GGD and I went for an early dinner at one of our favorite SF restaurants last night, Nopa. We lucked out and got two seats at the Chef’s bar, where we could watch all the prep work and grilling from only a few feet away. I particularly enjoyed watching the whole chickens twirling on a rotisserie while veggies were being grilled underneath, including our delicious broccoli that I must order on any visit to Nopa; the same broccoli dish that inspired me to make my own roasted broccoli with anchovy, lemon and breadcrumbs – which is now the only way I prepare the vegetable.
In fact, GGD and I ordered a new dish last night at NOPA: Housemade Pappardelle, Spicy Fennel Sausage, Pea Tendrils, Mint and Parmesan. The pasta was tender, the sausage perfectly cooked, and the peas and mint a perfect addition. Not only did it hit the spot, but it inspired me to make my own version of the pasta this evening. And although it didn’t quite turn out exactly like the Nopa version, it was pretty damn good if I do say so myself.
Pappardelle with Spicy Sausage, Fava Beans, Fennel and Mint (serves 2)
- 6 oz pappardelle pasta, good quality
- 1 spicy Italian sausage (chicken or pork), casing removed
- 1/3 bulb of fennel, sliced thinly with a mandolin
- 1/2 shallot, chopped
- 1 TB butter
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup fat free half-n-half
- 10 fava bean stalks (makes about 1/2 cup shelled beans)
- 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped coarsely
- salt and pepper to taste
- shredded parmesan
Start by preparing the fava beans. This was actually my first time cooking with fava beans, and I heard that they were sort of a pain to shell. But it wasn’t so bad after all! Start by slitting the bean down the seam and removing the shells. Meanwhile, boil a small pot of water. Once all the beans are removed and the water is boiling, add them to the pot and cook for exactly one minute. Then transfer to a bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon. The beans will be much easier to shell this way.
Boil a medium pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, brown the sausage for about 5 minutes in a large, deep saute pan. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate with a paper towel on top to drain some of the fat. In the same pan, cook the fennel, shallot and butter over a medium flame until they soften. Add the white wine and lower the heat, simmering for about 5 minutes or until mostly evaporated. Add the chicken broth and raise the heat back to medium, continuing to saute until slightly reduced. Lower the heat again and and whisk in the half-n-half. Simmer and whisk every so often to keep smooth.
Heat a small sauce pan over a medium-low flame. Add the sausage and fava beans and sauté occasionally while you wait for the pasta to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Toss the pasta into the sauce and continue to cook over a low flame for a few minutes, until the pasta reaches your desired texture. Add the sausage and fava beans to the pasta, garnishing with mint and parmesan. Serve immediately in shallow pasta bowls.
GGD and I had enjoyed a Portalupi 2010 il Migliore Pinot Noir with our dinner at Nopa, which was a good pairing with the pasta because it was light and complimented the sausage well. Though, you could also try a medium bodied white such as a Chardonnay or Viognier, which would work well with the creamier sauce. Either way, the pasta will steal the show. The touch of mint adds a nice refreshing flavor that is juxtaposed with the spiciness of the sausage and the sweetness of the sauce. And if you have access to fresh pasta, use it! I hope this dish inspires you as much as Nopa’s Pappardelle inspired me!