Tortellini Gratinati with Parsnip “Bechamel”

16 Mar

I’ve invented a lot of recipes in my day.  Thousands.  A portion of those were for restaurant consulting projects around the world — including hotels and supermarket chains.  The others were for the hundreds of articles and twelve books that I’ve published since 1993.   I was the first to create olive oil ice cream, pesto-pistachio salmon, had the first watermelon-feta salad published in the New York Times, became famous for cooking short ribs in a concoction of prune juice and teriyaki sauce, and for frying capers in olive oil to pour over roasted asparagus.  There are too, too many to mention here:  Some have become signatures and others have been hijacked.  No matter.  But this month’s article  published in Bon Appetit –that featured my five baked pastas — has received more attention than most.  Permission was just given to publish the story in an upcoming issue of South Africa’s House & Garden, and I was just asked to be on Martha Stewart’s radio show to talk about baked pastas using seasonal ingredients.

Several  blog readers have also made requests:  one in particular was keen to try my Tortellini Gratinati with Gorgonzola, Rosemary & Parsnip Bechamel.  For some reason, the title was changed in the magazine to Tortellini Gratinati with Mushrooms and Parsnip “Bechamel. ” For me, some of the romance and appeal of the dish had to do with the flavor profile of the gorgonzola and rosemary.  No matter.  The most exciting component of the dish is my parsnip “bechamel.”  I was thrilled that this nascent idea came to life and was so delicious.  This original spin, based on the classic French bechamel sauce, is as creamy and rich as the authentic recipe (ever more so!) but is fashioned from boiled parsnips which give a luxurious mouthfeel, a bit of sweetness, and lots of good nutrition.  The parsnip puree takes the place of the traditional butter and flour used in making bechamel.   It has already become a “new favorite” in my repertoire.  This “bechamel” can be used as a warm cushion for roast chicken, poured over roasted eggplant and mushrooms for a great vegetarian main course, or used as a filling for a big baked potato strewn with bits of crispy bacon.  Loosened up with a bit more milk or chicken stock, it becomes a wondrous soup.

Tortellini Gratinati with Gorgonzola, Rosemary & Parsnip “Bechamel”

The recipe can be made in quick stages then put together right before baking.  I use a combination of large and small cheese-filled fresh tortellini from the supermarket.  Small ravioli or fresh cavatelli may be substituted.

2 large parsnips, about 12 ounces
2 cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup freshly-grated parmigiano reggiano
3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, in small pieces
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
12 ounces baby portabellos, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
1-1/2 pounds fresh cheese-filled tortellini or tortelloni, or a mixture
6 ounces imported gorgonzola dolce, in small pieces

Peel parsnips.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Place in small saucepan with salted water to cover by several inches.   Bring to a boil and boil 20 to 25 minutes until very soft.  Drain well.  Put in food processor with 1 cup milk and heavy cream and process until smooth.  With motor running, slowly add remaining milk.  Add ¾ cup parmesan, ½ to 1 teaspoon salt (depending on cheese) and pepper. Process until very smooth.  Return to saucepan.  Cook 5 minutes over low heat or until reduced to 3 cups.

Melt 2-1/2 tablespoons butter in large skillet.  Add garlic, mushrooms and rosemary.  Cook 6 to 7  minutes, stirring, over medium-high heat until soft.  Add salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook until just tender, about 9 minutes.  Drain well and toss with remaining tablespoon  butter.  place in a 10-cup overproof soufflé dish or casserole.  Scatter mushrooms over pasta.  Pour béchamel over pasta to cover completely.  Dot with gorgonzola and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.  Bake 18 minutes until bubbly, then broil 2 minutes until golden brown.  Serves 6

2 Responses to “Tortellini Gratinati with Parsnip “Bechamel””

  1. John Currie March 17, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Hi, gorgeous! Hearing from you everyday is ALMOST as good as seeing your face in your kitchen, behind a piece of wine cake!

    I had a remarkable salad the other day in Scottsdale at a place called Chelsea Kitchen: a brussels sprout salad. Best I can figure, it was barely blanched brussels sprouts, peeled so that all there were left were the loose leaves. I think that they were marinated in a citrus vinaigrette, tossed with smoked bacon, almonds and aged manchego cheese. There was no trace of bitterness, the leaves were bright green, slightly chewy (similar to al dente pasta), played nicely against the kinda-salty cheese. I HATE brussles sprouts. I would order this salad. And I thought you’d find it interesting.

    • rozannegold March 17, 2011 at 7:35 am #

      How divine to hear from you! The salad you are describing also sounds divine. Thanks for sharing.
      You have a knack for describing food in a very detailed
      and sensual way. Miss you; let’s talk! Imagine that a Brussels sprout was the spark plug.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: