Saturday, July 01, 2006

“Holy Pasta!”and Shrimp

Timpano del Cardinal Alberoni? Obviously a man with two loves, God and food. Checking the computers translator I found timpano to mean ear drum. Another source provided timpano as the late 19th century Italian spelling for drum, timpani drums, better known as kettle drums, usually played in an orchestra. So the cardinal must have had a well rounded belly and this dish may have been his favourite way to fill his drum. The man of god was not wrong, this is nice full flavoured pasta dish. Read through the recipe to wet your appetite. At the bottom are some thoughts of my own, cooks notes that may be helpful. I must confess we had this dish only hours ago and I have made it just once and thought it worth sharing.

Timpano del Cardinal Alberoni
Baked Macaroni with Shrimp

This recipe is based on the one collected by Anna Del Conte in her book titled Gastronomy of Italy.
serves 9

  • 3 cups very finely sliced mushrooms
  • 8 tbsp. butter
  • salt
  • 1 cup shelled shrimp
  • 2 tbsp. brandy
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • béchamel sauce made with 11/2 cups milk, 2 tbsp. butter and 3 tbsp. flour, flavored with a pinch of nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 oz macaroni or penne

    Sauté the mushrooms in 1/4 cup of the butter for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and set aside. Heat half of the remaining butter in a sauté pan, add the shrimp and gently fry for 2 minutes. Pour over the brandy, set alight and then add half the Parmesan. Keep warm. Make the béchamel in the usual way and then mix in the rest of the cheese. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain when very al dente. Butter a deep ovenproof dish and cover the bottom with a layer of pasta. Spread a few tablespoons of the mushrooms and the shrimp over it and add some pepper. Repeat these layers ending with the pasta. Melt the remaining butter and when a beautifully nutty color, pour over the. Spread over the béchamel and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

    Cooks Notes: The shrimp used in the original recipe must have been on the small size to fit in a cup. I used medium shrimp and doubled the quantity, every one goes for the shrimp and it is nice to see them whole when on the plate.

    I will accept the fact you know how to make a béchamel sauce, here is how I enhanced it. Flavor your milk with one thinly slice carrot, one sliced shallot, a pinch of nutmeg, three or four peppercorns and the raw shells from half of the shrimp. Strain this before you add to the butter flour mixture.

    I used baby Portobello mushrooms pre-slice for connivence. I Think next time I might add a few dried Porcini but not many as they have a pronounced flavor.

    Save any juices that collect from the shrimp and the mushrooms you can add a bit to the dish as you layer it.

    Don’t try cutting back on the butter it is the correct amount. I did add more fresh nutmeg to the béchamel.

    Call me what you want, but I associate elbow macaroni with “mac and cheese” and find it heavy so I used Barilla brand “Pipettes” a lighter weight shell type pasta.

    Our liquor cabinet lacked brandy so I used Cognac with flaming results.

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