Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ziti e Spinaci con Besciamella Gorgonzola

     Ziti Pasta and Spinach with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce!
     Today's Ziti Pasta recipe features a gorgonzola cheese sauce that is accented with black peppercorn and garlic.  These flavors go well with spinach and in turn, the leafy green vegetable makes the cheese sauce feel a little lighter on the tummy.
     Cream sauce pastas are more popular in America than Italy.  Northern Italy is where cream sauce pastas can occasionally be found on restaurant menus.  Italian cream sauce pastas tend to be made with Besciamella Sauce (Béchamel Sauce), rather than a cream reduction.  Besciamella is a roux thickened milk and cream sauce.  Besciamella is not usually flavored with an onion, clove and bay leaf piquet, like the French version of this sauce.    
     To keep the spinach a bright green color, the spinach is quickly wilted, then it is then spread on a platter to quickly cool.  Using this technique to prepare the spinach will add more flavor and it will keep the spinach from turning an undesirable brownish green color.

     Besciamella Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups of thin besciamella sauce.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should be shiny, not caky.)
     Cook the roux till it turns a whitish color, with no hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of milk.
     Add 1/3 cup of cream.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.  (to taste)
     Stir the sauce as it comes to a gentle boil and thickens.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  The volume should be a little more than 1 cup.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Place the sauce in a container.
     Set the sauce aside or chill it for later use.

     Garlic Spinach:
     This recipe yields 1 small portion.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Saute till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 cups of baby spinach leaves.
     Stir and toss the spinach with tongs till the spinach wilts.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the garlic spinach on a platter and spread it out, so it cools quickly.
     Set the spinach aside to cool.
     Ziti e Spinaci con Besciamella Gorgonzola:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of ziti pasta in boiling water till it is al dente.  
     *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Place a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of the thin besciamella sauce.
     Add 2 pinches of crushed black peppercorns.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese, while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese combines with the besciamella sauce and the sauce becomes smooth.
     *The sauce should now be a medium thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  Add milk if the sauce becomes too thick.
     Keep the sauce warm till the pasta finishes cooking.
     Step 4:  When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of pasta.
     Add the wilted spinach to the sauce in the pan.
     Add the al dente cooked ziti pasta.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 5:  Mound the pasta on a plate.
     Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Garlic Spinach tastes great in a besciamella sauce and it goes well with the flavor of Gorgonzola Cheese!

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