In my senior year of high school I ended up taking three language classes (gotta love those electives). And so first, second, and third periods consisted of Latin (a “dead language” is not the best way to start a morning especially when taught by an elderly nun), Spanish IV, and Italian I. While I found numerous similarities between Spanish and Italian, mainly with the vocabulary, Italian grammar was another matter. As a non-native Spanish speaker I always considered Spanish grammar pretty easy to comprehend; however, Italian grammar had many more intricacies to it, making it not so easy to just “pick up.” Although I still remember a decent amount of Italian vocabulary 10 years later, any grammar I tried to retain has long since been lost. But the even funnier thing is when you have one language so deeply entrenched in your mind (for me, Spanish) when I would travel to Italy during my spring break of my semester abroad in Spain, I know I often tried to get away with speaking Spanish and adding what I deemed to be “Italian” sounds to it.
I very rarely make Italian food (well non-Italian American fare that is). I’m not really sure why even though I do greatly enjoy it and dream about returning to Italia one day and doing it right (i.e. luxury accommodations if possible, better touring company, more authentic experiences). A couple of years ago D got me a pasta cookbook and while a lot of the recipes require homemade pasta (I’m not quite up for that task), and some sound too “Italian American” for me (i.e. what you’d find at the Spaghetti Warehouse), others sounded really good especially the Paglia e Fieno with Walnuts and Gorgonzola.
I had to look up a translation but in Italian paglia e fieno means straw and hay-the paglia being the yellow pasta (straw) and the the fieno being the hay. So the dish is basically a combination of two different color pastas. If you’re not able to secure paglia and fieno in your local supermarket, a yellow pasta and a spinach pasta would obviously suffice here. I really enjoyed the dish since it wasn’t your average red sauce and not just another alfredo sauce either. Gorgonzola has a very distinct taste to it and that paired with the walnuts equates to a tasty and simple to prepare meal.
Paglia e Fieno with Walnuts and Gorgonzola
recipe courtesy of Greatest-Ever Pasta Cookbook by Jeni Wright
10 oz. dried paglia e fieno
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage or 1/2 tsp dried sage, plus fresh sage leaves, to garnish (optional)
4 oz torta di Gorgonzola, diced
3 tbsp mascarpone cheese
5 tbsp milk
1/2 cup walnut halves, ground
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
ground black pepper
-Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water, according to the packet instructions. Melt the butter in a large skillet or pan over a low heat and stir in the sage. Sprinkle in the Gorgonzola and add the mascarpone. Stir with a wooden spoon until the cheeses start to melt. Pour in the milk and keep stirring.
-Add the walnuts, Parmesan, and plenty of black pepper. Continue to stir over a low heat to form a creamy sauce. Do not allow to boil or the nuts will taste bitter. Cook for only a few minutes or the nuts will discolor the sauce.
-Drain the pasta, transfer it into a warmed bowl, then add the sauce and toss well. Serve immediately, with more black pepper ground on top. Garnish with sage leaves, if you wish.
I served it with homemade bruschetta which was a great accompaniment.