If you need someone to blame, then it is my Mom’s fault. For most of my teenage years, we would tackle Bon Appetit’s ridiculously complicated Valentine’s Day dessert together. This recipe taught me several important life skills including the proper pronunciation of framboise and Grand Marnier, and that, though still underage, if you cook with a new alcohol, it is easy to convince otherwise responsible adults that you needed to taste it.
More importantly, it taught me to enter the kitchen without fear, to fail boldly, and that if it meant eight hours together with someone special, your day was a complete success.
Unlike the glazed strawberry tarts with crème patissiere and spun sugar, or the aforementioned white and dark chocolate, marbled heart, this recipe is a snap. You have to wait 20 minutes for the cream to steep with the vanilla bean, and make sure not to scramble the egg yolks.
Chocolate Pasta + Crème Anglaise
- 1.25 cups cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 large-egg yolks
- 1.5 cups raspberries
- 1.5 tsp Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar*
- 8oz chocolate pasta*
Simple Substitutions: You can use a thick, syrupy, 25-year balsamic and a tablespoon of dark, bittersweet chocolate shavings instead of the vinegar. No pasta? Grab some fresh berries, or just eat the sauce with a spoon. We won’t tell.
- Warm cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add bean and seeds to cream. Turn off heat, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
- Strain cream and return to heat with sugar. Return to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Add cream slowly to egg yolks. Return to med heat. Stir until sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon.
- Crush 5-6 raspberries in a bowl. Strain sauce into bowl. Add vinegar.
- Cook pasta until al dente. Strain and return to pot with sauce. Cook an additional 5 minutes over low heat. Stir often.
- Cool to room temp over a bowl of ice water and serve topped with berries.
Absolutes are rare in cooking. Once you learn the basics of technique and flavor you can experiment freely – recognizing you’re going to bomb every once in a while and that every truly great dish has been practiced and refined over time. While researching broccoli rabe last week, I discovered an exception to this rule. Every single recipe I read began with blanching and included garlic and red pepper flakes.
Now, I’m sure there’s an exception out there somewhere, but once I spent some time getting to know broccoli rabe, it all made sense. Though it looks like broccoli, broccoli rate is closer in relation to the turnip, another member of the brassica family, which includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and kale. It has a sharp bitterness to it which is abated by blanching. The heat of the pepper flakes and richness of lightly browned garlic reveal subtler flavors in the rabe.
While there is no sauce in this pasta, I used a common Italian technique of adding the pasta cooking liquid to the sauté pan, along with slightly undercooked pasta, and letting the dish come together while the liquid is absorbed or evaporates. This leaves the pasta almost as flavorful as the greens.
Broccoli Rabe with Pasta
- 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems cleaned and peeled, and damaged leaves removed*
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbs red pepper flakes
- 2 tbs chopped oregano
- More olive oil – the good stuff!
- 1 pound dried penne or farfalle
- Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
*Chop off the bottom 1/2″ of the stems, then peel them. If your rabe is very leafy, remove the leaves, blanch them separately, and add them about 2 minutes after adding the stems so that they do not become over-cooked.
- Blanch broccoli rabe for 1 minute in salted, boiling water and remove to ice bath. When cool, drain.
- Chop broccoli rabe into 1” pieces.
- Boil water and start cooking pasta.
- Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and cook until starting to light brown. Be careful not to burn.
- Add pepper flakes, cook for 30 sec.
- Add broccoli rabe and cook 2-3 minutes until crisp tender.
- When pasta is almost ready, drain, reserving two cups of liquid.
- Add pasta and liquid to broccoli rabe. Cook until liquid reduces to coat pasta.
- Toss with oregano, additional olive oil, cheese, pepper and salt.