At Asellina in Manhattan, chef Marco Porceddu not only brings his long-term dedication to Italian food, but adds to it a flare for experimenting with ingredients and new techniques.
Porceddu mixes in vegetables, fruit, and nuts to create pasta dough for scrumptious dishes like the beet ravioli, strozzapreti made with saffron and chardonnay, basil fettuccine, pasta made with pistachios, orange noodles and the illustrious blueberry pappardelle.
The fruit adds tart and sweet notes to the blueberry noodles, which go great with the langoustine, shrimp and razor clams the chef adds to the dish. Combined with a mellow Jack Daniel’s sauce and more fresh blueberries, and the dish sings with sharp richness, and the hearty noodles come out in a fun shade of purplish-brown.
But how does Porceddu get his wild ideas for combinations and flavor pairing? “When I see ingredients, I already know how to make them,” he said. “It’s a gift I have had since I was a kid.” He pulverizes pistachios to make noodles to pair with rabbit, adds handfuls of fresh basil to create a bright green dough for his fettuccini with heirloom tomatoes and combines sautéed red endives and monk fish for his orange laced pasta (his latest creation).
He even turns vegetables into dessert, with his eggplant-chocolate mousse. By roasting the eggplant, he helps heighten the natural spiciness of the vegetable, a nice combination with the 82 percent chocolate he uses. When formed into the creamy mousse, the eggplant becomes undetectable and could pass as solely chocolate.
“In the Campania region we have different dishes with eggplant and chocolate and as a provincial dish, it has been around a long time,” he said. “The flavors just go together and I made it into a dessert.”
Want to get taste of Asellina’s unique dishes? We nabbed the recipes for the blueberry pappardelle and the eggplant chocolate mousse. Enjoy!
Blueberry Pappardelle with Jack Daniels Sauce, Leeks, and Langoustine
- 16 large pappardelle strands
- 4 fresh langoustines
- ½ cup fresh blueberries
- 4 tablespoons julienne leeks
- 4 teaspoons chopped garlic
- 1 ½ ounce Jack Daniels
- 1 cup cleaned shrimp
- Salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup boiling hot water
With a small knife, take the back shell off the langoustines. Place a sauté pan on a burner at high heat and pour in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, sauté the langoustines, meat side down, and add the shrimp, the garlic and the leeks, and keep cooking for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add blueberries, the Jack Daniels, salt and pepper, and the ½ cup of water. Cover for a few minutes until the shrimp and the langoustines are cooked. Remove the langoustines from pan.
Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle to al dente in boiling and salted water.
Add the pasta to the sauce and sauté for a minute in the pan, then serve.
Eggplant Chocolate Mousse
- ½ pound eggplant whole
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 ounces sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 8 ounce chocolate semi-sweet, melted
Roast eggplant and then skin it. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar. Add it to the melted chocolate and keep mixing gently with a rubber spatula.
Whip the cream and add it to the chocolate mixture. To finish, mix the meat of the eggplant without the skin and add it to the chocolate mixture.
Place in a freezer for 3 hours before plating.