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Saffron cream sauce, refrigerator pasta, and my new pizza peel

December 17, 2007

Pasta in saffron cream sauce

Now that the semester is finally over, I’m looking forward to some cooking and some baking and, yes, some blog posting. To kick off the good times, I have a few things to share that I actually did get around to cooking over the past few weeks. I know you’re thrilled.

That up there? That some extra special pasta with a saffron cream sauce. I had a similar dish in two different restaurants, and both times I swooned into my plate and vowed to attempt such a feat in my own kitchen. And for such an incredible dish, it’s actually pretty easy to pull off. Other exciting news? Pizza has returned! I finally got myself a nice, wood pizza peel. Any future disasters with sticky dough and topping-flinging have been averted, and I must say, the first pizza I made using this excellent tool was pretty sweet. The pizza peel is my hero. Pizza experimentation will resume in full force.

And last night? Last night was clean out the refrigerator night, and I managed to put together a delicious dinner in about 15 minutes, and achieve some winter-time comfort to boot.

Pasta with zucchini and mushroom in a saffron cream sauce

I took Mr. X’s advice for this, and made a simple white wine cream sauce with just a pinch of saffron added near the end. At first I wasn’t sure if I had accurately replicated the delicious flavor I was seeking, because the mushrooms were a little overpowering. But even if it wasn’t exactly the same as the fancy chefs’, it was pretty delicious nonetheless. And even tastier the next day.

Pasta in Saffron Cream Sauce

  • 3 c. or so of some kind of short pasta (I used these cool elbow macaroni that are ridged like penne regate; I love this pasta)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 c. white mushrooms, sliced (I suspect any other kind of mushroom might be too flavorful and compete unfairly with the saffron)
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • salt and pepper

First, set a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. The sauce doesn’t take too long; I sliced up all my vegetables and got my mise-en-place (heh heh) together while the water was coming to a boil and the timing was perfect.

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet. Once it’s nice and hot, add the shallots and saute for about a minute. Then add the sliced mushrooms. Stir them all around and spread them out into a single layer in the pan, and then let them sit and cook undisturbed for about four or five minutes. Stir them up again, spread them out, and let them cook for another three minutes. You want to cook them until they are just starting to brown, and any liquid they’ve released is mostly cooked off. Remove the mushrooms to a separate bowl, and add a smidge more olive oil to the pan if it looks dry. Then add the zucchini, and saute until the zucchini is soft and slightly browning around the edges. Then remove the zucchini to the same bowl as the mushrooms.

You should probably be cooking the pasta by now, right? And it should have about four minutes or so until it’s done? So you can start making your saucy sauce. Deglaze the skillet with the white wine, and scrape up all the delicious shallot-mushroom-zucchini bits from the bottom. Cook the wine on high heat until it’s about half cooked down, and then add the heavy cream and the saffron. Stir it all together, and bring the cream to a low boil. Keep cooking it over high heat, letting the cream thicken and boil down. Once it’s thickened to your liking, drain the pasta and add it, along with the zucchini and mushrooms, to the cream in the skillet. Stir it all up and cook for another minute or two. Add a bit of salt and pepper and you’re done. Your housemates and/or partner and/or family will be quite pleased with you and think you’re a culinary genius of some sort. It’s pretty sweet.

Pasta with sausage, spinach, and cannellini beans

Pasta with sausage, spinach, and cannellini

Pasta with sausage makes me feel happy when it’s frigidly cold outside and the streets are icy and I’m generally feeling the New England winter doldrums. Oh, who am I kidding? Pasta with sausage makes me happy all the time, but it felt especially comforting last night. And because I am a glutton for the dairy, I decided at the last minute to throw in some heavy cream and make it even better. I have never attempted to make a cream sauce by doing nothing more than adding cream and cooking it down, and while it worked out alright, I felt a little guilty. As though the decadence of heavy cream should require that you work for it at least a bit.

Regardless, this was pretty satisfying refrigerator pasta which was especially comforting last night, when I was just feeling generally like ass.

  • 3 c. or so of short pasta (yet again, I used the awesome elbows)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. sliced chicken sausage (I used roasted garlic chicken sausage and it was great)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 c. spinach, ripped up into smallish bits and de-stemmed
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 pinch of celery seed
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and well rinsed
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • salt and pepper (and you’ll probably need a fair amount of salt to counteract the blandness of the cream, another lesson I learned last night)

This stuff really doesn’t take very much time, so I started the sauce as soon as I threw the pasta into the boiling water. This is a 15 minute meal–take that Rachel Ray. Heh.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and once it’s nice and hot, throw in the sliced sausage. If you’re using regular crumbled pork sausage you probably don’t need olive oil at all. Let the sausage cook for about two minutes or so, then add the garlic. Saute for another thirty seconds or so, and then start adding the spinach. I added it a handful at a time because three cups of spinach wouldn’t fit all at once. Just keep sauteeing it and stirring it up until it’s wilted and soft. I added a bit of red pepper flakes and celery seed here, just for kicks, but I don’t think you could really taste it in the final product. Add the beans and stir everything together well. And now, add the heavy cream. Turn the heat up to high, stir the cream into everything else, and let it come to a boil. Cook all the delicious stuff together on high heat for about four minutes, while the pasta finishes up. Cook the cream until it starts to thicken, and then drain the pasta and add it to the saucy stuff. Stir it all together and continue to cook it for about one or two minutes. Then add a lot of salt and serve. Easy decadence, my friends, and wonderful winter comfort food.

Spinachy pasta

And the pizza?

Alright, my pictures of the pizza turned out like crap so I’m not even going to share them. The dough recipe I used came from the New York Times about four years ago, and it was alright. The only problem with it was my problem: I used coarse sea salt and it didn’t incorporate well into the dough at all. Little bits of salt kept popping out as I attempted to knead it and shape it. That is bad news bears. (And my apologies to the creator of this recipe, but I cannot find it online at all.)

The toppings were excellent, though: Roasted garlic chicken sausage, spinach, garlic, and provolone, with a bit of tomato sauce. I never thought of provolone as a pizza cheese before, and what is wrong with me? It is inspired and very delicious. And the pizza peel? My new best friend.

Last week I also made some pretty incredible brownies that I will be sharing, and I plan to spend a bit of time in the kitchen this afternoon, too. My oven has been missing me, and I’ll just tell myself that all of you have been missing me, too.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. crystalbrooke permalink
    December 18, 2007 8:02 am

    Gah! Why are you and all of your delicious cooking SO effing far away???? Also: remind me that Pat has an excellent pizza dough recipe that I need to pass on to you. He also says it’s essential to heat the pizza stone in the oven while it preheats, but you probably already knew that.


  2. Adria permalink
    August 22, 2009 1:54 pm

    Where did you find your ridged elbow pasta? I want to buy some and am having trouble finding it…

  3. August 26, 2009 3:14 pm

    I probably bought it at the supermarket, though of course, now I don’t really remember. Sorry!

  4. Al Fresco permalink
    October 14, 2009 12:08 am

    very nice. Im going to try this when it gets nice and cold out. Looks like a great dish!


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