cook the pasta, drain, reserving little bit of cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan with the reserved cooking water to the pan (La Chamba). Add the arugula and toss for about 30 more seconds. Add the truffle paste and the grated cheese; mix well and toss over high heat for one minute.

Bagna caôda with truffles
(Hot garlic and anchovy dip)

50gr (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced,
5 salted anchovies, cleaned of bones or 10 fillets
200 ml (1 cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp truffle paste (optional)

Original dip has no truffles in it, but for a spacial flavor add 2 tbsp of truffles at the end of the cooking. 
Melt the butter over low heat. Add garlic and saute for few seconds. 
Add anchovies and pour oil gradually, stirring whole time. Cook for about 10 min, on ultra low heat.
Serve it when ingredients are well blended and smooth.


The dip is also great spread over toasted flat bread topped with shaved Romano as shown on this photo - I made it today!

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