Sunday, June 30, 2019

Kohlrabi: in a Sauce for Pasta…with Green Garlic, Pancetta & Cream



Kohlrabi must grow unusually well…with few of the typical pests and other problems encountered with other crops…in the Midwestern United States.  I say this because it is widely grown by the growers who supply CSAs and the stalls of our local farmers’ markets.  This, despite the fact that it seems to be a hard sell.  Google searches for “What can I make with kohlrabi?” probably surge during June as CSA shares begin to include this alien looking member of the Brassicas.  Shoppers at the local markets often bypass it altogether. 

But growers persist in planting kohlrabi.  And for good reason:  it is delicious.  If you have sampled kohlrabi from the grocery store you might not have been impressed.  You can get good kohlrabi at the grocery store…but often their stock is a bit old...and hence fibrous and tough.  But once you taste a freshly harvested kohlrabi, you will begin to look for it at the late spring and early summer markets.

Kohlrabi ...with its leaves trimmed away

Kohlrabi is the same species (Brassica oleracea) as cabbage, turnips (it’s sometimes called a cabbage turnip…or a German turnip), kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower.  It is most often compared to turnip…but I find it to be much milder than all but the mildest, white-topped salad turnips.  If I were to compare it to anything on this list of Brassicas, I would say it is most like a broccoli stem.  But if you happen to get your hands on a particularly fine kohlrabi, you will find it to be much sweeter, crisper and juicier than a broccoli stem. 

Peeled and diced...and ready for pasta...

Kohlrabi is delicious in soups and vegetable ragouts.  I posted a lovely vegetable and farro soup that included kohlrabi several years ago.  And my chef friend Nancy makes a delicious Ganth Gobi Aloo/Kohlrabi & Potato Curry with the kohlrabi that arrives in her CSA share.  Most often you will find kohlrabi shredded or julienned and included in raw vegetable salads or slaws.  It is truly delicious this way.  I have posted a couple of recipes that use it raw…and if you never do anything other than make salad and slaw with your kohlrabi, you will come up with lots of delicious ways to use and enjoy it. 


Recently as I was considering what to do with some kohlrabies I had purchased at the market I decided that I really wanted to cook it.  So I turned, as I often do, to pasta.  As I considered how to treat it, I remembered how delicious other Brassicas are with cream, garlic and bacon (or ham).   My pasta pretty much fell together from there.  If you have never tried cooked kohlrabi, you could do worse than this simple pasta.  And if pasta and carbs aren’t really your thing (you probably haven’t made it this far in the post), this manner of preparing the kohlrabi would make a fantastic side dish.  Simply cut the kohlrabi into a larger dice…or maybe thin slices...instead.


A couple of final notes about my recipe:  Green garlic season is almost over.  Please don’t skip this pasta for that reason.  Just use regular garlic…maybe one small clove, minced.  

As you read through this post you might have noticed that some of the pictures include a sprinkling of parsley over the finished pasta.  I did this to add a bit of color…and it does that.  But it also, of course, adds a flavor component.  It tastes fine with the parsley, but I actually like it better without.  So…as is almost always the case with herbs…add to taste, if you like.

Lastly, I prefer light cream sauces for my pasta—opting to extend the sauce with pasta water rather than more cream if there doesn’t seem to be enough sauce to coat the noodles in a light fluid sauce.  But if you prefer a richer/creamier sauce, by all means, add a bit more cream.  More cream is almost never a bad thing.


  
Fettuccine with Kohlrabi, Green Garlic & Pancetta
in a White Wine Cream Sauce

1 T. butter
1 1/2 oz. pancetta, minced
2 or 3 cloves green garlic (or half a small stalk), minced
10 to 12 oz. kohlrabi, peeled and cut in a 1/4-inch dice (to make 1 1/2 c.)
2 to 3 T. dry white wine
water
1/2 to 2/3 c. heavy cream
4 or 5 T. (about 1 oz.) finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino (or a mix)
180 g. (6 to 7 oz.) Fettuccine

Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan set over moderate heat.  Add the pancetta.  


When the pancetta begins to turn golden and sizzle (after 2 or 3 minutes), add the green garlic.  Cook gently until the pancetta is beginning to crisp and the garlic is fragrant.


Add the kohlrabi to the pan along with a pinch of salt and continue to cook for a minute or two—sizzling gently.  It should not be caramelizing.    


Increase the heat and add the white wine.  Reduce to a glaze.  Add enough water to barely cover the kohlrabi.  Season with salt.  Cover and simmer gently until the kohlrabi is tender.  This will generally take about 20 minutes, but kohlrabi varies greatly in tenderness, so begin checking at 10 minutes and be prepared to cook for 25 minutes or so, if necessary.  The kohlrabi should be tender, not crunchy, when cooked.  Add more water as necessary to maintain a very small amount of liquid in the pan.

When the kohlrabi is tender, drop the pasta into a large pot of rapidly boiling, salted water. Stir occasionally and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water.


While the pasta is cooking, add the cream to the kohlrabi and bring to a simmer.  When the sauce has come to a brisk simmer, remove the pan from the heat. 

Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.  If the pasta seems dry, add some of the pasta water…you might need as much as a half cup of pasta water.  Add a couple tablespoons of the cheese and toss again, once again adjusting the consistency of the sauce with the pasta water if necessary.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Serve with more cheese on top.  Serves 2



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