The Napa Valley restaurant Bistro Don Giovanni is just twenty minutes by car from my home. Here Chef Scott Warner produces marvelous food for vintners and tourists alike, including great pizzas and pasta dishes baked in his wood-fired ovens. When I asked him for a good clay pot-driven recipe for this book, he suggested this rich version of Straw and Hay. Scott boils his green and white pasta, tosses it with baby artichokes, wild mushrooms, ham, and just enough cream and cheese to create an evenly balanced dish. Then he finishes it off in his wood-fired oven, baking the pasta in the gratin dish in which it is served at table.
Not having a wood-fired oven, I’ve tried this dish in my ordinary oven and also in my double clay-slabbed oven. It worked well both ways. Use a Spanish cazuela to cook the vegetables; then toss in the pasta, cream, and cheese and bake until bubbly.
You can easily find the half plain egg, half spinach pasta shaped into nests or in long strips packaged together in good food shops. Note that steps 1 and 2 can be done several hours in advance.
- 3 baby artichokes (4 to 5 ounces total)
- 2 to 2½ ounces fresh wild mushrooms, preferably small chanterelles or trumpet mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed
- 2 ounces flavorful cooked ham, cut into ½-inch dice
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup milk
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 4 ounces dried egg noodles-half green spinach tagliatelle and half plain
- A shallow 10-inch Spanish cazuela or a straight-sided flameware or La Chamba skillet
1. Wash the artichokes; trim the stems and remove the tough outer leaves. Boil or microwave in salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Immediately drain, cool, and gently press out excess moisture. Wrap in paper towels and set aside.
2. To clean the mushrooms, simply toss them in a deep sieve and shake vigorously to release any surface dirt. Trim the ends and use a water spray to rinse them quickly, drain and blot dry. Coat the bottom of the cazuela with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and set it over low heat. When the oil is warm, add the mushrooms. Cover with a lid or foil, and steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Then uncover, raise the heat to medium, and sauté until the mushrooms express all their moisture and begin to caramelize. Transfer the mushrooms to a side dish. Set the hot cazuela aside on a wooden surface or folded kitchen towel to prevent cracking, do not wash it.
3. About 30 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 400°F. Gently press down on each cooked artichoke and thinly slice lengthwise. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
4. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the cazuela and set it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it is soft and lightly caramelized, 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ham, artichokes, and cooked mushrooms. Continue to cook until the garlic is lightly toasted, about 3 to 5 minutes.
5. In a small conventional saucepan, heat the cream and milk until hot. Season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the seasoned milk and cream into the cazuela and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, stir in 1/3 cup of the cheese, and let the sauce stand until you’re ready to add the pasta.
6. In a large conventional pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until just tender, 9 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, if necessary, reheat the sauce in the cazuela until hot. Drain the pasta and add to the cazuela, stirring to coat with the sauce. Scatter the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese on top
7. Transfer the cazuela to the top third of the oven. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the dish is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at once.
This recipe serves 3 and includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.