For September’s Bon Appétit experiment, we each made homemade orecchiette. The magazine offered two sauce options for the pasta, so we divided and conquered: Jessica made carbonara with charred brussels sprouts, and Laura made hers with squash, chilies, and nuts.
Jessica: The orecchiette itself didn’t totally wow me—I never quite hit the technique perfectly, and it felt a bit heavy—but I loved the brussels sprouts carbonara. Carbonara is one of my all-time favorite pasta sauces (when we were talking about what to make, Laura said, “I’ll let you have the carbonara, bc it’s your fave…” I have the best bestest), and this variation was awesome. This is only the second time I’ve tried carbonara at home, and it was definitely the best. I loved the addition of charred brussels sprout leaves, though, given how much time the pasta took, a recipe that involved separating individual brussels sprout leaves was kind of a lot to ask. Still, I’m gonna say it was worth it: the charring technique was great (and especially satisfying to get right, given how less than successful I felt with the pasta), brussels sprouts and pancetta is always a fantastic combo, and the egg yolks created a beautifully rich sauce, countered nicely by all the cracked pepper. I have thought about this sauce more since making it than any other dish I’ve made in recent memory.
Laura: This was just okay for me, but Ed really liked it. I was pretty turned off by how long it took to make the little ears of pasta (as discussed below), so the dish was facing an uphill battle to win me over. The sauce, made with butternut squash, chili flakes, butter, lemon, parm, mint, and walnuts (the original recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I love walnuts in pasta, so couldn’t resist swapping them in), is flavorful and hearty for a meatless sauce. The homemade pasta adds to the heartiness, delivering more texture and flavor than the dried variety. but overall, it was not particularly special.
Would you make it again? We differ a bit on this one. Jessica thinks she would try it again, given a weekend day with nothing else to do, just for the sake of doing a better job the second time around. Laura, on the other hand, feels there’s almost zero percent chance she’ll make it again. It took too long and even though she got quite efficient by the end of the process, the final result wasn’t enough of a wow factor to merit the additional time and effort. Both of us, however, would make our sauces again and are eager to try each other’s.
Any surprises during the process? How long the pasta took! It wasn’t that we anticipated it being a quickie breeze, but we’ve each watched chefs on cooking competitions bang out pasta in seemingly no time. This was obviously not our experience.
Any tips? Watch. The. Video. Jessica really struggled with the technique, sure there must be a better way of doing it ear after ear…and then watched the video and saw that there was indeed a better way. Something about the written explanation just didn’t make as much sense as seeing it visually. Laura followed Jessica’s lead and agreed that the video made all of the difference.
You can find all of the recipes on the September issue of Bon Appétit and on the Bon website: the pasta dough recipe here and the orecchiette technique here, the squash/chilies/hazelnut recipe here, and the carbonara recipe here.