You can click here to jump directly to the recipe, though there are some words between here and there I hope you find useful.
SHOPPING / INGREDIENT LIST
- Della Terra Fresh Pappardelle
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Crimini mushrooms
- Fresh savory (thyme & rosemary if savory is unavailable)
- Black pepper
- Heavy Cream
- Parmesan rind
- Kosher salt
A MASTERPIECE ITALIAN CHEESE SAUCE
There is one legendary Italian cheese sauce that I still think of to this day. It was made by chefs from Il Pellicano in Tuscany, Italy that were visiting us at Del Posto in NYC as guest chefs, and we had the honor of helping to prepare the dinner that was to be served. The dish that came off the pasta line was a delectable veal filled tortelli, but it was the sauce that was the showstopper. The base of the sauce was heavy cream that came from a local dairy, so it was unbelievably fresh and grassy. It also had at least 15 types of cheese, ranging in age, made with milk from cows, sheep, and goats.
The cream was barely warmed because to heat it any more “would destroy the essence of the field”. The cheeses were slowly added over hours of time, each in a sequence for reasons I could only guess at, and only added when the other had submerged into the melty cream. It was described as a living thing: “a sauce that only exists in this moment”. Such fresh and unique flavors playing together in harmony was what made this sauce truly special.
Now the recipe below for Parmesan Cream is not what I just described - how could it be? This recipe will yield a tasty sauce, but it’s more of a simplified open template than it is a rule. Here are a few tips in making your own masterpiece:
- Mix up the cheeses, but keep the amount proportional to the recipe.
- Try Pecorino Fiori Sardo, Grana Padano, fresh goat cheese; they all blend well and add a ton of dynamic flavor.
- If you want it “saucier” don't reduce the cream quite as much.
- By not reducing it as much you can add more cheese...because cheese is good.
- Temperature is always a thing with cheese based sauces. There is one guideline that I try to adhere to: let the heat of the pan + sauce/base melt the cheese and avoid reheating the pan (putting it back onto the burner).
- That doesn't mean you can't keep it in a warm spot on the stove once it’s made, just no new heat.
RECIPE FOR PAPPARDELLE WITH MUSHROOMS, Savory HERBS, AND PARMESAN CREAM
Serves 2 entree portions or 4 side portions.
PANS AND UTENSILS
- Medium saute pan
- Pot for cooking the pasta
- Small saucepan
- Small whisk
- Long handle strainer/sieve
- Wooden spoon
- 8 ounces fresh Della Terra Pappardelle* or 6 ounces Della Terra Campanelle
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup crimini mushrooms with stems trimmed and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs of fresh savory
- 5 or 6 cracks of black pepper from a pepper mill
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup heavy cream (optional)
- 2 to 3 ounces parmesan rind (optional)
- 1/3 cup parmesan, grated
- Kosher salt
METHOD FOR THE PARMESAN CREAM
The parmesan cream is optional, feel free to skip it altogether.
In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and parmesan ring and set over low heat.
Bring to a heat that’s almost a simmer but not really, and slowly reduce by about a third, stirring every once in a while to make sure the rind doesn’t stick and the cream doesn’t burn.
When the cream is reduced, turn off the heat, remove the rind, whisk in half of the parmesan, and add salt to taste. Cover and set aside.
METHOD FOR THE SAUCE
Heat a medium-size saute pan over medium-low heat.
When the pan heats up, add the olive oil and mushrooms; they should start sizzling immediately. The trick with mushrooms is to cook them kind of hot and in an evenly flat layer without stirring for the first minute or so of cooking.
When the mushrooms have become slightly golden, add half of the butter along with the garlic, savory, and a pinch of salt. Stir together and lower the heat to low. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the garlic has become translucent and aromatic.
Turn the heat off and add 1/4 cup of pasta water and the remaining butter while stirring together to form the sauce and then remove and discard the savory sprigs.
METHOD FOR COOKING THE PASTA
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoons of kosher salt. Cook the pasta for the suggested time, tasting it at the lower number and cooking until the al dente meets your preference.
Using the sieve, remove the cooked pasta and add it to the sauce when it is ready.
COMPLETE THE DISH
Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce to combine, and adjust the consistency with pasta water if needed.
Toss or stir the remaining parmesan into the pan with the pasta.
Plate the pasta and drizzle the remaining bechamel to garnish.
While the recipe was written with our Fresh Pappardelle Pasta in mind, our Campanelle or Fusilli are wonderful alternatives. If you substitute dry pasta, adjust the pasta weight to 6 ounces for the recipe as written. If you are preparing 4 full entree portions, just double every ingredient and use larger pots/pans.