This recipe is inspired by a dinner I enjoyed at Charlie Palmer's restaurant, Burritt Room + Tavern, in San Francisco. Based on the old style of meat-and-drink-heavy establishments that dotted San Fran in another era, it serves impressive cocktails and fun, trendy food. This take on the pasta I ate there is a similar – but much more sophisticated – version of macaroni and cheese. It's topped with crunchy bread crumbs and chili oil (you can make your own or buy the Italian version) that balances all the flavours. The sauce can be made ahead of time and reheated, but you might have to add a little extra cream if it's too thick.
Servings: Serves 6 as an appetizer and 4 as a main course
Ready time: 1 hour
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup white wine
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
6 thyme sprigs
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup grated fontina
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup diced pancetta
2 green onions, sliced (separate the white and green parts)
12 oz (375 g) tagliatelle (use egg-based pasta for the best results)
1/4 cup shaved pecorino
A few drops chili oil
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Toss the bread crumbs with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Bake until golden (about 10 minutes). When cooled, crumble and toss them with parsley.
To make the sauce, combine garlic, shallots and white wine in a large pot. Bring it to a boil on high heat, then reduce until 2 tbsp of wine remains (about 5 minutes). Add stock, bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Reduce heat to medium and cook the sauce until about 1 1/2 cups remains. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Add whipping cream and reduce sauce to 1 cup (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low. Gradually stir in fontina and Parmesan until smooth. Remove from heat. Reheat the sauce over low heat when needed.
Sauté pancetta in a large saucepan over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until crisp. Add white slices of the green onion and sauté until limp (about 1 minute).
Cook tagliatelle in boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water and add pasta to pan with pancetta. Add cream sauce and green slices of onion. Stir until well coated, adding a little pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
To serve, garnish with a dusting of bread crumbs, shaved pecorino and chili oil.