Casarecce Pasta with Mascarpone and Sage-Walnut Butter, Peas, Broccoli and Kale

Casarecce

I had some mascarpone cheese that I’d bought a couple of weeks ago and have been trying to figure out what to do with it. Most recipes that call for mascarpone are desserts or sweet dishes and I knew I didn’t want to go that route. So I found this recipe (which actually came from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop) and made it more nutrient dense by adding a ton of vegetables: fresh English peas, kale, chard and broccoli. I also used brown rice casarecce pasta (which I had never heard of before finding it at Healthy Home Market last weekend) instead of fettuccine to make it gluten free… and I substituted half the butter with bacon drippings leftover from breakfast. You can either use all butter or half butter and half bacon drippings, but I don’t recommend using olive oil, lard or anything like that. You’ll be sacrificing flavor. I doubled the sauce and cheese to make sure there was enough to coat the added vegetables.

Haleigh (my picky eater) loved it and asked for seconds. She didn’t mind that there was more veg than pasta and cheese or that there wasn’t any meat. Or maybe she didn’t notice because it all tasted so darn good. She loved the peas. She remarked that the pasta with the sage-walnut butter was good enough to eat by itself. But we all agreed that the mascarpone-Parmesan cheese mixture is what pushed this dish over the top. We’ll be making this again for sure. Here’s my seasonal, nutrient dense version:

Casarecce Pasta with Mascarpone and Sage-Walnut Brown Butter, Peas, Broccoli and Kale

  • 1 cup Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 to 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 cup Kale (cooked) – I used a mixture of kale and chard from our garden, but you could substitute any greens.
  • 1 cup fresh Peas (or frozen) – I used fresh English peas from the farmers market and a handful from our garden.
  • Parsley, optional (from our garden)
  • 12 ounces Pasta – I used organic brown rice casarecce, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
  • 6 tablespoons Butter – I used 3 tbs salted Kerrygold butter and 3 tbs bacon drippings.*
  • 1 cup chopped Walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh Sage leaves
  • 1 bunch Broccoli

Method:

  1. Combine mascarpone, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in small bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork until smooth. Set aside and allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Prep veg: Cut up broccoli and kale; mince garlic, sage; and rough cut parsley.
  3. Start pasta water. I recommend adding a tablespoon of salt to the water.
  4. Steam broccoli, kale and peas separately (because they don’t cook at the same rate and to keep their flavors separate). You can do this anyway you like. I’m all about short cuts, so I used the microwave. Put a small amount of water (1/4 cup or less) in the bottom of glass dish with lid (like Pyrex). Preferably a vented lid, but you can just leave one corner open if you don’t have vented lids. I also like to add a little salt to the water for broccoli. The broccoli took 3 or 4 minutes (start with 2 minutes, then turn, stir or shake gently and add a minute at a time until it’s crisp tender and beautifully green). The peas and kale only took about 2 minutes each. Make sure you run the vegetables in cold water when they are done, to stop them from over cooking. Squeeze the excess water from the kale. Set aside.
  5. Once the water starts boiling and the pasta goes in, melt the butter (and bacon drippings, if you’re using) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, walnuts and sage and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Drain pasta when done, then add it and the vegetables to the pan with sage-walnut butter. Toss and cook gently over low heat for a minute or two.
  7. Serve pasta with a dollop of the mascarpone-Parmesan cheese mixture and a sprinkle of parsley. Yeah, you could just mix the cheese and parsley in with the pasta, but hey – a little presentation goes a long way!

This dish is versatile, as most pasta dishes are. You can use any pasta and just about any vegetable in any amount (though you may need to increase or decrease the cheese mixture and butter sauce to account for the change). There was enough left over for Brian and I to have for lunch today.

I  tried really hard to get the kids involved, but in the end the only cooperation I got was from London. She helped me wash the vegetables.

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An 8 Year Old’s Perspective

Linsey wrote her “story” about a week ago, but I’m just getting a chance to post it. I was going to do a little editing to cut down on the repetition and correct obvious errors, but I’m going to fight the urge to change anything, and post it “as is” so that you can get the full scope of it’s 8 year old charm! I apologize in advance if it’s too difficult to read.

Linsey’s Perspective:

I like to go to the farmars market with my mom. I see lots of food at the farmars market. There are lots of vegetables at the farmermersmarket We go to farmarsmarket on Saturdays evry week. There are not a lot of furts at the farmer. The first day I went to the farmersmarket I thout the farmersmarket was boring but I was wong now I bon’t thinnk that the farmersmarket is boring eny more. I amso Excted evrytime I go to the farmersmarket I went. one time I went I stayed to wach a chef cook I was so happy when the chef was done I got to try the food that the chef cooked. I was so good that I wanted more but I couldn’t have more. I tasted a pear at the farmersmarket the pear was so good. Evry time I go I can get a treat. I can get eny treat that I want. I am so happy that I can get a treat. The treats I get are so good that I want more Love Linsey the End

In case you were unable to decipher: “There are not a lot of furts at the farmer,” she was not talking about flatulent or grouchy old farmers. She meant: There are not a lot of fruits at the farmers market. She was blown away when I told her that tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins were all fruit. It was not easy for me to ignore all those red squiggly lines as I typed, as well as her misuse of punctuation and lowercase and capital letters. But there it is.

Last night for dinner I had planned on putting some leftover ingredients together with some new ones to save time and also because I didn’t want to waste any of our treasured fare. I chopped two cloves of fresh garlic, stemmed and chopped some shiitakes from Clover Mushroom Farm and rough chopped about two handfuls of fresh sweet basil from my garden. I started my pasta water, then heated a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and threw in the garlic, mushrooms, leftover Grateful Growers pork sausage (about half a cup), sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I had planned on adding leftover tomato sauce from our Italian sausage dinner to these ingredients, but after being hit with the wonderful aroma of mushrooms, garlic and sausage sauteing in olive oil, I decided not to drown them in the heavy sauce. Instead, I added about a half a cup of Chardonnay that I had in the fridge. While the alcohol was cooking out, I diced a tomato, thinly sliced about a quarter cup of sweet onion (very thin, I mean almost shaved) and grated about a half a cup of fresh parmesan. I also tossed fresh handmade pasta (by Pasta a Mano) into the boiling pot of water. It only takes about 3 minutes to get fresh pasta cooked al dente. I drained the pasta, then tossed it, along with the tomatoes, onions, basil and parmesan, into the the mushroom and sausage mixture. It was delicious and the pasta was perfect.

I now know that fresh, al dente pasta does not compare in any way to the bland, dry pasta sold in a box at my local grocery store. I would love to learn how to make it from scratch myself. Then I could spend time making pasta with my kids, the way Italian mothers do. I know we’re not Italian, but what a lovely tradition to share between generations.

After dinner I cut two acorn squash in half, seeded and then microwaved them, cut side down, for about 5 minutes (shortcut to reduce baking time). Then I turned them over and wished I had remembered to slice a tiny bit of the end off so they would sit flat. It was much more difficult to do this while they were hot. I put about a half a teaspoon of butter and about two tablespoons of chopped walnuts in each half, drizzled them with a small amount of maple syrup, and then VERY lightly sprinkled some brown sugar on top. I put them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. When they were done, I set them out on the stove to cool while I got the girls ready for bed. The smell in the house was amazing, but still they had no interest in eating a “vegetable” for desert.

In the mean time, Brian finally got home and came straight upstairs, grinning and inquiring about what was sitting on the stove. Once the kids were in bed, we ate our desert. Brian commented that he wanted to eat them again and, lucky for him, it’s squash season! I’m already inventing new recipes in my head. Maybe I’ll try it with some fresh squeezed orange juice and zest, or cinnamon, maybe even diced with apples. Mmmmm, endless possibilities. Seasonal eating is so yummy!