Skip to main content

Long Island Larder: Fettuccini in Herb Sauce

Thu, 06/27/1985 - 15:34
East Hampton Star archive

We are heading into the teeth of the serious weekend guest season — the period when every invitation one accepts must be preceded by “May I bring . . . etc., etc., otherwise we can’t come." Your guests arrive. They thumb through your local phone book and discover simply heaps of friends they hadn’t known had houses here. These friends must have their bases touched as there are miles of weekends before the leaves begin to turn and who knows if the current host will re-invite. Improbable. There are just so many guest bedrooms and numberless relatives to edge out people who are merely best friends.

Sometimes one’s houseguests hint that they’d really rather not fight the Sunday night traffic. Or they are in transit between hosts. Or the houseguests turn out to be your very own offspring and a gaggle of THEIR guests. All this adds up to extra meals and extemporaneous ones at that. Pasta, which can be stored indefinitely either frozen or dry, seems to me one of the most suitable and least painful ways of dealing with unplanned meals. A few herbs, some good oil or butter, a tin of anchovies, salty cured black olives from Europe, tins of plain, unadorned whole tomatoes (until our own great ones come along in late July), a chunk of Parmesan — these are a few essentials to keep in the store cupboard and fridge during houseguest season. Fresh pastas may be refrigerated up to three days loosely wrapped, or frozen, well wrapped, for a month or so. Dried pastas, whether egg or plain wheat extruded types such as spaghetti, keep indefinitely.

Fettuccine In Herb Sauce

Fettuccine seems to connote one dish and one dish only to most of us: the famed fettuccine Alfredo, pale and buttery lavished with cream and showered with grated Parmesan. But in reality, fettuccine is only a flat ribbon of egg noodle about one-fourth inch wide and is sometimes called tagliolini or tagliatelle depending on how wide it is. It all means “ribbons” in Italian. But words for the same kind of pasta differ from region to region within Italy and among Italian-Americans, so you just have to know the shape and width of what you want. The staff at Dean and DeLuca used to differ with me about names, but we always wound up with the right thing. Point if in doubt.

(Note: This food store, once the star in the diadem of East Hampton’s business district, is not, unfortunately, planning a return in the immediate future. Meanwhile, we will have to return to making our own pasta, having weekend guests pack it out from the City, or searching for it among the remaining fancy food shops.)

Get fresh pasta or fresh pasta that has been frozen. Especially fastidious Italians claim that frozen pasta becomes somewhat slick and doesn’t hold the sauces as well, but in comparison to American factory-made fettuccine the difference is minimal. There are a few places to buy fresh pasta now (frozen or not), so I rarely make it any more. But it really isn’t difficult with a food processor and a simple manual roller to thin out and cut the dough. However you manage to get it, this recipe is for fresh, and only fresh, pasta. All herbs used must be fresh as well or this dish is hardly worth making. It is so very simple, you can’t cheat. Serves six.

1 lb. fresh green fettuccine or tagliolini
8 qts. boiling salted water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. sweet butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 lb. melted sweet butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup minced fresh chive
2 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves and flowers
Lots of coarsely ground white pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Get the water going and put in two tablespoons of salt and the oil, which helps prevent the pasta from sticking together. Heat the two tablespoons of butter and very gently saute the garlic — do not let it brown or it becomes bitter. Stir in the melted butter, the heavy cream, and all the herbs, and warm (do not boil) them together. When the water is boiling hard, add the pasta (after shaking off as much cornmeal as possible), loosening the strands as you feed it into the pot. Stir at once to prevent the pasta sticking either to itself or the bottom of the pot. Have your pasta bowls very hot and waiting in the oven.

Fresh pasta of this size cooks in less than a minute after it returns to the boil, sometimes sooner if it really is “just made” and dried only an hour or so. Very quickly drain the pasta and fork it into the six hot bowls. Divide the sauce among them. (A pasta fork is indispensable for fast serving — if you’re somewhat slow, put all the drained pasta into a heated china bowl containing olive oil and all the prepared herb and cream sauce and mix it in the kitchen — less elegant but more effective.) Grind on plenty of pepper and sprinkle each bowl with a generous shower of cheese. The servings, if mixed in the kitchen, will not be quite as attractive, so a bright topping of more fresh parsley should be added to each.

If you have nothing in the house except some fresh pasta, butter, and parsley — or the ingredients of aglio y olio (garlic and olive oil) you can still present a respectable and filling quick dinner. Remember to keep a good supply of hard cheese such as Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, and the semi-hard Gruyere very well-wrapped in the refrigerator (large amounts can be divided and some kept in the freezer, some in the fridge) to make coping with sudden meals easier on your hospitality. The better the pasta itself, the less you have to do to it (does this sound like smarmy beauty advice to teenyboppers, or doesn’t it!). Try to get imported dried pastas such as spaghettini, etc. because, unfortunately, they really are superior in every way to American-made macaroni products. If you find yourself with four or five hungry people with no place to go on a Sunday night and a pound of imported spaghettini in the house, here’s a suggestion:

Spaghettini With Anchovy-Olive Sauce

Cook the spaghettini according to package directions or your own idea of al dente, usually about nine minutes. Toss it with: one jar (2.03 oz.) flat anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped, and all their oil; one tablespoon very finely minced garlic sauteed lightly in onehalf cup cold-pressed olive oil; one-half cup minced Italian parsley; one teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes; ten cured black olives (large ones from Greece or Italy), stoned and chopped. Grind on lots of fresh Parmesan and serve in very, very hot soup plates.

Tags Recipes

He Kept His Nose to the Grindstone

After a year of bureaucratic hurdles, Grindstone Coffee and Donuts of Sag Harbor has opened its second shop on Race Lane in East Hampton.

Jul 3, 2024

Fresno, Cittanuova Celebrate 20 Years

It's time to celebrate: Two popular eateries in town, Fresno and Cittanuova, are marking 20 years in business with specials.

Jun 27, 2024

As American as . . . Not Dogs?

Nikki Glick, the owner of Nikki's Not Dog Stand in Sag Harbor, serves up seven types of vegan hot dogs in her 1950s-themed shop.

Jun 26, 2024

News for Foodies 06.27.24

Grindstone comes to East Hampton, specials from The Cookery, daily specials at La Fondita, and catering to go from Art of Eating.

Jun 26, 2024

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.