Dinners at 405 Park Road were very old-school. The five Sullivan boys were blessed with a tireless mother who without fail whipped up three squares a day. Hot breakfast (eggs and bacon, cream of wheat, pancakes, French toast), brown paper lunch bags at the ready; "afternoon snack" of home made cookies or brownies during grade school years. Dinner announced when Dad roared up the driveway in his current "respectable" muscle car. A maroon Buick Wildcat gave way to the sinister but sexy black Eldorado, which in turn was overthrown for his true love: the sleek emerald Jag with March 17 license plates.
Table set, crisp napkins in silver rings with everyone's name engraved. Mom's three courses engineered to satisfy her tall, good-looking brood. Salad (1890 French dressing a favorite thought the Wishbone make-your-own cruet was also popular); a protein (beef, chicken, pork and lots of lamb), green veg and starch main; home made dessert. If you didn't' like the offerings (usually not an issue) or were still a bit hungry (a more frequent occurrence but let me stress, these were not skimpy meals), "Then go make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
Working at Kemoll's provided my pasta watershed moment. Family-owned and run for decades, their pastas were made in house; the Parmigiano came in huge wheels that were cut into manageable cubes with a jig saw. Table-side preparations were a hallmark of the Kemoll's fine dining experience. Pasta Carbonara, Fettuccine Alfredo and Paglia e Fieno, our topic today. Oh the elegance of it all!
The tangle of green and white pasta explains the "Straw and Hay" moniker. Kemoll's didn't go in for extraneous garnishes and whimsy. Spectacularly Delicious does, so this recipe for Paglia e Fieno owes a debt of gratitude to Kemoll's but the it's their ur-recipe and then some. Our shiitake mushrooms and asparagus tips elevate the proceedings and the red pepper stars add élan.
One more Kemoll's trick is revealed here: when we made the Carbonaras, the trays were sent out with elegant strips of Prosciutto to weave into the dish. However, the Prosciutto was first sautéed in a nice slick of bacon grease for added flavor. Eyebrows might have been raised has we told customers, but no one asked and the bacon grease added what bacon grease adds: flavor. So I used it to sauté the mushrooms here.
A note about the pasta: with its eye-popping priced tag, this Ciprianni tagliolini was purchased under duress. My regular brand's requisite matching set of green and white wasn't in stock. Was the difference in the Cipiranni and my default DeCecco noticeable enough to justify the cost? Indeed it was. A new lesson learned.
This recipe works with any of the long flat pastas, the only requirement is having equal amounts of yellow and green of the same type.
Click here for the recipe for Paglia e Fieno.