March, you tricky little month. We knew you’d keep spring out of reach. Time to curl up at home with a bowl of pasta.
Until he reopens the restaurant at the Greenwich Hotel, the only way to get former A Voce chef Andrew Carmellini’s comfort food is to make it yourself. We asked for a wintry recipe, and he gave us one inspired by Friuli, the cold, mountainous region where his nonna was born. You can use any dried pasta (spaghetti, rigatoni, penne), but he like Pasta Fiorentini because it catches the bits of goodies in every bite.
End of Winter Pasta with Cabbage, Speck, and Grappa
Serves four to six
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, cut in half and sliced thin
½ lb. speck, trimmed of overdried skin and cut into thin 1½-inch strips (about 1 c.)
1 medium green cabbage
1 lb. dried pasta
1 c. heavy cream
1½ tsp. fresh-ground black pepper, plus some for finishing
1 tsp. salt
½ c. grated pecorino (Piave, if you can find it), plus more
2 tbsp. grappa (hearty pasta needs a shot of acid for balance)
1. Boil a pot of well-salted water.
2. Heat olive oil and butter in large sauce pot over medium heat. When butter has melted, add onions and speck and cook until onions soften, about three minutes.
3. Meanwhile, remove outer leaves of cabbage and cut in half. Remove hard white core and slice cabbage into thin strips. You should have about four cups.
4. Cook pasta until just al dente. (Foolproof tip: Follow directions on package and subtract one minute.)
5. While pasta cooks, add cabbage to onion-speck mixture and stir continuously until cabbage begins to wilt, about three minutes.
6. Add cream, black pepper, salt, and one cup of pasta cooking water. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for two more minutes, until the cabbage has wilted but still maintains a little crunch.
7. Drain pasta but do not rinse — the stickiness helps sauce adhere to pasta — and immediately add to sauce. Mix well to coat pasta and cook for one minute, so the pasta absorbs some liquid.
8. Meanwhile, beat a raw egg.
9. Turn off heat and add egg to pasta, stirring well so it cooks in the hot mixture.
10. Add cheese and stir. Add grappa and stir.
11. Serve immediately in large bowls topped by more pecorino cheese and a few cracks of black pepper.
For more from Andrew Carmellini, get his cookbook, Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food, online at amazon.com.