Our daughter, Carol, has been visiting us for a few days without her family. For her it has been a relaxing time with no chauffeuring duties to swimming, school meetings, the morning school rush, and cooking. She has been doing some work from her office, but she has also found time to sleep a little late, to shop, and to eat out.
Carol has her own big library of cookbooks, but it is different from my collection, so she has spent time leafing through some of my newer acquisitions. She also enjoys working in the kitchen with Susan and me, and we enjoy that, too. We agreed to cook together on a recipe that appealed to her. She found a recipe in Flour + Water (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2014), the eponymous cookbook from the San Francisco restaurant owned by Thomas McNaughton, a friend of Sarah and Evan.
The recipe she chose was entitled, “Corzetti with Sausage, Clams, and Fennel”, page 186. It involved making pasta – which sounded like fun. The challenge was to re-create the corzetti. Oretta Zanini de Vita (Encyclopedia of Pasta, translated by Maureen B. Fant, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009) describes the pasta dating back to the thirteenth century and consisting of a bit of pasta dough with two thumb indentations to resemble an “8”. That shape was apparently for commoners because by the Renaissance the pasta was often pressed with special wooden stamps that included coats of arms and other designs. These days you can buy corzetti stamps on the Internet. They are designed to cut the pasta into circles with an imprint on both sides. The little devices are often made of exotic woods and quite beautiful. Trouble is, you have to make a lot of corzetti to justify the purchase as the stamps run $60 or more.
We made do with what I had: a 1½ inch ring from my nest of pastry cutters and a wooden mold that I use for butter and springerle cookies. Carol and I wound up imprinting only one side of the pasta, but that was effort enough for two cooks. The finished pasta, though, cooked beautifully, and the sauce was delicious. It all turned out to be a perfect meal with a nice Italian red, a tossed salad, and a fresh baguette. Pistachio gelatto finished it off. This recipe should serve four generously.
Note: Fennel “pollen” is a common ingredient on the West Coast as wild fennel grows prolifically along the roadsides from south of Big Sur to north of the Bay Area. The yellow “pollen” (I think it is actually the flowers and seeds) is often foraged by chefs from the Bay Area. Ground toasted fennel seeds will make an adequate substitute.
Make a flour well
Eggs and egg yolks added to the flour well
Kneading the pasta dough
Atlas pasta machine at the ready
Sheet of pasta
Nest of pastry cutters
Pasta sheet cut into circles
Wooden butter/springerle mold
Pasta circles stamped with the wooden mold
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- Heap the flour in the middle of a large, flat, clean surface. Form a well in the middle. Add the salt
- Add the eggs, egg yolks, and olive oil to the well, and with a fork, combine the eggs and oil, being careful not to incorporate any of the flour. When the eggs are combined, gradually pull bits of the flour into the mixture until it is completely incorporated. Sprinkle in a few drops of water if you cannot incorporate all of the flour.
- Draw the mixture into a ball. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly shiny. Add a few more drops of water if necessary. Wrap with plastic film and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- When you are ready to roll out the pasta, cut the dough in fourths, working with one piece at a time and rewrapping the remaining pieces.
- Pat the piece of dough into a flattened, elongated piece and run it through the pasta machine rollers at the widest setting. Fold in thirds and run through the rollers once more. Repeat the process one more time. Then run the dough through the rollers, decreasing the setting by steps until you have reached the thickness you desire. (Different machines will have different settings.) You shouldn’t need to flour the dough, but if it is too sticky, lightly dust it while you roll it out.
- Place the rolled dough under a clean kitchen towel while you roll out the remaining pieces of dough.
- With a 1½ inch circular pastry cutter, cut the sheets of pasta. Then, using a stamp of the same diameter, press firmly on each dough circle to form an imprint. Separate the imprinted circles from the remaining dough (Save that for some other use.) and let rest until you are ready to boil it.
Sausage and Clam Sauce
- 3 pounds Little Neck clams
- 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for sautéing the sausage
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 2 cups + ½ cup white wine
- 8 ounces bulk pork sausage
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- ½ teaspoon fennel pollen (if you can’t harvest your own fennel pollen, dry-toast fennel seeds and grind finely in a spice grinder. Substitute ½ teaspoon of the ground fennel
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- juice of ½ lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon snipped chives
- grated Romano cheese (optional)
- Scrub the clams and let them stand in cold water in a colander for a few minutes to give up their sand. Drain.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a high flame. Stir in the shallot and cook until translucent. Add the sliced garlic, 2 cups of white wine, and the washed clams. Cover and cook until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Remove the clams and continue to boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. Cool the liquid completely.
- Remove the clams from their shells and return to the cooled liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Wipe the sauté pan clean and return to high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Then stir in the sausage and brown on all sides, breaking it up as you cook it. Stir in the red onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the fennel and minced garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic is lightly browned (Do not burn!). Add ½ cup of white wine and boil until it has almost completely evaporated.
- Add the chicken stock, the clams, and their cooking liquid. Bring to the simmer.
The finished dish
Served with a crisp baguette, butter, and an optional grating of Romano
- Cook the pasta by adding it to a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Return to the boil and cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Be careful not to overcook.
- Drain the pasta and add to the sausage and clam sauce. Simmer the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- Divide the pasta and sauce between four plates, top with parsley and chives, and serve immediately. Top with optional grated Romano cheese.