pasta

Best Med Diet Dish at...Lupa

MEDITERRANEANISTA SEEMS TO HAVE SLUMBERED her way through January. Snow, snow, snow. Merry house guests gone. Memories of communal cooking and countless feasts fading.
 
But lunch at Mario Batali’s Lupa Osteria Romana seems to have roused me from my Rip Van Winkle sleep. It was an official Snow Day when our reservation date came up, and we happily padded our way down to the Village—our old neighborhood.
 
Through Washington Square Park.
 
 
Down Thompson Street past the chess store. (They get the prize for cleanest pavement.)
 
 
Past the building that housed a live poultry and rabbit market when we lived across the street above our landlord’s Italian restaurant. 
 
 
Past buried cars.
 
 
And stranded bicycles.
 
 
To the doorstep of Lupa, where a warm welcome—and lovely Mediterranean smells—awaited.
 
 
Lupa is an informal and friendly trattoria, Batali-style—we sat at one of the simple wooden tables in the front (a back room has tablecloths). Down one side is a long bar that I hear gets very crowded on a usual day (i.e. when most of the city’s residents aren’t stuck in snowdrifts). Roman dishes are simple and tasty; we particularly liked the sound of the vegetable antipasti brussels sprouts with apples, for one, or beets with pistachio. 
 
Our Restaurant Week menu started with Lupa’s pasta e fagioli—a puréed white bean soup with escarole and sage, perfect for the snowy day—and a delicious capon & pork terrine with celery mostarda and bitter greens.
 
 
Next came butternut squash farrotto (like a risotto, but made with farro)—a real treat for this farro-loving girl—and branzino with cardoon and potato purée. Finally, fresh ricotta and honey for dessert—a sublime creamy finish to the meal. We drank a lovely dry Frascati —Rome’s signature white wine—and a Chianti-like Morellino di Scansano from Tuscany. The wine list represents all parts of Italy, with half the bottles under $50.  (The Frascati Superiore Cantine Conte Zandotti 2009 is $29, for example, the Morellino di Scansano “I Perazzi” La Mozza 2008, $35.)
 
$21 Lunch Prix Fixe: Restaurant Week is over at Lupa, but it is now offering a three-course “Roman Style Lunch” for $21. Burrata (fresh mozzarrella with a creamy center) with butternut squash and mint, and Paccheri alla Gricia, pasta with guanciale (Roman bacon made from pig’s jowls), caught my eye. I better hurry back—specific dishes change regularly “inspired by ingredients, seasonality or a regional favorite.” Served Monday through Friday, noon to 3:30 pm. I can also imagine just pulling up to the bar and ordering a glass of wine and a salumi plate or some of those wonderful vegetable antipasti. 
 
Lupa Osteria Romana
170 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10001
212-982-5089
 
(Lunch reservations are much easier to get than dinner, which books up a month out. Some walk-ins, with a wait of course.)

RECIPE: Wild Mushroom Ragu with Bucatini

 
WITH MUSHROOMS POPPING UP IN THE WOODS and in markets, this seemed like the perfect Friday night dinner this week. I did some one-stop shopping for the ingredients at Eataly, where I found shitakes and chanterelles, along with Barilla dried bucatini and prosciutto. (This recipe is a perfect example of the Mediterranean meat-as-condiment idea.)
 
Serves 4
 
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3½ ounces prosciutto (sliced ⅛-inch-thick), cubed*
1¼ pound mixed wild mushrooms, such as shitake, chanterelle, trumpet or blue foot, trimmed and halved
¼ cup vegetable broth
¼ cup water
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound bucatini or spaghetti
½ cup heavy cream
 
*Although I didn't use it today, Citterio makes a 4 oz. package of cubed prosciutto (with no weird additives—ham and sea salt are the only two ingredients) that’s super convenient.
 
 
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, onion and prosciutto; reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms, broth, water and pinch salt and pepper; stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until mushrooms are very tender, about 30 minutes.
 
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. While pasta is cooking, warm cream to a simmer. Drain pasta, transfer to a large serving bowl, add hot cream and mushroom mixture, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
 
Adapted from a recipe in La Cucina Italiana. 

Celebrating World Pasta Day

 
NOT THAT I NEED AN EXCUSE to enjoy pasta, but next Monday, October 25, is World Pasta Day (did you know?), and I thought I’d get a head start with tonight’s dinner. Which, of course, was an excuse for another visit to Eataly, the Batali/Bastianich Italian food hall that opened this summer at 5th and 23rd. There, I found everything I needed to make a wonderful wild mushroom ragù with bucatini. (More on that in a minute.)
 
Pasta took some knocks when low-carb diets were popular. But eaten in reasonable portions (1 to 1½ cups cooked, say), pasta is part of a healthy Mediterranean diet—and a much beloved food. The complex carbs provide energy, of course, as any cyclist will tell you. Whole-wheat pasta is the most nutrient-rich, with at least three times the fiber of refined pasta. It’s also pretty tasty, which wasn’t always the case. Pasta made from refined durum wheat flour or durum semolina often gets a nutritional boost from being enriched with iron, folic acid and other B-vitamins. We eat some of both in our household.
 
Then there’s the sauce: Pasta is often referred to as an “efficient delivery system” for other healthy foods. I hate to think of any food on my plate being merely a delivery system—sounds so clinical. If you buy high-quality pasta (dried or fresh) it’s delicious in and of itself. But I know what they mean. Sauces full of vegetables and legumes are an easy and delicious way to incorporate those hard-to-get daily recommended servings of vegetables into your meals. But drown your pasta in sauce?! How gauche. Well, here’s cookbook author Mark Bittman’s take on the sauce-to-pasta ratio question. 
 
One of my favorite companions to pasta is fresh tomato sauce with cannellini beans and herbs. But today, I’m going for something different. With mushrooms popping up in the woods and in markets everywhere, it’s the perfect season to make this dish.
 

 

 

 

 

Lazy Mediterraneanista

I THINK ONE REASON I LIKE THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET is how simple many of the dishes are. Just a few ingredients and a few simple steps and you have dinner.

LInguini with Roasted Tomatoes from Cucina Italiana

Linguine with Roasted Tomatoes is a perfect example. Add a salad, fruit for dessert and you’re done. So simple, so pretty—and delicious, too. (I usually substitute Niçoise olives, which I buy pitted at Zabar’s, but I’m curious about the Taggiasca olives and will keep looking for them.) 

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