Favorite Dish: Fettucini alla Bastione
There's no denying it: The South has some pretty awesome food. So far on the blog, we've focused on Southern restaurants and Southern recipes. But today we're bringing you a dish that's a touch more exotic, inspired by a trip to Italy we took a few years ago. Don't worry, we'll still bring you plenty of good stories on Southern hole-in-the-wall joints and down home cooking. But sometimes it's good to step away from the cast iron skillet and embrace some European influence.
One of our favorite things about traveling is getting to try new foods that we’ve never tasted before. Food is truly one of the avenues by which we learn about a place; can you imagine trying to explain New Orleans or New York without mentioning anything about food? It is always interesting to see what’s similar and what’s different about the things we all eat, around the South, around the country, and around the world.
Sometimes, though, these new foods are so good that we can’t just relegate them to memory. Sometimes we immediately look forward to our next trip back, but other times that new dish may be so distant that a return visit in the foreseeable future is out of the question. That’s when we really get to challenge ourselves in the kitchen and try to figure out just what it is that made that dish taste SO GOOD. And sometimes we’re surprised to find out how simple the answer really was.
Fettucini alla Bastione: just a handful of common ingredients can make a scrumptious Italian pasta dish!
Such is the case with one of our favorite special occasion dishes, Fettucini alla Bastione. We came upon this delightful pasta dish while in Rome at Hostaria Dei Bastione, literally right across the street from the Vatican wall. We experienced countless meals that we loved on that trip, but Fettucini alla Bastione was the one that we just had to replicate in our kitchen. After a few tries at getting it right (leave the garlic in the jar, trust us), we think we’ve gotten it as close as we can remember. And even if it isn’t exactly identical, this dish is pretty dang good.
We’re going to give you instructions on how to make this dish completely from scratch. You’ll really see just how simple such an exquisite dish can be. Fear not, though, if the prospect of peeling tomatoes and rolling out pasta is too daunting (or you don’t have enough time between work and taking the kids to baseball practice to pull it off), you can substitute a few ingredients and turn this into a 30-minute dish. We’ll get to that part later.
Fettucini alla Bastione
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
Mix all ingredients together and knead for several minutes to form the beginning of pasta sheets. For our Kitchen Aid stand mixer, we beat them with the flat blade for around 30 seconds and then switch to the dough hook for a couple of minutes to mix the dough. After that, the dough is divided into four equal pieces and gradually flattened out to sheets (we take them down to the #4 setting on our roller).
Change the roller out for a fettucini cutter if you have one, but first be sure to dust all of the pasta sheets with a little extra flour – this prevents the fettucini from sticking to itself and becoming a clumpy mess when you go to cook it. Then cut the pasta using a roller or a knife, and wait to cook it until your sauce is almost ready.
The fettucini, waiting for a hot bath before it can join the sauce
1 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes
Three large oranges
1 cup heavy whipping cream
In a large stockpot of boiling water, toss in the tomatoes a few at a time, removing them as soon as the skin begins to split. Let cool, then remove the skins. Cut the tomatoes in half, and squeeze out the juice and seeds and discard. Roughly chop the remaining body of the tomatoes and reserve for the sauce.
Cut the oranges in half and, using a reamer or other citrus juicer, collect all of their juice. Zest the peels of one whole orange and reserve for later.
In a large skillet, pour half of the orange juice and bring to a simmer. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook slowly. Stir occasionally, the goal is to break down the tomatoes until they become part of the sauce. If any of the hard shoulder/stem of the tomato made it into your sauce and won’t cook down, just remove the hard parts at this point. It isn’t imperative, but it helps the consistency of the sauce.
Add the orange zest to the pan after the first ten minutes or so. As the orange juice in the pan evaporates, slowly add the remaining juice until it has all been used.
At this point, bring the stockpot back to a boil (you can use the same water you used to peel the tomatoes) and get ready to cook your pasta. Turn the heat in the skillet with your orange-tomato mixture down to low and add cream. Mix with a wooden spoon thoroughly. Cook your pasta. If you haven’t cooked fresh pasta before, be aware that it only takes 2-3 minutes, unlike dried pasta. Once it floats, drain in a colander and add it to your skillet full of sauce.
Toss the pasta with the sauce to coat it thoroughly and remove the skillet from heat. Serve immediately. This dish can stand up by itself, or if you’re really trying to “do as the Romans do”, you can follow it up with a meat or seafood dish.
It may not look like much, but you’ll be blown away by the depth of flavors in this plate
Now for the shortcut version…with a disclaimer. There’s nothing quite like fresh pasta to bring out the flavors in a sauce, so if you’ve got time and ambition, give it a shot. If time is short, though, here’s all you’ll need:
1 box dried fettucini
1 ½ cups orange juice (go with a version that includes some pulp)
1 14 oz can peeled, diced tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
Just substitute these ingredients into the appropriate steps. Make note that the dried pasta will take longer to cook (10-12 minutes), so start the pasta a little earlier in this version.
The great thing we find about cooking Italian food is that getting your measurements perfect (except for the pasta) isn’t really necessary. If you like a little more orange flavor, just add some more orange juice and cook the sauce a little longer to reduce. If you want your pasta floating in sauce, add more orange juice and tomatoes before pouring in another half-cup or cup of cream (just don’t tell your cardiologist). The more important consideration in cooking Italian food is to use the best quality, freshest ingredients you can find.
As an addendum, this dish can pair well with a wide range of wines, from a dry white to a sweet red. We went with a rosé from one of our new favorite wineries, King Family Vineyards in Crozet, Virginia. If you’re in the Charlottesville area any time soon, we’d highly recommend you stop by and visit them. They’ve got a gorgeous property in the Blue Ridge Mountains and some spectacular wines.
The Crosé only enhanced our enjoyment of this particular plate of Fettucini alla Bastione