Thursday, June 07, 2007

Presto Pasta Night: The Sweeter Side Of Pasta

Where did summer go??!! After a week of almost record high temperatures and late afternoon thunderstorms, fall has returned to New England. I've woke up in Fairfield the last two mornings to a very chilly fourty-five degrees and lots of dew and fog. I've even pulled the blanket back out and tossed it on the bed at night. Of course, with the chill in the air it has put me in the mood for warm and creamy bread and rice puddings.

As I didn't bake any bread to bring back to Fairfield with me last week, I didn't have any to make bread pudding. I also don't have a good way while I'm in Connecticut to make rice as it takes too long to do in the microwave and while the pre-cooked rice pouches are fine for savory dishes, they are too salty to make good rice pudding. Yes, I could buy a container of rice pudding from the store but I really hate the taste and texture of the deli rice pudding. Reminds me of elementary school cafeteria pudding...enough said. So, last night, looking for a way to satisfy my craving for a bread pudding and clean out my tiny fridge at the same time, I decided to see if the little bit of leftover fresh fettuccini I had uncovered would make a satisfying sweet pudding.

I had read in a few books on Italian cooking that pasta could be used in sweet desserts. Most often these dessert pastas appeared to be torta type dishes of a large flat noodle layers with fruits, mascarpone cheese, and cream. So, not finding any recipe online to use as a guide, I decided to approach this from a microwave pudding direction. Puddings are some of the easiest dessert recipes to make from scratch in the microwave. A little whole milk, cornstarch, and semi-sweet chocolate chips stirred together and zapped for about 3 - 4 minutes results in a creamy, almost stove top cooked pudding.

Since I was going to make an Italian influenced pudding and I had discovered a small bag of chopped hazelnuts I use to top salads and the container of instant hazelnut flavoured coffee in my pantry, I decided that a coffee and hazelnut flavoured pudding was in order. I started by preparing 2 cups of instant hazelnut coffee to which I added 2 Tbsp of sugar. I then added the fettuccini and let it soak for 10 minutes to infuse the coffee and hazelnut flavour.

I then brought the coffee and pasta mixture to a boil in the microwave, let the pasta sit for another 4 minutes and drained, reserving about 1/8 of a cup of the coffee. Tasting the pasta, it was almost perfectly Al Dente and had a delightful coffee flavour. I combined the pasta, the reserved coffee with 1 cup of light cream, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp of corn starch, 1/2 tsp of vanilla and the hazelnuts in a 1 quart microwave dish.

I cooked it on high for about 3 minutes, stirred, and then cooked it on 50% power for 4-6 minutes until it had thickened and topped it with some whipped cream.

The pasta pudding was the consistency of a really good fettuccini alfredo but with the taste of tiramisu. And while it wasn't the prettiest of desserts, it was quite tasty and definitely satisfying...

Tiramisu Pasta Pudding

Makes 2 Servings

1 cup fresh pasta (a wide noodle like fettuccini will work best)
2 cups prepared hazelnut flavoured instant coffee
2 Tbsp of sugar
1 cup whole milk or light cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp of corn starch
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1/8 cup chopped hazelnuts

Prepare the instant coffee per the directions on the container to make 2 cups. Stir in 2 Tbsp sugar and add the fresh pasta. Let soak for 10 minutes or until the pasta take on a very dark brown colour. Heat the pasta and coffee to boiling in the microwave and let sit for 4 - 6 minutes until the pasta is almost Al Dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/8 cup coffee. In a 1 quart microwave safe dish combine remaining ingredients and the reserved coffee and stir. Add pasta. Heat on high, uncovered in the microwave for 3-4 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. Stir and heat for 4 - 6 minutes on 50% power until the sauce completely thickens, stirring as needed. Remove for the microwave, let stand for 1 - 2 minutes to cool down and finish thickening. Top with a large dollop of whipped cream and sprinkling of cocoa powder if desired.