Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve Pasta Is A Sweet Treat

In Italy, besides special holiday cookies and cakes like panettone, pasta is served for dessert, especially on Christmas Eve. Italy has a long tradition of serving sweetened pasta for dessert. Back in the Renaissance, pasta was a luxury food, reserved for special occasions, and paired with other luxury foods like sugar and cinnamon.

Each region of Italy, from north to south, has a different specialty recipe.

Macaroni with walnuts, maccheroni con le noci, a mound of luscious pasta tossed in a sweet dark chocolate sauce topped with grated chocolate and walnuts, is served in central Italy, especially in Lazio and Umbria. For centuries, the nuns at the Monastery of Santo Spirito in Agrigento, Sicily, have been selling couscous desserts seasoned with pistachios, cuscus dolce siciliano al pistachio, dense like rice pudding, with deep pistachio flavor. It's usually served topped with grated dark chocolate and pomegranate seeds, which makes for a pretty green and red Christmas color theme.

Macaroni With Chocolate Walnut Sauce (Maccheroni Con Le Noci)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients: 

10 ounces pappardelle or other wide noodle
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons rum
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Ground cinnamon
Freshly ground nutmeg
Honey

Directions:

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. Drain, return to the cooking pot, and, off the heat, immediately toss with sugar, chocolate, walnuts, rum, zest, and pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss well, until the sugar and chocolate dissolves.

3. Serve topped with grated chocolate and a drizzle of honey.


Pistachio Couscous (Cuscus Dolce Siciliano al Pistachio)

From "Pasta Modern" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) by Francine Segan
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

Salt
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup blanched almonds
Ground cinnamon
4 to 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds or other fresh fruit or dried fruit

Directions:

1. Bring 1 1/4 cups water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, then stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool to room temperature.

2. Meanwhile, grind the pistachios and almonds in a small food processor until very fine and powder-like. Add the nuts and a pinch of cinnamon into the couscous and stir until well combined. Sweeten to taste with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar.

3. Serve topped with grated dark chocolate and pomegranate seeds or other fruit.