|Mark, sitting outdoors at the Trattoria Quattro Leoni, Firenze|
Trattoria Quattro Leoni, situated on the southeast side of this tiny rectangular piazza, has become one of our favorite dining venues in Florence. We both – all four of us, perhaps? – had tiny purses of pasta filled with cheese and pears, with a creamy cheese and asparagus sauce. Amazing.
|The entry courtyard of Salt Spring Island Cheese|
Salt Spring Island Cheese.
|Sherry and Ziggy in the courtyard|
Pasta Purses on Asparagus "Noodles" - Crème de Chèvre
One recipe homemade pasta (your own recipe or this one, or this one)
1 medium firm-ripe pear, Bosc, Bartlett or Anjou
3 ounces Chevaro cheese - or aged Gouda or provolone
pinch of salt
4 ounces Juliette cheese - or any goat brie or Camembert
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup light cream
1 egg yolk
2 pounds asparagus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Peel, core and cut the pear into a 3/16-inch dice. Dice the Chevaro (or other aged semi-had cheese) in 3/16-inch dice. Combine with the pears, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside.
Divide your pasta dough into 2-inch balls. (While working with one ball, keep all others well covered, as they will dry out.) Flatten the balls, one at a time, and run them through your pasta machine to the thinnest setting - "7" on mine. Cut 5-inch circles out of the pasta (using a bowl or plate as a guide) and stack them on top of one another. Cover them to keep moist. You will need 16 rounds for this recipe; if you have more pasta, freeze it for another use.
Fill each round with 1 tablespoon pear and cheese filling, then gather up the sides and pinch the tops together to make your purses. Place each one, sitting upright, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer. Keep them frozen until ready to cook.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Keep it simmering until just ready to cook the pasta.
Remove the rind from the Juliette (or goat Camembert or Brie), and cut into 1/2-inch cubes; place in a medium saucepan. Add the grated Pecorino Romao and the cornstarch, and toss to combine. Add the light cream and place on a medium-low hot burner. Stir carefully until the cheese all melts. While this is melting, slice the asparagus.
Remove the tips from all the spears and set aside. Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, cut the asparagus spears into long, flat "noodles." When done, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add slivers of asparagus. Sauté until soft, but not dark green. Add lemon zest. Keep warm.
Cook the asparagus tips in a little olive oil until crisp-tender for garnish. Set aside.
With asparagus is ready, remove cheese sauce from heat, whisk to loosen and add the egg yolk; whisk it in quickly. Return to lowest heat to keep warm.
Bring water to a full boil. Plunge frozen purses in the salted water and cook them for 3-5 minutes, until hot throughout, and the pasta "necks" are tender. Drain.
Put a next of asparagus "noodles" on each of four serving plates, surround each nest with 4 purses, and then sauce the purses and asparagus with the cheese sauce. Garnish with asparagus tips and serve immediately.