A Tale of Two Papardelles

There are days when, in the morning, while throwing books into my bag and planning my day I decide: “Tonight we shall cook a splendid dinner. Not sure yet what the splendid dinner will be. Therefore, we will put a cookbook in our bag and decide later.”

Today was that sort of day. I almost threw in my new Marcella Hazan cookbook but then decided it was too heavy (I already had a computer in my bag) and went with Amanda Hesser’s handy dandy paperback novel of a cookbook (“Cooking For Mr. Latte”). After reading Nabokov’s lecture on “Bleak House” (which, I must say rather boastfully, I finally finished two days ago. Can I tell you what a glorious feeling it is to finish “Bleak House”? And not just the feat of finishing it: it’s actually a wonderful book. I loved it. I recommend it to you all), I did some writing and then, after writing, I decided it was dinner planning time. I flipped through the book and too many recipes seemed too expensive or complicated or ostentatious. I finally settled upon, “Papardelle with Lemon, Herbs and Ricotta Salata.”

I went to Whole Foods and purchased the simple ingredients: papardelle, lemon, mint, garlic, and marjoram. Oh and chicken broth. I decided not to buy the ricotta because I don’t really love ricotta. I know that calls into question my integrity as an amateur chef, but honestly why buy something that you don’t even enjoy that merely acts as a garnish? It’s a garnish, people.

I got home and put my groceries away. I logged on to AIM and began chatting with Lisa. The chat went something like this.

Lisa: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU HUNGRY? ARE YOU EATING?

Me: Lisa, I just got home. I am going to cook something you can’t eat.

Lisa: WHAT?

Me: It’s Papardelle with Lemon, Herbs and Ricotta Salata except I’m skipping the Ricotta Salata.

Lisa: So? Why can’t I eat it?

Me: It’s made with chicken broth.

Lisa: Oh.

Me: I mean, I have vegetable broth put away, so we can try making it with that.

Lisa: We can? WE CAN?

Me: I mean, I’m not sure how it’s going to taste, but yes, we can.

So that was it. Lisa was soon over and we attempted two separate sauces. Mine the Hesser sanctioned chicken broth version and Lisa’s experimental veggie broth. You can see the two pots on the stove here:

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You may notice that I’m not giving you explicit instructions, that I’m not raving over the deliciousness that would ensue. That’s because this recipe was merely ok. I enjoyed it. If you own the book, I recommend making it. But it’s not worth reprinting. Basically, you boil down chicken broth (or, in Lisa’s case veggie broth) with garlic until it reduces by half. Then you add lemon juice and lemon rind. Cook the papardelle. Add it to the sauce, then add chopped mint and marjoram. (You’re also supposed to add fennel fronds but I felt that was excessive). Salt, pepper and waaalaa:

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This is the correct chickeny version. It had a nice flavor and a nice combination of textures. Honestly, I enjoyed it, I’m just not recommending it with passion.

But how was Lisa’s? Was it gimpy, made with veggie broth?

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Nope. It tasted fine. Again, not glorious. And also not nearly as good as the chicken one (I think chicken and lemon go well together). But it had interesting flavors and textures. It was something different. I thought the lemon rind perked it up, but Lisa thought it was too lemony.

I suppose you could say it was the best of rinds, it was the worst of rinds.

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6 comments

  1. ricotta salata tastes so much better than the regular ricotta you use in lasagna. Or maybe you could substitute a good goat or sheep’s cheese to take it up a notch

  2. i know that you’re a cheese-phobe, but ricotta salata is awesome stuff. they bake the ricotta in a wood-burning oven in a big round lump. it’s crumbly like feta, but doesn’t have the tang. it’s mild, but complex from the wood flavors. it’s really good stuff.

  3. Also, ricotta salata (in addition to all the things that people mentioned above) is salty (that’s what salata means, actually), so it adds lots of flavor to the dish…