Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Pastina Risotto and Pear-Bacon Salad

I'm a fan of anything pasta. For me, it means quick. It means comfort. It means stick-to-your-ribs yummy.

I recently saw Michael Chiarello on television make a pastina risotto with butternut squash. I was mesmerized. Pasto cooked in the same way you would risotto. Brilliant.

The very next day I stumbled across Proud Italian Cook's post about the same thing. I could practically taste it after seeing her mouth-watering photos!

Someone was trying to tell me something. I needed no more reminders--I made my own version today.

Fragrant, creamy, delicious, perfectly paired with a crisp, sweet salad of green lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced pear and a light vinaigrette all topped with crumbled bacon.

Pumpkin Pastina Risotto

serves 8

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup (by volume) dried shitake mushrooms, chopped

4-5 cups chicken broth

1 15-ounce can unsweetened pureed pumpkin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 strips bacon

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

12 ounces acini de pepe pastina

several scrapes nutmeg

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pour hot water over dried mushrooms and cover; let sit for 15-30 minutes to rehydrate. Strain, reserving liquid, and set aside.

In a saucepan on the stove, combine mushroom water, chicken broth and pureed pumpkin. Set on a very low flame to keep warm. Season with salt and pepper; taste and adjust seasonings, if required. (You will need a total of 5 cups liquid.) Note: Sage would have been a lovely addition to the broth. Fried sage leaves would be a nice garnish.

In a large pot, cook bacon over low heat until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Keep 2 tablespoons drippings in the pan, discard the rest. Add butter to pan. Saute onion and drained mushrooms in bacon drippings until onion is transparent. Add minced garlic and cook 1 minute.

Stir in pastina and cook for just a few minutes to coat each pebble with the butter/oil mixture. Add broth mixture, a cup at a time, stirring until absorbed after each addition. When all has been absorbed and pastina is tender, stir in nutmeg and parmesan cheese.

Serve warm, topped with crumbled bacon and a drizzle of reduced--or, if you have it, aged--balsamic vinegar. I reduced 1/2 cup to just under 1/4 cup for mine.

Pear-Bacon Salad

serves 4

4 strips bacon, fried crispy, 1-1/2 tablespoons drippings reserved

your favorite lettuce (baby spinach would be outstanding here)

1 tomato, chopped

1 pear, sliced

1-1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper, to taste

Top lettuce with tomato and sliced pear. Combine bacon drippings and olive oil and set aside. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, salt and pepper. While whisking continually, pour oil blend in a thin stream to emulsify. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and serve topped with crumbled bacon.


Proud Italian Cook said...

Mmmmm, Nice idea with the shitake's!
I really loved this recipe didn't you too? I'm drooling over your salad, great combo! Thanks for the link love Amanda!

Amanda said...

Very glad to link to you, Marie. You were instrumental in inspiring me to make this dish!

The shitake added some nice earthy-smokiness... very interesting dimension. It was really good--though I had way too many leftovers that didn't keep very well. Next time I'll definitely halve the recipe!

The salad was fantastic if I do say so myself. That, too, was inspired by Michael Chiarello--he paired his pastina with a salad containing pears that looked so crisp and yummy. It certainly was a great counterpoint to the creamy, rich pastina.

Michele@FineFuriousLife said...

Pretty, pretty! Wait, what's the brown liquid on the pastina risotto? Did I miss something?

Amanda said...

Thanks, Michele! Every once in a while my photos come out looking good. I suppose it all boils down to statistics.

The brown liquid is reduced balsamic vinegar (because I don't have some good, aged stuff). It's not mentioned until the very last line of the recipe which, for some odd reason, has become strangely spaced. Wierd, wierd blogger blog!

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