“dressy” pasta risotto {ffwd}

Cheesy Noodles

Happy New Year! The years seem to run into each other, and the 2013 to 2014 transition is no exception. As we get started in the new year, I hope it is a happy and healthy one for you and your family.

The first French Fridays with Dorie recipe is for a lovely side dish called “dressy” pasta risotto. I love pasta and risotto, so have wanted to try this recipe for a while, to see what it’s all about.

I’m not sure what it is about the French and pasta. I think their relationship is a bit odd. Here we have pasta cooked like risotto, with just enough liquid for the pasta to absorb to be done: a little unusual. Years ago, when I first visited France, I had another odd “French pasta experience”. It’s one worth sharing as it has a prominent place in Howard and my family lore. Bear with me, because it takes a little time to tell.

The summer I was around 12, a French girl, Marie-Pasçale, spent the summer with my family as our au pair. My mother kept in touch with her intermittently over the years. On our first trip to France, Howard and I visited the grown-up Marie-Pasçale, now married and living in Brittany, with her husband and 6 children. We had a wonderful visit. Our dinner that night is one that Howard and I still dream about. We enjoyed fresh sardines grilled over a wood fire, and it was amazing!

To keep their lawn cropped, they kept a small herd of sheep. The next day was its own hilarious adventure when we helped corral the sheep into a VW bus to take to a neighbor’s house to be shorn. Apparently, sheep are not the smartest or bravest animals but will follow the leader wherever she goes. The game plan was for everyone to form a large human arc around the sheep and gradually step towards the center. The idea was to get the sheep to huddle close together and move towards the one opening in the circle, which led them directly into the open door of the bus. We were told: just don’t let a sheep past you because if you do, they will all follow her lead and run.

At this point in my life, I had no experience with farm animals. As we stepped closer to the sheep, I realized that an unshorn sheep is a smelly and dirty creature. When it’s time for shearing, the sheep’s coat is heavily greased with lanolin and adorned with bits of straw and not a small amount of poop. As we got even closer, I could tell that the sheep closest to me was thinking about charging me and breaking out of the circle. I was trying to be brave and stand my ground, but I really didn’t want the sheep to touch me. I was wearing my only pair of clean jeans and had to board an airplane the next day. Plus, the sheep was really dirty. I’ll admit, I was the weak link in the chain, I lost my limited bravado, the sheep broke through, and chaos ensued.

Eventually, the sheep were rounded up, transported, shorn, and brought back home, and Marie-Pasçale’s husband Christophe made us lunch. He put a big pot of spaghetti on to boil. I should mention that one of Howard’s favorite quick lunches is a bowl of elbow macaroni with ketchup. To him, it’s comfort food. I don’t like ketchup to begin with. I’m also part Italian, so I think this combo is kind of gross. Well, when the spaghetti was cooked, Christophe put the colander of spaghetti on the table with an assortment of toppings so everyone could serve themselves. One of those toppings was a bottle of Heinz ketchup. And, it was the most popular choice amongst the French people at the table. I just rolled my eyes, but Howard was so proud to learn that his favorite lunch was also considered to be French home cooking.

Back to the pasta risotto… First, you sauté an onion, then add chicken broth and little pasta shapes. I used tubetti , but Dorie says elbow macaroni is more traditional. This would also be nice with the tiny shell pasta. Like risotto, you use just enough liquid for the pasta to absorb, rather than the usual way of boiling pasta and draining off the excess water. The pasta cooks at an active simmer. Unlike risotto, you only have to give the pot an occasional stir.

Pasta cooked as risotto

After the liquid is absorbed, the pasta will be al dente. Now it’s time to dress it up and add some decadence. You stir in some heavy cream, a bit of mascarpone, and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. In the end, you get a pot of delicious “cheesy noodles”

The cheesy pasta went well with chicken as well as steak dinners. Now that I think about it, this might be equally delicious without the cream and cheese. (I’ll have to try that another time.)

If you want to try this yourself, you can find the recipe here. You can also find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To read about others’ pasta risotto, follow their links here.

For those of you who don’t get much snow, here’s the view from my back porch this morning. We got about 8 inches of the white stuff last night. The sun is out now, but the temperatures are in the Arctic range.

Jan 3 snowstorm

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Posted on 3 January 2014, in French Fridays with Dorie, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Enjoyed your post! And that pot of pasta risotto you got there!

  2. Helyn Benjamin

    Hi. Hope snow will melt before spring. Love story as spaghetti and ketchup is great. Xxxxxxx

    Sent from my iPad

  3. I thought this was really yummy! I did add a little wine to begin with and used some of my truffle salt to finish it off.

    Love your story, though I’m totally with you, couldn’t wrap my head around pasta with ketchup! Oh so Fench!! Ha.

    Stay cozy. I’m sure it’s really, really cold but it’s also pretty!

    • I forgot to mention that I sprinkled some truffle salt on mine too. Wasn’t that a delicious flavor combo? (I got the truffle salt at Pike Place Market when I was in Seattle for IFBC. Discovered it on the food tour I took with Mary. Extra memories…)

  4. That’s one funny story. I’m sure Howard was very happy to have his peculiar tastes validated. And farm animals usually make any story (or episode of The Amazing Race) more fun!

    Your pasta in the top picture looks divine – definitely living up to the ‘risotto’ moniker!

  5. kitchconundrum

    That’s a great post. And your pasta looks really cheesy!

  6. Betsy, Such a funny story…I would have also been the weak link…LOL! No offense to Howard, but Spaghetti and ketchup, ugh!! I have a son who puts ketchup on everything…he would probably love it! My aunt and uncle owned an Italian restaurant and that would have been considered blasphemy! Luscious looking photo!! We really enjoyed this one…creamy and delicious!
    We woke to about 8 inches of snow and frigid temps, too! Happy New Year and Stay warm!!

  7. I love your ketchup pasta story! I would find it gross, too. We loved the pasta “risotto” too.

  8. I won’t even use Ragu sauce it’s too sweet, never mind ketchup on pasta… but I had many non-Italian friends who are with your husband and the folks of Brittany on that one…??? I would have been pretty grossed out by the sheep too. I used to dread bringing my kids to petting zoos because I couldn’t handle the smell… those of use who cook well, tend to smell well too… Loved the story and glad you enjoyed the pasta too. happy new year Betsy.

  9. Great story – I’m still laughing at the scene with the sheep and the ketchup. Reminded me of my grandma who just added water and ketchup to whatever she was making when unexpected guests showed up. By the way, I totally would have been a weak link – probably wouldn’t have made it as close as you did! Happy New Year!

  10. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Love your “France” story. We enjoyed this dish and it was a great choice for starting a new year of FFWD.

  12. Your snow picture is quite lovely to those of us who get more ice than snow, Betsy. Its been cold in Oklahoma too. Probably not the cold you’re having but its been in the teens so that’s pretty darn cold! Loved your French sheep story and I agree with you that ketchup does NOT belong on spaghetti! Happy New Year Betsy!

  13. Yeah, Bill would probably try the ketchup, too. Me, not so much. Funny herding experience…I’m sure I would have kept my distance, too. I plan to make Bill a baked apple sans nuts and fruit…think he might give it a go. He’d totally pass otherwise.

  14. I love that story! How funny! I’m sure he never lets you forget it, either.

    Happy New Year to you, too!

  15. LOL it sounds like great times to remember! My hubby calls sheep “maggot carriers” … he doesnt like them too much, LOL!

    the spaghetti & ketchup is really weird, but thank goodness your Howard and the French love it! Lets hope that combo doesnt pop up in a FFWD recipe anytime soon! Have a great weekend Betsy!

  16. LOL re the sheep ! And yes, I’ve seen pasta served with ketchup too in France! I loved this dish a lot – will make it again and it is easy to cut back on the cream and cheese to make it healthier!

  17. That story is so funny! We spent Christmas with a German family we’re friends with, and they fed my son ketchup on pasta, so it’s not only the French. It would never occur to me to do that. Ew. Charlie ate it, though, so maybe they’re on to something. At least, when it comes to feeding picky toddlers. I’ll take my pasta with mascarpone and cream any day!

  18. That story is hilarious- I am not sure what I am more surprised about, the smelly sheep side or the fact that Howard (and evidently the French) eat pasta with ketchup. Now that you think about it….that combo sounds exactly like what we “Americans” would be tagged for creating. Not sure how my own kids have not requested it over the years but it probably also has something to do with the fact that we have an Italian background and the only red thing that hits our pasta is gravy. Stay warm. It is raining ice here……

  19. That is a whole lot of snow!!! I love your story and yes I had a similar experience with sheep when I was young and my father had a few in our farm! They are the cutest but my God do they smell!!!!
    Happy New Year!!

  20. Sheep are smelly. Very smelly. ‘what a great memory!! And a great pasta.

  21. Well, now. You really lost me at elbow macaroni with ketchup. I’m not sure if I will ever recover. I think this is NOT French comfort food but some sort of revenge against Italians for making better coffee.

  22. Having grown up around a farm, I can absolutely get a visual on this story :-)
    We wont talk about the ketchup – although, my youngest drowns everything in ketchup. I can’t deal…
    Hey! Your back yard kind of looks the same color as mine…

  23. You had me laughing out loud this week. I’m not sure if the sheep or ketchup story is better. Both deserve their rightful place in the family lore.

  24. There is a ketchup-HP Sauce schism in my family – the French side loves ketchup and the Irish side prefers HP. I like both, though I’d never mix them. As for the sheep, my parents’ farm taught me that they can be frustrating animals, sometimes. Great stories!

  25. What a great story! You are so brave for even attempting to help with the sheep. What a fun experience. I’m with you on the spaghetti with ketchup – it just doesn’t sound very appetizing.

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