Friday, January 05, 2007

Midnight Pasta

So I'm on winter break and my sleeping schedule is all screwed up. I've reverted to my very nocturnal ways like I always do when I'm on vacation (check the times on some of my posts lately!). Moreover, I have been plagued recently with severe carpal tunnel at night. In short, I'm not sleeping much, and when I do, I'm sleeping at weird times. This also tends to mess up my meal schedule. Like today, I ended up eating my lunch at an odd hour (3pm), and when my roommate got home from work and was ready for dinner, I wasn't that hungry. So she made a sandwich and later, I just had a smoothie and thought I was done for the night. But around 11pm, when I was watching some backlogged Martha tapes (another critical goal for my winter break--getting through the stack of Marthas and Oprahs!), that woman sucked me in, d#mn her! Her guests on the episode that I happened to be watching were Johanne Killeen and George Germon of the famed Al Forno restaurant, and they were there to promote their new cookbook, On Top of Spaghetti.

Part of this book chronicles a friendly competition between the couple who often get home very late at night after working at the restaurant. The game is to come up with simple "midnight pasta" dishes made of few ingredients that can be completed by the time the water boils and the pasta cooks. The one that grabbed me tonight and drove me to the kitchen at an obscene hour was called Fettucine with Mascarpone and Egg. It's not unlike Fettucine Alfredo, but with mascarpone instead of butter. The problem was, of course, that at midnight in the tiny hamlet formerly and charmingly known as Ober's Corners, I was lacking in the mascarpone department. However, I had an abundance of cream cheese leftover from holiday baking projects. I wondered if a similar dish could be made swapping out regular cream cheese for the mascarpone? Well, I am happy to report that you can! Don't get me wrong, I am sure that it is much better with mascarpone, but it was darn good with cream cheese, too. I also swapped out pappardelle for fettucine because that's what I had on hand. And, of course, I had gorgeous fresh eggs from my hens that I knew would be lusciously profiled in this dish. I love this recipe because it's so quick and easy (takes as much time as making a box of mac and cheese!), it's obviously flexible, and it includes a great trick. While you are boiling the pasta, you make the simple egg-based sauce in a metal bowl over the pasta pot, creating a de facto water bath to melt the cheeses and keep the eggs from curdling (as seen below). Isn't that clever?

Fettucine (or Pappardelle) with Mascarpone (or Cream Cheese) and Egg
(Sources: and also
Serves 2

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese in a pinch)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving if desired
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper , to taste
1/2 pound dried fettuccine (or pappardelle)

Fill a stockpot with 6 quarts of water, cover, and bring to a boil. In a medium stainless steel bowl, beat the eggs with the mascarpone or cream cheese, 1/2 cup Parmigiano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Add 3 1/2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water and add the fettuccine or pappardelle. Cover partially just until the water returns to a boil, then uncover, stir the pasta, and cook until al dente.

While the fettuccine is cooking, carefully hold the metal bowl just slightly over the boiling water to warm the egg and cheese mixture, stirring occasionally. When the fettuccine is cooked, drain and add it to the bowl; toss well. Serve immediately, passing the extra Parmigiano at the table.

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