Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kitchen Crush

I was talking with my son today about food (what else?) and I admitted to him I have developed something of a Kitchen Crush lately for Acini di pepe, those bitsy dots, one of the teensiest of pastas routinely available in the places I shop.

Once incorporated into a dish, Acini di pepe is smaller than orzo, yet to me it has a rice-like quality and consistency that I find nearly irresistable. It cooks up quickly, it can be persuaded to shrug off some of its outer layer to slip into a creamy sauce a la risoto, and yet while doing so is just thick enough to retain that bit of resistance to the tooth in the center that makes it just right.Acini de pepe is neat in situations where I too often am not. There are no loose ends, no strands flipping around, flinging bits of sauce or cheese or oil where they don't belong. Add to that the way it automatically adjusts, by virtue of it's teensiness, to whatever proportion of pasta to everything else in the dish you desire in any single bite, and there you have it. Pretty near the perfect pasta.When I saw this recipe recently on Serious Eats calling for orzo, I knew I had on hand an opportunity to substitute in my infatuation pasta and make this dish my own.What I give you to follow is a third iteration of a Giada de Larentiis recipe, taken from the kid-friendly section of "Giada's Kitchen" (typically my favorite section of a cookbook for various reasons).

Acini de pepe with sausage, peppers and tomatoes
makes 2-3 servings

1 1/2 cup organic chicken broth
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 cup Acini de pepe
1 tablespoon organic olive oil
8 ounces Richardson's uncased pork sausage
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 garlic clove minced
1 jarred roasted red bell pepper, rough chopped
1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes, rough chopped
1/2 cup sliced morel mushrooms (or portobello)
salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste (red pepper is optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan bring the water and broth to a boil over high heat. Add the acini de pepe and cook approximately 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large skillet and add the pork sausage and Italian seasoning. Sauté until cooked through and add the garlic. Cook a minute more and add the bell pepper, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes if using. Finally, add the mushrooms just before adding the pasta.

Check the pasta at 8 minutes and if nearly done, ladle the desired amount of pasta, using a slotted spoon, into the skillet with the sausage and other ingredients, stirring to mix well. Cook together an additional 1-2 minutes until the pasta is to your liking and the ingredients are well combined. Add broth/water from the pasta pan if the skillet is too dry.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and divide into 2-3 bowls with parmesan on top.Serve with foccaccia topped with olive oil and more parmesan.We had this for dinner last night and it was really really satisfying. Sigh....really....

Have you ever developed a kitchen crush on an ingredient or a gadget that had you searching for excuses to use it? Fess up!


SteamyKitchen said...

my kitchen crush is Black Volcano Salt!!!

TexasDeb said...

Oooh Jaden - trust you to develop a crush on such an exotic ingredient. Hawaiian volcanic salt is truly sensual. A friend of mine is actually invested in a company that mines salt off Molokai.

Hawaii - even their salt is special. Cue John Keawe and his enticing slack key guitar....

Flapjacks said...

much like real life, i have a kitchen crush continuum. this means that as i'm actualizing crushes on one end, new ones are being formed at the other, continually. it's both tiresome in the kitchen, and in reality.

right now, it's three things... remember when dairy's butter (this stuff is evil), good old crushed coriander (so subtle, and perfect for a myriad of cuisines), and brining (i'd eat brined shoe leather...).

where did you find those little pastas? i want to play with them tooooooo.

TexasDeb said...

Flapper - you are so right about that butter. It is evilly delicious and causes amnesia about what happens to the human body when everything you eat is coated in milk fat.

The little pastas live in a Randall's grocery store until you adopt them and take them home. When I shop there I pretend it is still a local Texas family store and not part of a soulless national chain.

Samantha said...

Love this pasta. My great grandmother made it for me with eggs when I was growing up.

I posted the recipe on my blog (http://www.theclutteredtable.com/2011/09/recipe-nonna-povera-pastina.html)

Love this pasta.