Pennette Rigate with Saffron Manchego Cream Sauce

I’ve started experimenting with the way I’ve been storing cheese lately and somehow forgot about a nice chunk of Manchego in the back of the fridge.  I had wrapped it in paper so it was able to breathe – It’s supposed to be better for the cheese’s flavor.  Turns out, when I discovered it after a couple weeks, there was no mold on it whatsoever but it had dried out considerably.  I took this in stride and decided to improvise a recipe from the hardened chunk of sheep’s cheese.  Man, am I glad I did.

What I came up with was a rich and flavorful pasta sauce heavily influenced by the flavors of Spain.  It was a simple recipe and I totally winged it.  I just love it when dinners like that work out.  Here’s what I used:

1 Cup Heavy Cream (1/2 and 1/2 would be fine, too)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Small Onion
4 Cloves Garlic
1 Pinch Saffron
3/4 Cup Shredded Young Manchego
Salt and Pepper
1 Pound of Pennette Rigate (That’s what I had on the shelf.  Most anything would work.)

Mince the onions and garlic and saute until soft in the olive oil.  Add the cream.  Add the saffron.  Stir as pasta cooks.  Slowly add the Manchego in the last couple minutes and stir until fully incorporated.  Top the cooked pasta and enjoy.

While Mrs. NH and I ate, we commented that this would be completely adaptable.  Want to add more Spanish flavor?  Add some chopped jamón.  Seafood?  Shrimp would be nice.  It has all of the characteristics of a paella base and a nice cheese bite.  The Manchego is much milder than Parmesan so it’s a nice change.  Try a version of you own and let me know about it in the comments, eh?

Mediterranean Mezes

Mezes

We expanded the definition of “Meze” on Tuesday night to include the western Mediterranean as well as the east which is the part of the Med typically associated with the word.  It was a sort of perfect storm of food that just happened to show up in our fridge after a few shopping trips – some near, some far.   There was Manchego cheese from Barcelona mixed with green apple, garlic and olive oil for a tasty salad.  There were feta and filo puffs from the Greek Society specialty shop in Prague 6.  Add to that grilled eggplant and yellow peppers  finished with Istrian olive oil, flanked by grilled veal sausage from the Little Italy deli just down the street.  The plate was begging for a sprig of parsley and sliced cherry tomato for aesthetics but on a Tuesday night, garnishes seemed superfluous.

It was really a great combo of flavors.  The acidity of the apple in the Manchego salad served as the perfect palate cleanser between bites of the smokey eggplant and rustic veal sausage.  Oh, and the sausage – it was perfectly seasoned, bold and grilled open until the edges were slightly crispy.  I’m about to fill my freezer with this stuff on my next trip back to the Little Italy deli.  The filo-feta puffs are sort of a high-class pizza roll.  It’s hard not to pop the entire thing in your mouth and enjoy smoothness of the feta with the flakiness of the crust in one bite.

I really love eating this way.  Preparation was very simple, consisting of some washing and slicing.  The rest was just a warm oven and hot grill.  All that was missing was the lap of the Mediterranean outside our window.  I guess you can’t have everything!