Even though we’ve lived in our house for nearly a year now, our backyard is still bare, save for the two hunter-green folding chairs that sit in the middle of it, just next to our makeshift stone-lined fire pit. They’re the same chairs that my husband and I have lugged with us to football tailgates and campouts since we were teenagers in college, probably one of the first “joint purchases” we ever made as a couple. Now they’re ripped around the edges and fraying on the corners where Bourré, being the naughty little puppy that he was, would gnaw on them when he was teething, their metal frames now peeking through the green fabric.
Evidence of the chairs’ age. Pieces of our little two-person-one-dog family’s history.
Well we spent the better part of a gorgeous Portland weekend (sorry, East coasters!) lounging in those tattered chairs, the fabric ripping a little more each time we sat down in them.
In the mid-afternoon, we ate chips and crisp, cool pico de gallo while the sun beamed down on us from up above. As it began to sink behind our house and the bright blue sky slowly faded into an ombré sea of magenta, we lit a fire in the firepit and warmed ourselves with creamy pasta. Eventually, when there was no more sun to see and the skies turned black, when the stars and moon glimmered above and our fire roared bright amber beneath them, we brought out the marshmallows and talked for hours on end, feeling a sense of contentment and peace in the lazy weekend we’d created together in our campfire chairs.
Sometimes, I think I could use a few more slow weekends like this in my life. As reminders that home is as good a place to be as somewhere far and away. And that two old chairs can feel just as perfect as the fancy set of outdoor lounge furniture you’ve pined after for months.
I guess that’s kind of how I think about today’s pasta recipe too. It’s not anything super fancy, even though its name would lead you to believe so. It’s actually pretty simple and comes together in less than an hour. Just thick ribbons of pappardelle tossed with cabbage and a simple fromage blanc sauce.
I’ve never used fromage blanc outside of the dessert realm and was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed it in the pasta. It’s a bit tangy, which balances well with the umami of the truffle and the earthiness of the sage. I used truffle oil here because, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to get my hands on any fresh truffles to grate over it, which would have been ideal. Apparently the unusual lack of moisture that gave us this gorgeous weekend also makes truffles even more scarce than usual. But if you’re lucky enough to find some, you should definitely use them here.
The garlic-rubbed roasted cabbage lends a lighter side to an otherwise heavy dish while the walnuts give a bit of crunch to accompany the cream. In all honesty, the walnuts were a last minute addition because I enjoy a little texture contrast with creamier pastas, but you could just as easily omit them if you wanted to simplify the recipe.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, our imperfect backyard furniture arrangement, this really was a near-perfect weekend. One filled with lazy sunbaths and crimson sunsets. Roasted mallows and fireside chats. And, most importantly, a big bowl of creamy pasta ribbons eaten alongside my partner and my pup.
- 3 tablespoons of butter, plus more if needed
- 25-30 sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- ½ cup of raw walnuts
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 1 head of savoy cabbage
- 1 large clove of garlic, smashed
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided into 1:2 parts; plus more as needed
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ¾ pound of fresh pasta* of your choice (I used pappardelle); or about 8 ounces of boxed dried pasta
- 1 cup of pasta liquid, reserved from cooking pasta
- 5 ounces of fromage blanc (or goat cheese if you can’t find fromage blanc), about 6-8 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons of white truffle oil (or 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated truffles)
- Freshly cracked black pepper, for garnish
- Parmigiano reggiano, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a small skillet, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add sage leaves, reduce heat to low, and cook until crisp, about 3 minutes. I used a 5-inch skillet for this, but if you’re using one that’s larger, you may need to use more butter since you’ll want the sage leaves to be submerged in it. Using a fork or slotted spoon, remove sage leaves and set on a paper towel to drain.
- Toss the butter out and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, along with walnuts, and salt. Heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until walnuts are slightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat if they start to burn (it happens quickly so look out!) Once toasted, remove from heat and set aside. Crush or chop roughly once walnuts have cooled enough to handle.
- Split the cabbage in half and rub it all over with the smashed garlic clove. Then, remove the choke from the cabbage and slice it into thin strips that are about bite sized. Spread the cabbage out on a large rimmed baking tray. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast in preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon).
- While the cabbage is roasting, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 2-3 minutes. If using dried boxed pasta, follow package directions for cooking times. Quickly scoop out 1 cup of pasta liquid and set aside before draining the pasta. Toss drained pasta (while still in the colander) immediately with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil (plus more if needed; this will prevent it from sticking together while you finish the sauce).
- Make the fromage blanc sauce by whisking together the fromage blanc, and truffle oil (or shaved truffles) until incorporated. It maybe a little thick at this point, but that’s okay. Set aside until pasta is finished cooking. Once pasta is finished cooking, take the pasta liquid that you set aside and add it, a little bit at a time to the fromage mixture until it resembles a creamy consistency, slightly thinner than mayonnaise. (I used a little less than ¾ cups of the pasta liquid.) If you don’t use all of the pasta liquid, set it aside in case you want to thin out the pasta later.
- Add roasted cabbage, sage leaves, walnuts, and fromage sauce, and toss until pasta is creamy. At this point, you may decide to add more pasta liquid if you are feeling like your sauce was too thick. (I didn’t, but it depends on your personal preference.)
- Taste the pasta for flavor balance. If it tastes underseasoned, sprinkle a bit more sea salt (or truffle salt) over it and toss one more time. Plate the pasta and garnish each plate with freshly cracked black pepper and grated parmigiano reggiano to taste. If you have a fresh white truffle, you could add a couple thin slivers here too, just for fun.