Inspiration and Necessities: The Development of a New Recipe

Last night it was my turn to cook.  We had not made pasta for a week, so it was a no-brainer for me.  I would make pasta.  But which one?

When choosing what to cook, I get my inspiration from 3 primary sources: (1) ingredients, (2) cookbooks, and (3) online blogs and articles.  Another dimension of the decision process is constraints, or “Necessities”.  These might include ingredients that must be used tonight, ingredients we can not get in time, and ingredients one of us can’t or won’t eat (peppers, spicy, milk products, etc.).

I think you might enjoy walking through that process with me now, as an illustration about developing a new recipe for a pasta dish.  However, not all of my readers have the patience or an interest in this long-winded tutorial (my wife for one; “just put dinner on the table by 6:30”).  If you are among this latter cohort, go straight to the bottom of the post to find the resultant recipe.

I began thinking about dinner in the early afternoon.  Three thoughts came quickly to mind:

  • Fettuccine all’Abruzzese — a fine dish I had made twice before, from Diane Darrow’s blog, Another Year in Recipes.
  • Penne with Roasted Shiitakes, Eggplant, and Sambal — from another favorite blog, Lemons and Anchovies.
  • Melanzane in Potacchio — a vegetable dish from the March region.  Not a pasta, but could be paired with one.  This was from Our Italian Table.

These all sounded good to me, but filtering them with “Necessities” was a required next step.  One specific requirement was the need to use the small Italian eggplant that was getting soft in the refrigerator.

There were two marks against the Fettuccine.   One: too much time and work required to make fresh pasta,  Two: it was not that long ago that I made it previously; variety is important.  It could be accompanied by an eggplant side dish, but not a great match.

I could not make the Penne with Shiitakes as it was written, because the Sambal is too spicy for Barbara, and it seemed to be integral to the flavors of the dish.

The Melanzane was very appealing, but insufficient by itself.  How do I get my pasta?

My solution was to borrow from all three recipes, and to combine them into a new, integrated pasta dish featuring the best of each of the elements.  I decided to use the Melazane dish in its entirety, as a major component of the finished pasta dish.  I liked the simplicity and elegance of the approach.  I borrowed the Penne and the roasted Shiitakes (including the white Balsamic), plus some onions and shallots, to get more flavors into the final product.  And I took the pancetta, onions, and basil from the Fettuccine recipe because I like them so much, and they seemed to complement the rest of the meal.

Here’s what we got:

By happy circumstance, my open bottle of red wine (2012 Damiano Ciolli’s Cesanese Riserva) is from the Marche region (like the Potacchio).  It is one of my favorites, imported by Jan D’Amore.

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