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Wow! The new year is only twenty-eight days old, and I’m already behind. This is my first post of 2015!
Since yesterday was apparently National Chocolate Cake Day, I probably should have written about (and eaten) a deep, dark, chocolate cake.

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Sorry to disappoint, but if you really need a cake fix, here’s the link to the chocolate cake recipe I posted recently.

Instead, I’m delving into my cookbooks as promised and sharing some of the recipes that I mentioned in my last post.

To start with, I made the Grilled Polenta with Mushroom and Red Wine Ragout from from “Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey” by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes.

The good news?
It was fantastic!
I took a few liberties with both the polenta–cutting back a smidge on the cream and cheese–and the sauce.  I also don’t keep veal demi-glace on hand (and I don’t know anyone who does), plus I had to sub some dried wild mushrooms for some of the fresh.
I still wanted to lick the plate when it was done.
The bad news?
We inhaled it. It was dark when I made it, so I haven’t any photos to share.  I’m sure I’ll be making it again, and I’ll share the recipe when I have some photos to accompany it.

My next foray into that same book was for the Penne Contadina.

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The good news?
Oh my stars and little fishes!
It’s deep winter comfort-food at it’s finest.  It is incredibly simple to prepare, and totally company-worthy!
(Obviously, if it came off of the menu at Della Santina’s Trattoria in Sonoma, California–one of my MOST favorite restaurants EVER–it’s good enough for a dinner party.  I would walk over hot coals for their Pappardelle con Cinghiale*)

I just happened to have the Dry Jack from Vella Cheese Company, courtesy of my lovely daughter who brings me a supply when she visits.

I just happened to have the dry jack from Vella Cheese Company, that the two recipes called for, courtesy of my lovely daughter who brings me a supply when she visits.

Grating cheese is so much more fun when your grater is this darling little olive wood number!

Grating cheese is so much more fun when your grater is this darling little olive wood number, straight from Italy, via a traveling friend!

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The bad news?

There isn’t any bad news.
This dish is guaranteed to make you actually look forward to crummy weather, just to have a reason to make it.  When the days are cold, dark, dripping wet, or encased in ice, nothing improves them like a warm plate of richly sauced pasta and a glass of hearty red wine. The authors recommended a Pinot Noir from Gundlach Bundschu, which I did not have,  but the Valley of the Moon 2010 Barbera that I DID have was a completely wonderful companion to the sausage and sage.

There is still plenty of winter left to get through, so what are some of the ‘go-to’ comfort foods at your house? Feel free to comment below, and if you feel ambitious, share the recipe with me!

Thanks for sticking with me in these wint’ry days, and while we wait for spring, here is the recipe for Della Santina’s Penne Contadina!  I’ve printed the recipe as it was originally written, with my notes in Italics.

With love!
Lorrie

Della Santina’s
PENNE CONTADINA
from “Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey” by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes

4 sweet Italian sausages without fennel seed, casing removed
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large fresh sage leaves, chopped
24 ounce canned tomatoes, preferably Italian, drained and chopped
1 pound penne pasta (I used ½ a pound dry, as this dish would have been too dry with a full pound)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup grated Parmesan or dry jack cheese

Cut the sausages into one inch pieces.
In a deep saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the sausage for 2 minutes, or until evenly browned.
Add the garlic and sage, and saute for 1 minute (Be careful not to burn the garlic!)
Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Set aside, and keep warm.

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook the pennne for about 11 minutes, or until al dente.
Drain.

Gradually stir the cream into the sauce and heat (gently) for a minute or two.
Add the pasta to the saucepan and stir for about a minute.
Stir in the cheese.
Serve at once in warmed shallow bowls.

Serves 4 as a main course

 

* Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu

 

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