This post is part of the Food Matters Project, a cooking collaboration among participating bloggers. Each week, we will cook a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook, which places an emphasis on mindful and sustainable eating. Follow along with us!
If you participate in the Food Matters Project, you’ll note that this recipe is supposed to be Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese. This brilliantly simple dish was chosen by Marcia of Twenty By Sixty, and you should check out what other FMP members did with it here!
But I just can’t help myself, so I made a few changes. The first thing my mind jumps to when playing with brussels sprouts is sherry. In fact, it’s difficult to stop me from using sherry in pretty much every recipe. There’s something about sautéeing vegetables in this rich, slightly sweet, but still complex liquid that transforms them completely. And you’d have to seriously go overboard with it to overwhelm the dish, which is good for me because I have a heavy hand with flavorings.
I decided to brown the brussels sprouts with shallots instead of boil them in with pasta, because I like my sprouts slightly crispy, and, like I said, it gave me an opportunity to involve the sherry. I am not a big fan of blue cheese, so I used fontina, as well as some gouda I had lying around in my fridge. Here, I essentially applied my macaroni and cheese philosophy: cheese should be varied, and abundant.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find fresh figs, so I used dried, but came across a lovely looking pear in my travels and opted to throw that in as well (I’m happy I did). The whole wheat rotini—well, it just happens to be what I had on hand. I topped it with toasted walnuts, which I only wish I’d had more of, and with all the goodies I threw in, this dish tasted a bit more like a warm pasta salad than a sauced pasta of any kind. It was unlike anything I’ve had, really, which I liked a lot. Much like Bittman’s philosophy on meat (when you eat it, don’t make it the focus of your plate), the pasta here was almost unnecessary. It was there, but unlike in other dishes where pasta wants to hog the spotlight, it played its part in the ensemble quite well.
What I took away from this? It’s not so much this exact recipe that I would replicate, but rather the knowledge that I am not done learning about pasta presentation. Which is great news for me, since I love nothing more than to play with my food.
For the recipe, refer to page 221 of your Food Matters Cookbook, or check out Marcia’s post.
Lily Bellow graduated in 2009 from Harvard University with a degree in English Literature. While in college, she bartended and cooked at the campus pub, and as a result has a difficult time eating chicken wings. She is the Managing Editor for Small Kitchen College.