The Great (Parsi) Escape

One Hundred Almond Curry 


Knock, knock.

Oh hello, I was just dropping by to see if you’re hungry. Has your stomach finally recovered from the masses of turkey and stuffing, the one can too many of wiggly cranberry sauce and that bottomless bowl of mashed potatoes? Have the blisters on your feet started to subside after forty-eight consecutive hours of standing on them in an attempt to once again out-do last year’s feast? Good, I’m glad to hear it, because I’d like you come on a trip with me.

The thing is, I know how much you love this season with all its festiveness and good food, but I also know (though of course you would never admit it) that part of you is secretly dreading the return of all those reindeer-shaped cookies and punchbowls of eggnog and bricks of dry fruitcake that colonize the holiday landscape like subdividing bacteria at this time of year. So let’s take break from all that for a little while, and while we’re at it, why don’t we leave everything behind – the damp, cold weather, the awkward office Christmas parties, and of course those ubiquitous red, green and gold garlands of which we’ve seen so many by now that we occasionally contemplate hanging ourselves with them just so they’ll be declared a health hazard and no one will ever have to suffer their sparkly, gaudy presence again – and get out of here completely. Instead, I’ll take you someplace sunny. Someplace warm and tropical. Someplace with beaches and palm trees. Someplace like…India.

You with me? Oh good. Don’t forget to pack the sunscreen and some light reading material. And a few iodine tablets, and oh, some wide-spectrum antibiotics can’t hurt either I suppose, but never mind that, I’ll keep that stuff in my bag. What’s that you say? If sun and beaches and palms are all we want, why don’t we go someplace like Florida, or maybe Fiji? Oh, well actually because those things are not all we want. In fact, we’re not really looking for beaches and palm trees at all, I just mentioned them to get you on board with me. Sorry about that. No, the real reason I’ve brought you along on this trip to India with me is to introduce you to some great food I’ve just discovered.

I know, I know, you already know an awful lot about Indian food – I realize that. You could even order saag paneer and chicken tikka masala in your sleep, right? And yes, smartypants, you also probably know all there is to know about pakoras and chapatis and mango pickle too, I get it! But our trip isn’t about any of those things. We’re going to India today to eat a type of cuisine as far removed from what your corner Indian place serves as a Big Mac is from those chopped meat patties that sailors in Hamburg used to eat. We’re going to eat some Parsi cuisine.

What did you say? Did you ask what on earth Parsi cuisine is? No no, don’t worry, there’s no need to be ashamed. Not long ago I didn’t know much about Parsi cuisine either, except that I found a delicious recipe for some Parsi pakoras a year or so ago that I advocated enthusiastically on this very site. In retrospect, it was a little delinquent on my part to do nothing to enlighten either of us on the details of Parsi cuisine apart from a feeble little link to Wikipedia, but never fear, I intend to remedy that situation at once.

You see, I just got my hands on a wonderful book that explains it all far better than Wikipedia ever could. Niloufer Ichaporia King is the person responsible for it, actually, and while I had never heard of her before, if you happen to be a regular at that venerable Berkeley institution Chez Panisse, you certainly might have, particularly if you’ve ever had the good fortune to get a seat for the annual Parsi New Year’s dinner she cooks there (and if you haven’t, and you live anywhere nearby, I would stop reading now and make a beeline for the phone – thankfully Parsi New Year is in March, so you might even stand a chance of not being laughed off the line).

Anyhow, Ms. King, in addition to being a cook, a culinary historian and an accomplished anthropologist, grew up in Bombay’s Parsi community, and in this, her first book, has weaved a fascinating tale of her people, their history and cuisine. The modern-day Parsis, she tells us, are not a group defined by geography or language, but a close-knit cultural and religious community that can trace its roots back to the Persian Zoroastrians who migrated to the subcontinent from what is now Iran more than a thousand years ago. While Zoroastrianism itself is an ancient and fascinating religion worthy of more space than I can devote to it here, the truly remarkable thing about the Parsis is the way their cuisine has survived intact for so long, and continues to display many reminders of its Persian heritage. The Parsis love sweet and sour flavors, for example, and like the Persians add fruits like apricots, pomegranates and dates to many of their dishes, particularly those containing meat. They also love rich foods, and cream, nuts and eggs make frequent and much-anticipated appearances (in fact, the Parsis are so crazy about eggs that apparently the rest of India jokes that Parsi cuisine is anything with an egg on top). They are, however, as much Indian as they are Persian, which their complex spice mixes, penchant for palate-searing chilies and wide repertoire of pungent chutneys and pickles attest to.

But the main reason you should be interested in Parsi cuisine is not because it’s so fascinating or so historical, but because it’s so delicious. In the four weeks or so that I’ve had this book on my shelf I’ve made not one, not two, but seven spectacular dishes from it, all completely different from any Indian food I’ve made or eaten before but all good enough that I would get on a plane and fly a very long distance to taste more like them. The deviled eggs, with their touch of honey and crunch of green chilies were inhaled in five minutes flat, while the buttery cardamom cake, half of which I foolishly sent home with some guests, had me sneaking quietly out of bed the next morning just so I could claim the last piece for breakfast. The best dish, however, was this long-simmered chicken curry lyrically named ‘one hundred almond curry’ that was so good it plunged the future of our marriage into doubt when one of us (I’m not naming names, but it wasn’t me!) took the liberty of mopping up ALL the leftover sauce that remained in the pot after I had dished out second helpings, though in light of the cardamom cake affair I guess I can’t be too mad. While I could easily go on for hours about the masterful balance of spices, the genius of tempering the almonds’ richness with tamarind, and the mystery of how a curry enriched with coconut could manage to taste creamier than one made with cream itself, it’s all a bit futile, really, since this is one of those dishes that needs to be tasted to be understood, and I can assure you that once you do you’ll care far less about what’s in it than where your next plateful is coming from.

So what do you say? I can’t promise it will come anywhere close to the beaches of Florida or Fiji, but a quick trip to India – leaving at dinnertime, maybe? – should make all that fruitcake-nibbling and office-party schmoozing just a little bit easier to endure. And who knows, you might even come back with a tan.

One Hundred Almond Curry

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was never very happy with the Indian food
I produced at home until I invested in a piece of kitchen equipment that made all the difference. It’s called a wet-dry grinder, and unlike the typical Western-kitchen alternatives of blender, food processor and coffee grinder, these little marvels are specifically designed to tackle the most difficult of Indian cooking tasks, namely turning mixtures of rock-hard spices and stringy vegetal matter into smooth-as-silk pastes. The Porsches of the wet-dry grinder world are made by Sumeet, and one of these powerful beasts will be taking up residence on my counter just as soon as I’ve saved up enough money to buy one. At the moment, though, I’m relying on a very reasonable (and much cheaper) alternative – the Revel Wet n’ Dry Grinder (USUK), which looks like a coffee grinder but can handle liquids as well in its detachable bowl. You have to be careful, though, as its ferociously powerful motor can easily burn out; short (1-2 second) pulses are really all it can handle. Oh, and about the curry: feel free to make it with shrimp instead of chicken, in which case just add some peeled raw shrimp to the finished sauce and simmer until they turn pink, or you can easily go vegetarian by adding 2 halved hard-boiled eggs per person just before serving. Also, you’ll find that like most curries, this one just keeps increasing in flavor as its sits, so do your best to have leftovers!
Serves: 6-8
Source: adapted slightly from My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer Ichaporia King 

For the masala paste
10 dried bird’s eye (red) chilies
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 teaspoons white poppy seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
8 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
10 black peppercorns
2 (2-inch/5cm long) sticks cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
101 (about 3/4 cup/100g) unblanched almonds (Parsis consider round numbers to be bad luck, so they throw in an extra almond)
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 (3-inch/7.5cm long) piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup (60-120ml) water

For the chicken
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 lbs (1-1.5 kg) skinless bone-in chicken thighs (I usually figure 2 thighs per person)
4 cups (1ltr) water
3 cups (750ml) frozen or canned coconut milk (for canned I prefer Chaokoh brand)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste
2-3 tablespoons prepared tamarind concentrate (available at Indian and Asian stores)
2-3 tablespoons jaggery or brown sugar 

cilantro/fresh coriander, chopped, for garnish (optional)
toasted sliced almonds, for garnish (optional)

For the masala, in a heavy skillet, toast the chiles, coriander, poppy seeds and cumin over medium heat until the seeds turn brown and everything smells toasted. If you have an Indian-style wet-dry grinder (see above) grind all the masala ingredients to a paste in it. If you don’t, start by grinding the toasted spices along with the cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and turmeric into a fine powder in a coffee grinder (it’s best if it’s dedicated to this purpose, since your coffee will taste like curry otherwise!). Combine this powder with the almonds, garlic and ginger in a food processor. Pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Add the water, starting with the smaller amount and adding only as much as necessary, and process the mixture to as smooth a paste as possible.

For the chicken, heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté them gently, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and highly fragrant, about 30 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add the masala paste, stirring for a few minutes until the aroma rises. Watch it carefully as it can scorch easily on the bottom. Add the chicken thighs, water, coconut milk and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, and let it cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is fork-tender and has started to pull away from the bone. Remove the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon and increase the heat to medium-high. Boil the sauce, if needed, until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. When it’s as thick as you prefer, stir in the tamarind and jaggery to taste (it should be just slightly sweet-sour), adjust the salt, and return the chicken to the pot. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro and toasted sliced almonds, and accompanied by rice or naan. Dal and a green vegetable dish also make wonderful accompaniments.


Trifling with Thanksgiving

Autumn Trifle with Spice-Roasted Apples, Pears, and Pumpkin-Caramel Sauce

I’ll be honest – November is not my favorite month. That may not come as much of a surprise to you, but perhaps the reason will: it’s not because of the painfully short days or the bone-chilling temperatures, or even the pre-Christmas what-on-earth-am-I-going-to- give-people-this-year agony. It’s because of Thanksgiving, pure and simple, and the sad realization that once again, I am not taking part.

As someone who has lived the expat life for close to a decade now, I thought I was used to it. In fact, the first few years I lived on foreign soil the fact of being away from home for Thanksgiving didn’t bother me at all. Only one end-of-year holiday to pay penance for at the gym! No need to choke down turkey just to be polite! One less occasion for family conflicts! Instead I channeled my holiday food enthusiasm into Christmas, which apart from the presents and carols and inescapable mass commercialization seemed a perfectly fine substitute.

But as the years went by, a strange ache started to grow in my chest as the winter closed in. However happy I might be with my non-American life the rest of the year, as soon as November arrived I would start suffering intense bouts of homesickness, and all I could think about was that unlike the rest of my countrymen I didn’t have travel plans to finalize, time off work to anticipate and a big feast to plan at the end of the month. I tried to quell my melancholy by attending the annual Thanksgiving dinner thrown by my American departmental colleagues, but nothing about it was right; there were no big bear hugs from long-lost relatives, no good-natured arguments lasting half the night, and far too much shop talk. And the food – well, let’s just say that collective nostalgia does not for superlative eating make. After giving up on those I tried halfheartedly to organize my own dinner one year, but the fact that I don’t actually have any American friends (or an American husband, for that matter) proved to be more of an obstacle than I’d imagined. Of course it was no problem to lure people over for dinner, but since Europeans don’t seem to understand the whole eat-until-you’re-comatose premise, the dinner resembled a civilized dinner party with a vague Thanksgiving theme more than a proper holiday blowout (and I suppose the fact that I eschew most traditional Thanksgiving foods probably didn’t help either). So I pretty much gave up, resigning myself to Thanksgivings enjoyed vicariously through food blogs and telephone calls and dreaming of the far-off November day I’ll be able to celebrate the whole affair properly again.

Before you start to feel too sorry for me, though, and assume I spend Thanksgiving noshing on carrot sticks and oatmeal, I should tell you about the one concession I make which helps me feel I’m celebrating at least a little. Each year, no matter what else we’re eating or who we’re eating with, I make one gigantic, indulgent and totally over-the-top Thanksgiving dessert which we gorge ourselves silly on for several nights in a row. It’s very often pie, sometimes cheesecake, or if I’m feeling really homey, just a giant crisp. This year, however, it’s that most English of desserts, the trifle, though a version which has swapped the traditional sherry and raspberries for a powerful hit of autumn.

This trifle, in fact, is everything you could want in a Thanksgiving dessert, and more. It has pumpkin, apples, and pears; warm spices, toasted nuts, caramel and bourbon; creamy parts, crunchy parts, boozy parts and sweet-sour-spicy parts. It’s suitably over-the-top and outrageously decadent, which, let’s be honest, is really the point of the whole thing, isn’t it? The only thing it’s missing is a family, preferably mine, to spring from its billowy folds, laughing and arguing and bearing the rest of a deliciously epic, waist-stretching feast.

Oh well, at least it comes with considerably less gym time as a result. And for that, I’m certainly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn Trifle with Spice-Roasted Apples, Pears, and Pumpkin-Caramel Sauce

The truth is I’ve never really been one of those less-is-more kind of people. And definitely when it comes to the sanctioned excesses of Thanksgiving, more is definitely more, something this trifle delivers in spades. It is admittedly a bit time-consuming with all its various components, so if you’ve got a lot on your plate (how’s that for a pun!) I’d either start several days ahead or else just bring it along to an event you’re not hosting (or if you are hosting, convince one of your guests to make it…;). Once everything is prepared, though, assembly is a snap and it can sit for up to a day before its last-minute gilding of cream, caramel and nuts. And for heaven’s sake, whatever you do, just don’t forget to save room! p.s. The bourbon can easily be left out if you’re going to be serving alcohol-phobic people or small children; likewise if you can’t or won’t buy bourbon, a mid-range brandy makes a perfectly acceptable stand-in. Or why not just throw all caution to the wind and experiment with your favorite booze?
Source: Inspired by Bon Appétit, November 2003
Serves: 10-12

Vanilla-Bourbon Custard
1/4 cup (32g) cornstarch
2 cups (500ml) whole milk
1 cup (250ml) whipping cream
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon, or to taste

Pumpkin-Caramel Sauce
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 cup (250ml) whipping cream
1/2 cup (125ml) canned pure pumpkin
generous pinch salt

Spice-Roasted Fruit
4 large tart apples (something good for baking, e.g. granny smith), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large firm pears (preferably Bosc), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup (70g) sugar
3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

about 16oz. (450g) store-bought sponge or poundcake, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes
20 gingersnaps or other crisp, spicy cookies
6 tablespoons bourbon, or to taste

2 cups (500ml) cold whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon, or to taste
1 cup (100g) sliced or slivered almonds, lightly toasted

For custard:
Whisk the cornstarch and 1/2 cup (125ml) milk together in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Whisk until the sugar dissolves. Bring the remaining milk and the cream to a simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk 1/2 cup hot milk into the yolk mixture until well blended. Gradually whisk the yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until custard thickens and comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking for about 30 seconds more, then pour into a clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract and bourbon. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to keep it from forming a skin. Chill until cold, about 2
hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

For pumpkin caramel:
Melt the butter in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook until the mixture is deep amber, stirring constantly, about 8 minutes (mixture will be grainy). Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the cream (be careful – the mixture will bubble and steam). Stir until the caramel bits dissolve and the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin and salt to taste; stir until blended. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

For roasted fruit:
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Toss the apples and pears with the sugar, lemon juice and spices in a large bowl. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan (or line with non-stick foil, my new best friend), and spread the fruit out in a shallow layer. Dot with the butter and roast until the fruit is soft, golden and most of the liquid has evaporated, turning with a spatula every 15 minutes, about 45 minutes total (keep a close eye on it toward the end so it doesn’t burn). Cool the fruit on the sheet.

To assemble:
Line the bottom of a large (2-3 quart/liter) bowl or trifle dish with cake cubes, forming a more or less even layer*. Crumble half the gingersnaps over the cake. Drizzle over half the bourbon. Spoon half of the custard into the dish; smooth the top. Cover with half the fruit. Drizzle 1/2 cup (125ml) caramel sauce over. Cover fruit with another even layer of cake cubes (you may not end up using all the cake). Crumble remaining gingersnaps on top. Drizzle with remaining bourbon. Spoon remaining custard over. Cover with remaining fruit. Drizzle with another 1/2 cup caramel sauce (reserve the remainder). Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 6 hours. (Up to this point it can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)
*You can, of course, also make individual trifles using wine or cocktail glasses like you see in the photo above. Just divide the mixture evenly between 10-12 glasses.

To finish:
Whip cream, sugar, vanilla and bourbon in a chilled bowl until the mixture holds soft peaks. Spoon the whipped cream over the top of the trifle, swirling decoratively. (Up to this point it can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Keep chilled.) Just before serving, drizzle the whipped cream with a little more of the reserved caramel sauce and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Serve immediately, though a couple hours sitting at room temperature won’t do it much harm.

Oh, Fall

Chestnut Trofie with Creamy Porcini Sauce

It sneaks up entirely without warning. One minute I’m still clinging to summer, blissfully munching away on colorful salads for dinner, slicing up some fresh fruit for dessert, picking new recipes out of cookbooks because they feature the words ‘light’ and ‘healthy’ in their headnotes, when suddenly, as Emeril would say, bam! Overnight, it’s all I can do to not eat everything in sight. Those same salads that stuffed me a month ago leave me raiding the fridge two hours later. ‘Rib-sticking’ and ‘robust’ have become the two most beautiful words I know. Fruit is no longer very attractive outside of a pie crust, tart shell or crisp topping. I while away the day at work daydreaming about hot chocolate and big hunks of meat and melted cheese on everything.

Oh, fall.

I don’t think my change in appetite would take me so much by surprise if we had a proper fall, you know, of the the red-leaves and frost-on-the-ground kind. But because the weather doesn’t actually change that much here, and all that stands between the rains of summer and the rains of fall are a few degrees of chill, it doesn’t seem like fall should hold that much sway over what I eat. I mean, even when the icy northern winds start to blow in late October, there’s always a few mild, balmy days thrown in here and there to temper things out. Truly cold weather on the coast of Scotland is in fact a rarity; in the six years I’ve lived here I’ve seen it snow fewer times than I have fingers to count them on, and even when it does it never lasts more than a day. But somehow that fact is lost on my appetite, and as soon as the days start to grow shorter, those ancient survival instincts kick in, telling me to prepare for winter by ingesting as many calories as humanly possible.

Thankfully, much of the fall produce I love lends itself to exactly the rich, earthy preparations I’m craving. In northern Italy, the fall harvest includes two of my all-time favorites, the sweet chestnut and the dusky, pungent porcini mushroom. I could eat both of these a million different ways and never get tired of them, but combining them in a rich, belly-warming pasta dish is about as good as it gets. You might be thinking that making the pasta itself out of chestnuts sounds awfully avant garde, but it’s actually a preparation that goes back hundreds of years, to a time when wheat was a rare and expensive commodity in the mountainous areas where chestnut trees grew rampant. By drying and grinding the abundant nuts, the region’s poor discovered a virtually cost-free starch they could used in cakes, bread, polenta, and of course this, a sturdy, flavorful, subtly-sweet pasta that is equally at home under a thin blanket of melted butter and parmesan as it is standing up to a gutsy mushroom sauce. By all means substitute fresh porcinis if you’re lucky enough to have a source for them, but using dried in no way makes for an inferior dish, and it also means you’ll be able to enjoy this dish deep into the winter, when the very idea that you were once eating nothing but salad for dinner is all but laughable in its inconceivability.

Chestnut Trofie with Creamy Porcini Sauce

Before some of you get freaked out by the idea of making your own pasta, let me just reassure you that this is not your average pasta. In fact, adding chestnut flour to pasta makes the whole thing a snap, as it needs far less elbow grease than its wheat-only sibling. The only caveat is that rolling all those cute little trofie takes quite a while, so don’t plan this for a night when dinner needs to get on the table quickly (or else, just roll out the pasta with a machine). The other thing to keep in mind is that the proportion of chestnut flour is adjustable depending on your tastes. Some recipes call for a one-to-one ratio with wheat flour, and while this gives by far the best chestnut flavor, the lack of gluten causes quite quite a heavy, dense texture. Other recipes call for as much as four times as much wheat flour as chestnut; while this produces a better pasta texture-wise, the flavor of chestnut gets easily lost. I’ve put what I think is a good compromise here, but should you wish to tinker, feel free to increase or decrease the proportion of chestnut flour to your liking. Also, a word about chestnut flour itself: try to buy it from a place with a high turnover, and store it in the freezer as it goes rancid quickly. And if you can’t find any locally, don’t worry – it’s widely available online.
Serves: 6-8

For chestnut pasta:
2 1/2 cups (360g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups (180g) chestnut flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil

For porcini sauce:
1 ounce (30g) dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup (250ml hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (125ml) dry Marsala or dry sherry
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
salt and pepper

freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Mix the all-purpose flour, chestnut flour and salt on a work surface, shape into a mound, and make a well in the center. Break the eggs into the well, add the oil, and start mixing them together with a fork or your fingers. Gradually incorporate enough of the flour into the eggs to make a fairly firm but easy-to-work dough; it will feel slightly tacky but should not stick to clean fingers. Add more flour if needed. Knead it for a couple of minutes, just until the dough is smooth, then cover the dough with a damp tea towel and let it rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the porcini mushrooms and the hot water in small bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid, squeezing excess liquid from mushrooms back into bowl; reserve the liquid. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and reserve.

To make trofie, break off chickpea-sized nuggets of dough, keeping the rest covered so it doesn’t dry out. Roll out each nugget between your palms or on the work surface to a skinny rope about 2 inches (5cm) long. Holding each end of the rope between thumb and forefinger, twist the ends in opposite directions until the pasta curls on itself like a corkscrew. Alternatively, if you’re feeling dexterous you can try this technique. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect; the rustic, handmade look has a charm all its own. If this sounds like too much trouble, roll out the dough with a pasta machine and cut into wide ribbons (say, 1/2-3/4-inch). Leave the pasta to air-dry on a floured baking sheet while you make the sauce.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion softens and turns brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. Add Marsala and boil until most of the liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes. Add rosemary, mushrooms, chicken stock and reserved mushroom liquid, carefully leaving any sediment behind, and let the mixture boil until
it has reduced by about half. Add the heavy cream, lower the heat slightly, and let it boil gently until the sauce thickens, another 8-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, and cook the pasta (in batches, if necessary) until it has softened and lost its raw taste, for trofie about 6-8 minutes, and machine-rolled pasta a bit less. The pasta will never become completely soft like traditional wheat pasta, but will retain a toothsome bite in the center.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the mushroom sauce, tossing to combine. Serve hot, passing a bowl of freshly-grated parmesan cheese at the table. A great accompaniment is a salad of crisp greens, sliced pears and walnuts.