Monday, December 28, 2009

In Contemplation of Cabbage and Pasta

Ever since having the Smoked Duck and Chestnut Pasta at the Green Goddess a couple of months ago (a dish that includes caraway and duck fat braised Napa cabbage, 5 year Dutch gouda and wild mushrooms and about which I have longing-filled daydreams continuously), I've been thinking about cabbage with pasta.  Since I am neither worldly or wise, it was a small revelation to me.  Initially, I thought I had never before eaten the pairing, but deeper consideration reminded me that I have done so frequently... just, in Asian noodle dishes instead of Italian.   I've been looking for an opportunity to stick cabbage in pasta ever since.

Last night, I was seeking inspiration from one of my new cookbooks, Italian Easy: Recipes from the London River Cafe, and found a recipe for Rigatoni, Cabbage, Fontina. It seemed a good place to begin.  

Here is the recipe, as shown in the book.

I made a few ingredient alterations to accommodate what was available to me.  The grocery was out of Savoy cabbage, so I substituted regular green cabbage.  There was only one Fontina at Whole Foods which was much too expensive and seemed as though it would be wasted if melted into a pasta dish instead of eaten in it's own right, so I substituted with a more commercial grade Fontal.  Additionally, I cut all of the measurements in half, to make a dish that feeds two.

I also made a few minor changes to the process described in the recipe.  I cooked the pasta and potatoes in the same boiling water I had cooked the cabbage in (not at the same time, of course).  The recipe doesn't mention salt at all, so I added it where it felt appropriate... to the boiling water and to the final dish, just before serving.  The finished product was warm, creamy and deeply comforting.  One disappointment was that there were no stand out flavors.  The cabbage blended in to the whole seamlessly, both in texture and in flavor.  I may have been better served to blanch it, rather then let it boil until tender.  Since there is still plenty of time for it to cook, between the time it leaves the boiling water and when it is joined with the pasta, I think I would have preferred it to have held on to a bit of crispness and tang. When I think of the dish at Green Goddess, I instantly remember the wonderful assertion of the cabbage ribbons against the smooth tenderness of the tagliatelle.  While these are two very different dishes, I would have liked mine to have a bit more of that contrast.

All in all, it was a nice but not standout meal.


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