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Pasta, Risotto and You

by Nancy Caivano

 

November—Perfect Potatoes

 

Perfect Potatoes 
November, the official kick off to the holidays. We're off! We have Thanksgiving coming up, then the Christmas rush, then New Year's, then whatever is after New Year's. with all the planning, cooking and partying in the weeks to come, now is the time to get ready.

I know that most people focus on the main courses of Thanksgiving—the turkey, maybe ham, goose, even main course pastas (at least at my house). My personal favorites are the sides for that wonderful meal. I can remember as a child filling my plate and realizing I forgot to take some turkey. Stuffings, great veggie dishes that we don't normally see, rices and of course...myriad potatoes. The potato is what I want to look at, to see how we can fit potatoes, pasta and rice into one column.

Now, don't panic—I'm not giving you pasta and potato salad or something like that. But, how about pasta stuffed with potatoes, or even made from potatoes? In the case of risotto, you can have potatoes swirled in to make a fabulous contrast of creamy and chewy. The recipes I offer you for this Thanksgiving will be welcome additions to your table. You don't necessarily have to use them as sides; you could also use them as starters. and you don't have to use them on Thanksgiving. How about serving them with leftover turkey, when you run out of stuffing and mashed potatoes? The turkey's the same, but these recipes will make it seem like a totally different event.

First, I have chosen the ultimate potato/pasta marriage — gnocchi. In this case, Sautéed Spinach Gnocchi. Tender spinach is combined with fluffy potatoes, a pinch of nutmeg and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, rolled into light dumplings, poached, then sautéed until lightly crisp and baked in a gratin with delicious Fontina cheese. It would be a perfect way to begin your Thanksgiving (or regular Thursday) meal. If you are a hearty eater, you can make a meal of these all on their own. Try tossing some leftover turkey in with the gnocchi while sautéing them, and then adding the sauce; you'll never look at turkey the same way again.

For our risotto, I went the purée route. Risotto with Sweet Potato purée and Bacon is an amazing dish. Sweet potatoes are baked, then puréed with brown sugar and butter, and combined into the risotto with crispy, maple-flavored bacon for an unbeatable combination of flavors. This dish is great as a starter, or as a side to your turkey or ham. This would also be a good way to use up those turkey leftovers; just add shredded or chopped leftover turkey to the risotto with the butter and cheese. It definitely beats turkey sandwiches...again.

Now, besides turkey, one of the highlights of Thanksgiving is the desserts. Pies and cakes abound after the meal, so I wanted to make sure you had a potato dessert, too. I'm not a big fan of sweet potato pie, but that filling is awesome when mixed into a cheesecake. Sweet Potato Marble Cheesecake is spicy and creamy and luscious all at the same time. It has a gingersnap-pecan crust, and the filling has puréed baked sweet potatoes as well as cream cheese, vanilla and spices. Your guests will be amazed that they are eating sweet potatoes, because they have never tasted sweet potatoes like this.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, and that you enjoy the holiday with your family. Before you dig in, look around at the people you're with and say a little secret prayer of thanks for them. If you happen to be alone, close your eyes and say a little secret prayer of thanks for being alive and for everything around you.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Nancy Caivano
Chefchk@[email-address-removed]

 
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Copyright © 2001, Nancy Caivano. All rights reserved.

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