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Egg Pappardelle, Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive-Oil-Fried Egg: The "Sophia Loren of Pastas"

“You deeeep them!” explained my Argentine mother standing behind a cutting board overflowing with seemingly every vegetable known to man. She made a dipping motion with the cauliflower floret in her hand, while trying to keep her piles from avalanching into each other. “Like fondue?” I asked hopefully, visions of chocolate-covered strawberries dancing in my 10-year-old head. “Si, pero tiene mucho mucho ajo!” Lots and lots of garlic.

It all started with this ham my parents had smuggled back from Europe. I'm not sure how they did it, but they managed to get a whole prosciutto leg past customs. Every weekend, my dad would haul it to the affable guy known as El Turkito, who owned a Middle-Eastern deli in suburban Detroit, to get a portion of it sliced. When it became clear that no single family could make its way through a whole prosciutto, no matter how much they loved salty pig, my parents decided to have a party and share the wealth. And that's the first I heard of bagna càuda. They would serve cocktails, prosciutto and bagna càuda to all their friends. I was disappointed it didn't involve chocolate, but it sounded lovely. Bagna càuda. Like a rich, fragrant creme Sophia Loren might rub on her face. Bagna càuda. Or a plush, white, fur stole she might wrap around her shoulders. Bagna càuda. Maybe a silky robe she might wear while applying make-up in her splendid boudoir. “Pietro, darrrrrling, coolyou pleze handa me mi bagna càuda?” It sounded like something exotic, luxurious, and yet comforting.

In fact, bagna càuda is Italian for hot bath or hot sauce. The dish originates from the Piedmontese region and is served and eaten much like fondue, only instead of a cheese base, it consists of a pungent combination of olive oil, butter, anchovies, and molto molto garlic. Served with peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, onion, celery, radicchio, or artichoke for dipping, it is typically considered a cold-weather dish. Luxurious and comforting, indeed.

I had all but forgotten about that party and the bagna càuda until recently when I was making myself hungry perusing recipes on one of my favorite food blogs, The Wednesday Chef. When I came across Luisa's entry for Egg Pappardelle with Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive-Oil-Fried Egg, it stopped me in my tracks and had me salivating at ciao. Seriously, garlic, wilted anything, and a fried egg? Over pasta? I had to try it. And while I was at it, I had to kick myself for having evaded my mother's bagna càuda all those many years ago. I know I was only 10 and there was lots of Sprite to drink and Twister to be played and maybe “The Love Boat” was on, but why didn't I take a bite? Just one little bite, so I could now, this many years later, describe it to you? What a little Philistine I was.

I made the pappardelle for my family last night and, channeling a bit of 70s laissez-faire mothering as well as some Sophia Loren, I stood in my kitchen, made the Italian fist – where you put all your fingers together, pointing up, and shake your wrist a little – and yelled, "Basta! To hell with my piccolo children. Let them eat the bagna cauda!"

Let me tell you something. I have been threatening to do this for a long time, but usually if I try a recipe that I think they won't eat, I make them something else. It's horrible. I'm a wimp and a martyr, I know. Believe me. I know. Let me tell you another thing. It was so incredibly liberating. It was so much easier to make the Italian fist than to make a second or third dinner. My kids like Caesar salad, pasta and fried eggs, so they can certainly figure out a way to like it all together. And let me tell you a third thing and then I'll stop telling you things. They didn't like it at all and ate cereal. But my husband loved it. And more importantly, I LOVED IT! This recipe is a keeper, my friends. It's bold and irresistible, sexy and complex – one might even be tempted to call it the Sophia Loren of pastas. And now I'm motivated to smuggle a ham, don my kitten heels, pull out the fondue pot, make the real bagna càuda and have a party. Until then, this pasta will keep us (and hopefully you) very happy indeed.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Egg Pappardelle With Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive-Oil-Fried Egg

(Serves 4)

For the pappardelle and bagna cauda:


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

15 anchovy fillets

8 large garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

12 radicchio leaves, torn into small pieces

Grated zest and juice of half a lemon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces egg pappardelle


For finishing the dish:


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil


4 large eggs


Parmesan cheese


1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Instructions:

1. To make the bagna cauda, place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, anchovies and garlic and cook, breaking up the anchovies with a fork and stirring constantly, until the anchovies dissolve and the garlic is soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, radicchio and lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Prepare the pasta by bringing a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add enough kosher salt until the water tastes salty and return to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.

3. To finish the dish, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat until the oil is almost smoking, about 2 minutes. Break 1 egg into a small bowl and pour into the skillet. When it just begins to set around the edges, break the second egg into the bowl and pour into the skillet. (By waiting a moment before adding the next egg, the eggs won’t stick together.) Repeat with the remaining 2 eggs. Cook until the edges are golden, the whites are set and the yolks are still runny.

4. Use tongs to lift the pasta out of the water and transfer it quickly, while it’s dripping with water, to the skillet with the bagna cauda. Place the skillet over high heat. Toss the pasta to combine the ingredients and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more.

5. Using tongs, divide the pasta among 4 plates, twisting it into mounds. Grate a generous layer of cheese over each. Place an egg over the cheese. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and serve with more grated cheese and pepper.

Simple Good and Tasty is pleased to welcome writer Gabriela Lambert, a former lawyer who, after 10 years of practice, decided to stay home with her three kids and pursue a life of leisure. Given the choice between salty and sweet, Gabriela will hit the salty every time. Given the choice between pig and cow, she will clutch her chest and whimper that it’s like asking her to pick her favorite child. On her birthday, she is most likely to choose a trip to the farmersmarket with her family, but that’s one of her favorite things to do on any given day. In addition to minding her brood, she spends her time practicing yoga, driving around in her minivan, and blogging at www.peevishmama.com.

Comments

Sounds deeelish. Still cackling about the kids eating cereal instead. Love this post

Hey Peevish! Your writing is as delicious as your cooking.

Seriously now...you must tell the smuggling ham story for part II of this article!

This article and recipe almost make me want to fake I know how to cook. Any recipes that call for a can of Campbell's soup? BEAUTIFUL article...

Bella, Bellissima!!! Sophia is a Goddess and certainly would love to slip into a nice warm Bagna Cauda....and there is no butter in there...no need.

I eat a lot of raw veggies year round. People try to tell me 'not in the winter'. But you have given me some ammunition here, with this 'cold weather food' --- in the winter, you still eat the raw veggies but FIRST, you deep them in a nice warm bath! Perfetto....

And I love that you didn't make a second dish for the kids...but they followed in your footsteps..:)

A succulent post! We want more from Gabriela!

Wow! I can't wait to make this- love the story!

What a perfect recipe for this lovely month of February. A true blues buster. Gabriella Lambert and Simple Good and Tasty. Delectable combo! I hope to see a lot more. Also - for those new to Gabriella's prose - you are in for a real treat at peevish mama. Set aside some time - you are going to be there for a while.

What delicious taste of your lovely writing! How do I get on the guest list for THAT party????

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