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Lisa Ekus Presents...


It's really a shame that so much goes down the drain—pasta cooking water, that is. The starch and delicate flavor of the liquid, when used judiciously, can enhance the texture and flavor of many pasta dishes. I sampled a version of this dish one evening in Germany, at the Michelin three-star restaurant of Heinz Winkler. The next day, chef Winkler kindly demonstrated his version, one that's surprisingly light despite the addition of rich Roquefort cheese. In fact, this is one of the lighter pastas I know, with just a gentle hint of Roquefort amplified by a generous dose of nutmeg, a ration of butter and a soupcon of lemon zest. It's a "midnight" pasta if ever there was one, for making when you're starved and in a hurry! Even those who are not Roquefort fans will want "seconds".

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces; 45 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces; 45 g) Roquefort cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons sea salt
1 pound (500 g) fresh or dried fettucine
About 1 cup (25 cl) pasta cooking water
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1.Preheat the oven to the lowest possible setting, about 200 degrees F (80 degrees C; gas mark 1). Place a large heatproof bowl in the oven to warm.

2. In a small bowl, mash the butter and Roquefort with a fork until soft and well blended. Set aside.

3. In a large pot, bring 6 quarts (6 l) of water to a rolling boil. Add the salt and pasta, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully drain the pasta, leaving a few drops of water clinging to the pasta so that the sauce will adhere. Reserve 1 cup (25 cl) of cooking water.

4. Place the pasta in the warmed bowl and add the butter-Roquefort mixture. Toss the pasta slowly and gently until the pasta absorbs all of the mixture. Slowly add the cooking water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the pasta is evenly coated with sauce. (Rather than thinning out the sauce, the starchy water will actually work to thicken it.) Season generously with nutmeg and toss with the lemon zest and rosemary. Taste, then season generously with pepper. Toss once more. Transfer to warmed shallow soup bowls and serve.


WINE SUGGESTIONS: This is lovely with an Italian white wine: A golden, smooth Unbrean Orvieto, a Frascati from the Roman hills, or a nicely chilled Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Recipe from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence by Patricia Wells
(Scribner Books; $40.00/hardcover; October 7, 1996)
Reprinted with permission

Foodscape |
Lisa Ekus Presents...

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