I discovered the recipe for Paglia e Fieno, or Straw and Hay, in Diane Seed’s The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces book. For a while in the mid-1990s, this book was sold at Crate & Barrel, and I used to pair it with wooden kitchen spoons and a pasta fork as a wedding present for friends who got married in that era. It was just after I had returned from studying in Italy for a year, so I wanted to invite them to learn about all the amazing sauces that Italians use with their variety of pastas. It was at the new peak of the Italian food craze in the U.S., so hopefully my timing was perfect.
Although it seems like a tiny volume for a cookbook, as it closes out at 123 pages with no photos only illustrations, this is one of those resources from which I’ve pulled many recipes that are in my meal rotation. She has lots of vegetarian vegetable ones in addition to the ones with meat and seafood. The headnotes that go along with the recipes are informative and helpful in putting them together. Most of the ones I usually make are suitable for a weeknight dinner. I have to confess, I’ve been too scared off by some of the more complex and complicated ones to attempt them (like the Timballo) but maybe that is something that I should add to my resolution list to tackle next year. If you don’t already have this on your bookshelves, I highly recommend it.
This dish combines spinach pasta and regular pasta (usually tagliatelle) to make the “straw and hay.” The sauce is a cream-based one that combines peas, ham or proscuitto cotto, and sauteed mushrooms dusted with parmesan cheese. It is robust and hearty and very filling. For me, this is comfort food at its most wonderful.
It not only brings back memories of cooking in my kitchen in Bologna and learning about how to make good pasta dishes, it also enables me to use ingredients that I can source locally in New York. To me this is the best of both worlds, being able to take recipes I have from my travels and living overseas and being able to translate them into my current life. As the weather starts to go from sunny summer and cool fall into dreary winter, I keep this dish and its rich flavors in mind for those days when I need a treat.
Kitchen Witch Tips:
At a networking coffee this week, a contact mentioned to me that what she’d really like is for someone to hand her a a guide to the Greenmarket plus some tips on what to make and where to find the ingredients. I can’t do all of that, but here’s the list of where I sourced everything for this recipe when I shopped there on Wednesday:
Shallots – Paffenroth Gardens
Mushrooms – Bulich Mushrooms