Keeping with my recent theme of Autumnal-colored meals, I chose a tricolor pasta to use with this luscious creamy mushroom sauce from one of my fave cookbooks, Regional Italian Cuisine. The dish hails from Tuscany, where more genuine folk would serve the sauce with a mixture of homemade egg and spinach tagliatelle, and call it Paglia e Fieno (“Straw and Hay”). It was a great way to use up the last of the basil from my garden before the cold weather gets it.
It was also a great dinner to wind up a brisk autumn day during which I walked the city for over 3 hours – which is what happens when you decide to meet a friend for a walk in Central Park followed by brunch on the day of the NYC Marathon, and find yourself detoured for blocks by the race at practically every turn. I didn’t mind the extra-long walk a bit – the weather was glorious, the city shining and beautiful, and the people ebullient – this is one of New York City’s finest moments.
On my way to the park, I caught the wheelchair front-runners as they came off the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan.
And happened to be along the Park Drive as the female front runner hit mile 24.
The reservoir, as always, was glorious. And for a Sunday morning, gloriously empty.
We ate brunch on the Upper West Side at French Roast, sitting outside in the sun – how we scored a table without a wait is a small miracle in itself. On the sidewalk, a bookseller was plying his wares – in this case, a tabletop filled with books on philosophy and psychoanalysis. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Woody Allen was having a stoop sale.
As I headed down Broadway after brunch, marathoners in their orange capes clogged the sidewalks. A half hour later, back near home on First Avenue, runners were still coming off the bridge into Manhattan in droves. Amazing, really. The sheer number of runners, cheered on by their friends, family and fellow New Yorkers, filling the streets of New York’s boroughs, and Manhattan from the east to the west side.
Detours and police barricades notwithstanding, Marathon Day is hands down my favorite day in this amazing city I am privileged to call home. Congrats to all the runners in today’s race, from the front-runners to the last stragglers. I hope your day was as wonderful as mine.
Tri-Color Pasta with Creamy Mushroom Sauce
This is not exactly a dieter’s dish, although a limited portion served with a large salad could be a meal well within a calorie-counter’s daily budget. To be more genuine use 1/2 lb spinach fettucine and 1/2 pound regular fettucine instead of the tricolor pasta. To be truly genuine, make your own egg and spinach tagliatelle, as outlined in the original recipe.
1 lb tricolor pasta
3 1/2 ounces mild raw prosciutto
11 ounces fresh mushrooms (I used crimini)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (plus another tbsp or so for the sauce at the end)
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp beef stock
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for serving
- Start your pasta water heating.
- Cut the ham into thin strips and set aside. Clean the mushrooms, slice thin and drizzle with the lemon juice.
- In a saucepan, melt 1/2 tbsp butter and add the crushed garlic. Simmer over low-med heat until the garlic is soft. Pour in the cream and beef stock and allow to cook down until smooth and dense.
- Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, melt 1 tbsp butter. Add the mushrooms and saute until limp. Add the parsley and ham and saute a bit more until the liquid of the mushrooms has evaporated and the ham begins to crisp a bit at the edges.
- By now, your pasta water should be ready. Start your pasta cooking. When it is done, drain it well and place in a warmed bowl.
- Season the cream sauce with pepper, salt if needed, and a little more lemon juice, and pour over the hot noodles. Toss with the mushroom-ham mixture and the basil leaves. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.