I am very excited: tonight the ddoo-collective is coming to dinner.We four girls and one guy are very rigorous about reinterpreting tradition and valuing artisanal skills, so I have decided I am going to impress with a classic dish, remixed by me for the here and now:
I am Italian, so it has to be an Italian meal. But to beat the ddoo-collective at their own game, it will be “tradition with a twist”, suiting today’s unusual hot weather, our changing needs and, most of all in this case, my definitely limited “artisanal” capabilities.
On the menu: home-made (by Rino, not by me) tagliatelle, a sort of thickish egg pasta ribbons. Instead of the better-known Bolognese sauce, my tagliatelle will be served with a vegetable ragù, prettier to the eyes, I hope, and faster to prepare.
This is Rino, the “pasta-maker” owner of La Caffetteria in London
INGREDIENTS for 6 people
550 g tagliatelle good dry ones will do
asparagus as many as you like – this is a ddoo-blog, after all, and our motto is “ddoo as you like”
petit-pois (spring peas) ditto
mint, basil, chives, parsley for the mint pesto, a good bunch of each
a burratina that is, a small burrata
300 g ricotta very, very fresh ricotta cheese
Aur’olio the very best olive oil, from a boutique producer in Salento, the tip of the Italian boot heel
salt, pepper to taste. (Silky Aur’olio, from Tenuta Sant’Angelo, Lecce )
I trim the asparagus and shave away the tough outer fibres along the stalk. I find this terribly boring and time consuming, but definitely worth doing in the end. I let them soak in cold water, then cut them in 2cm sections and keep the tips separate.
A bit of butter and a glug of my favourite Aur’olio olive oil go into a pan big enough to contain the trimmed asparagus in one layer; I stir them from time to time and add the softer tips at the last moment. The asparagus must be firm to the bite. Unfortunately, the only way for me to tell if they are cooked and check salt is to taste them.
Using a deep saucepan, I sauté a tiny shallot, chopped very finely, in another bit of butter and olive oil. In go the spring peas until they are wilting. As the tasting rule applies here too, by the time dinner is ready, I shall have eaten enough for two!
Asparagus and peas go well with mint, parsley and basil: after much researching and experimenting, I decide that the chef touch will consist of a pesto-like sauce, made by whisking together these three herbs plus some chives with olive oil and salt, until they turn into a smooth paste.
All my ingredients so far are green: this won’t do, as we ddoo-collective people have a keen sense of colour and an eye for vibrant contrasts… I need to create some shading, chopping some dazzlingly white burrata cheese in small pieces. A few spoonfuls of ricotta will add a creamier texture to the sauce.
Please, this is imperative: one must cook tagliatelle in a lot of boiling water, at least five litres for 500 g of pasta, then add two tablespoons of salt (no, it is not a lot!) and drop in the tagliatelle. Also, one must always remember to stir the pasta well with a wooden spoon the moment it is in the water.
A break is needed, to change into something more in keeping with the occasion: my ddoo Camellia Pareo Skirt is hanging upstairs. Total transformation ensues, from kitchen-bound Cinders to smartly dressed, always-at-ease hostess.
Protected by an apron, I dash back to the fires. Now it’s time to work fast: I spread the mint pesto at the bottom of a big, warm serving dish, drain the tagliatelle (reserving a cup of cooking water) very much al dente and transfer them to the serving dish. Once peas and asparagus are added, the pasta needs tossing. A bit of the cooking water will help to loosen the sauce.
I sprinkle burrata and ricotta on top and garnish with more of the mint pesto. Lastly I taste for more salt, pepper, olive oil, pasta water or whatever may be missing and the dish is ready. Big smiles all around!
My creative recipe was a great success, “elevating while simultaneously subverting the authentic and familiar. A sense of everydayness, twisted.”
As fashion and cooking seem, in our times, to have been raised to the role of intellectual pursuits, a bit like the salons musicaux of the 19th century, this quotation from the latest Coach Spring/Summer brochure suddenly appeared both apt to describe my Tagliatelle Primavera experience and perfectly in keeping with ddoo-philosophy!