January 28, 2003
Tagliatelle with Parsnips and Pancetta
posted by Nadia

While many people have an aversion to them (they look funny, "parsnip" sounds like "turnip," etc.), I really enjoy parsnips. The next time someone tells you they don't like parsnips -- you know, on those common occasions where you're discussing root vegetables with your friends -- I suggest you actually cook them parsnips next time they come over for dinner and prove them wrong. The simplest way to do this is to make a parsnip puree (boil parsnips, whip up with some milk/cream, salt and pepper) and serve it alongside a meal that usually calls for mashed potatoes. While pureed parsnips taste nothing like mashed potatoes, your unsuspecting guest may glance at them and simply assume they're safe to eat because they look like mashed potatoes. In fact, they will probably be shocked and surprised that they're eating spoonful after spoonful of creamy, sweet, and slightly earthy parsnip puree. And there you go -- another hapless food-phobe converted from the dark side.

I found this recipe for Babbo's tagliatelle with parsnips and pancetta on Epicurious, and thought it sounded fabulous. Somehow I managed to convince Carl to make pasta from scratch, so we had fresh tagliatelle to work with. Despite it being such a simple recipe (it calls for only 5 ingredients, including the pasta), I took it upon myself to improvise slightly, and was richly rewarded. After cooking and removing the pancetta, I deglazed with a wee bit of white wine. Then, I cooked the parsnips longer than the 12-15 minutes called for, until they were a lovely deep golden brown. Maybe this would have taken only 12-15 minutes in a professional kitche, but not on my stove. Finally, I garnished with slivers of sage (rather than parsley) which realy brought together the whole complex earthy aspect of the meal -- salty pancetta bits, browned parnsips, and the deep back-of-the-throat aroma of sage. Mmmm... I highly recommend this.