April 14, 2012

Pasta Alla Mizithra

This pasta dish is almost blindingly simple, to the point of being a little...incomplete, shall we say, on its own. But oh, how tasty! I recommend pairing it with a big, colourful Greek salad, and a nice glass of wine. The salad will take longer to make than this dish.

For those of you whose only experience with mizithra is the Spaghetti with browned butter and mizithra at The Spaghetti Factory (where it is one of the tastier items on offer, as I recall), you can make this dish so easily and quickly at home that there's no need to order it out; you just need to get your hands on the cheese itself. Mizithra can be had by the chunk, or pre-grated. The pre-grated stuff is usually so fluffy and finely textured that it disappears entirely into the pasta, instead of giving you the delightful little flecks that you get when you grate it yourself. I recommend buying a small chunk, and grating it yourself, so you can get the size of shavings you prefer.

Pasta Alla Mizithra
Serves 4

250 grams long pasta of your choice (such as the linguine shown here)
1/4 cup butter
60 grams grated mizithra cheese

Melt the butter slowly (ie, over a low temperature) in a skillet or saucepan. Once the foaming stops, and the butter has melted, allow the colour to darken to a dark gold. Do not stir or disturb the sediment in the pan. Once the colour is dark gold/light brown, remove the pan from the heat. If you like a very clear browned butter, carefully pour the liquid off of the solids (and discard the solids), but I confess I like the toastiness of leaving the solids in. You can do all this while the water boils for the pasta.

Cook the pasta and drain. Toss the pasta thoroughly with the browned butter, making sure every strand is coated.

In a large serving bowl, spritz a little olive oil, then sprinkle 1/4 of the grated cheese. Layer three more times with buttered pasta and grated cheese, ending with cheese. Present at table, and toss gently while serving up portions. Finish with parsley, if you like a bit of green, and lots of black pepper.

You can see how a nice, bright vegetable salad will perk this right up. If you want to go into butter overload territory, add garlic bread on the side, too. A glass of wine will cut the richness of butter and cheese nicely. I recommend a crisp white, or a lighter bodied red - such as sangiovese, gamay noir, or cabernet franc, for example.

The portions indicated here are smaller than you'd get at a restaurant, but that's because I usually serve modest portions of pasta, in the Italian model (although I don't usually serve it as a first course for a larger meal). It's an approach that particularly makes sense for a rich dish, such as this one. If you want the "big pasta experience", I guess this would serve two people, by North American standard serving sizes.


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