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Creating Dinner Around a Tuscan Dish I Never Tasted – with no recipe!

February 26, 2013 by Joan Nova in Finishing Touches, Italian, Pasta, Recipe Development, Salads, Seafood, Vegetables | 20 Comments

Well, I mean, I’ve tasted variations of it but not the specific dish I’m talking about here.

Two years ago when my travel gal pals and I were in Tuscany, we had many memorable meals. Apparently, some more memorable than others. One such meal stuck in Maryann’s head because she hasn’t stopped talking about it. As she recalled, it was over-sized rigatoni stuffed with fish. I must have been at the other end of the table. I didn’t see it, I didn’t taste and I didn’t remember it.

When she mentioned it again recently, I thought “how difficult could it be?” And then I said,  “Come on over and I’ll make it“.

“Make-it-up”, I should have said.

But, I did have the perfect pasta sitting in my pantry that I’d been wanting to use for a while so that was a good start.

The pasta was boiled al dente, drained well, filled, and baked with sauce.

The filling: sauteed chopped shrimp, lump crab meat, garlic, ricotta, shredded fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan, black pepper, salt, chopped Italian parsley.

The sauce: a little sauteed onion and garlic, dry seasonings, strained tomato sauce cooked with the shrimp shells and a carrot (both removed after), a little sugar, red chili flakes and white wine.

As a finishing touch, I added some cream to make a pink sauce.

I love pasta but even more than pasta, I love veggies. Also, I don’t like to eat a rich dinner without something to balance it so I made a multi-veggie antipasto which was served at room temp as a first course.

sauteed brussels sprouts and artichoke hearts dressed with sherry vinegar glaze

tiny ceci beans (from Umbria) cooked with chicken broth, olive oil, the rinds (with a little cheese attached) of a hunk of parmigiano reggiano

raw cauliflower, celery, parsley, black olives, red chili flakes, olive oil, a dash of cider vinegar and a squeeze plus zest of a fresh orange, dry seasonings

sauteed kale, bacon, garlic, roasted yellow tomatoes dressed with a dash of vinegar

… and, of course, toasted, oiled and seasoned Tuscan bread.

Did I recreate that memorable dish?

Probably not, but I think we made a new memory tonight around another memorable meal which we all enjoyed.

In the end that’s what it’s all about … good friends, good food, and wine!


NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. Marie says:

    Oh wow Joan I love this whole meal, very lucky friends you have! I’m copying this! You work excellent on the fly!

  2. MaryAnn says:

    This was awesome and DELICIOUS I thank you for taking the time trying to recreate the meal I had in Tuscany. It turned out to be a GREAT farewell dinner with fabulous friends. See you in April!

  3. Peter says:

    Looks damn good and as for taste, trust your instincts.
    Peter recently posted..Monkfish With Kritharaki, Fennel & OrangeMy Profile

  4. bellini says:

    It all looks delicious Joan. It would be fun to have the original recipe for comparison.

    • Joan Nova says:

      Yes it would be fun, but that’s never going to happen since she didn’t even remember which restaurant it was. Oh well, it was a good excuse for dinner with friends.

  5. You’ve done it again, Joan. Fabulous. And the title says it all–you are truly the consummate cook! That dish, which is fabulous itself, with all the antipasti nibbles, has my mouth watering as does the main dish. Fantastic!
    Victoria of Flavors of the Sun recently posted..Mexican Fruit…and a RecipeMy Profile

  6. I’ve never had this dish, but it sounds like my kind of pasta. I recognize this gate, wish I were there!
    Patricia Durr recently posted..The Birds I MeetMy Profile

  7. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me! says:

    Memorable indeed. Everything looked wonderful…I missed another great one…

  8. Lori Lynn says:

    I think your pasta dish sounds delightful. Love the serving vessels and the veggie platter too. Nice!

  9. mjskit says:

    What a fabulous meal! I love the filling of the manicotti with the shrimp and crab. Sounds SO good! Your antipasta is amazing and what a great complement to the pasta dish!
    mjskit recently posted..Orange Brown Butter Tart from a Sweet HeartMy Profile

  10. How fun and it must have been delicious with the shrimp & lump crab. We enjoy making (up) dishes we’ve eaten in restaurants too.

    Have a lovely weekend Joan. It’s nice to be able to get out and visit my friends again.
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen recently posted..Ina’s Beef Bourguignon and a Man in the KitchenMy Profile

  11. Beautiful work and recipe yet again. You may have not tasted it but you did a damn fine job of making it! Love the idea of stuffing pasta with seafood Joan.
    Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul recently posted..By The Sea SideMy Profile

  12. Robin Sue says:

    That would be a memorable meal in my book. I love the veggie platter idea!
    Robin Sue recently posted..“Mason Jar Meals, Just Screw It”My Profile

  13. I love culinary expeditions, whether we’re creating something from a memory….or not, or exploring a dish we want to love, and make ours. What a fitting dinner for a friend
    Kitchen Butterfly recently posted..Guest Post on Meyer Lemons: The Joys and SorrowsMy Profile

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