Ottobre 1495, Lombardia. The consigliere to the Sforza duke is sitting at a table at an inn in Bergamo dining on orecchiete in sauce with a robust flavor made from a local cow’s milk cheese. He’s been listening for news regarding the Borgias. His spies reports that a troublesome landowner, not even a royal, but a pretend prince, named Donatello Trumbo has been causing problems to the south. He has expelled the peasants who couldn’t pay his exorbitant rents and at the same refuses to pay his own taxes. He has a small army of mercenaries, which he refers to as his “deplorables”. The man has no moral or political compass and makes hollow threats. The Borgias it seems, have plans to dispense with him before he becomes a nuisance to Milano and the court of the Ambrosian state. But the consigliere will keep his ears to the ground.
The inspiration for this dish was a package of orecchiete (little ears) I found in attractive autumn colors, which the manufacturer referred to as “arcobaleno,” meaning “rainbow.” —pierino
Test Kitchen Notes
I loved this, but wow, it's rich! With 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 2 oz of gorgonzola for 1 serving, it definitely seems like a restaurant chef's recipe to me. The autumn colors of the orecchiette was a little but of a stretch, but with the mushrooms and the rich, creamy sauce, it definitely feels like fall. This might be nice with a crisp sage leaf or chopped rosemary garnish for color, but it would be hard to get any other flavors to come through beyond the gorgonzola. The 1/2 ounce of mushrooms works out to be about a 1/4 dried or 1/2 cup rehydrated, if people are buying fresh (since you don't use the water for anything). I would recommend a gorgonzola dolce if someone isn't a huge gorgonzola fan—it's a lot of cheese. I assumed the water was salted for the pasta, but it doesn't specify. Also, it would be nice to specify the level of heat for cooking the sauce. I kept it at medium-low for most of the cooking and that seemed to work. People may want to reserve a little pasta water to thin the sauce. Yes, I would definitely make this again, and saute a little shallot (or red onion) and garlic before adding the cream and finish with a little chopped sage or rosemary. Also a punch of acid (like white wine) might be nice, or a bitter green like arugula or raddichio. —CK1
- Serves 1, but can be doubled
dried forest mushrooms, chanterelle or porcini preferred
gorgonzola cheese, broken up by hand
A grating of fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
dried orecchiete pasta
- Soak the dried mushrooms for 30 minutes in lukewarm water. Strain off any grit.
- While you are doing your prep, bring a pot of salted water to a boil
- In a hot skillet melt the butter, add the cream and when this mixture begins to bubble add the cheese followed by the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook.
- Meanwhile cook the orecchiete in the boiling water until just barely al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.
- Add the cooked, drained pasta to the sauce. Warm through and serve.