Tortellini Gratinati with Parsnip "Bechamel"

I've invented a lot of recipes in my day.  Thousands.  A portion of those were for restaurant consulting projects around the world -- including hotels and supermarket chains.  The others were for the hundreds of articles and twelve books that I've published since 1993.   I was the first to create olive oil ice cream, pesto-pistachio salmon, had the first watermelon-feta salad published in the New York Times, became famous for cooking short ribs in a concoction of prune juice and teriyaki sauce, and for frying capers in olive oil to pour over roasted asparagus.  There are too, too many to mention here:  Some have become signatures and others have been hijacked.  No matter.  But this month's article  published in Bon Appetit --that featured my five baked pastas -- has received more attention than most.  Permission was just given to publish the story in an upcoming issue of South Africa's House & Garden, and I was just asked to be on Martha Stewart's radio show to talk about baked pastas using seasonal ingredients. Several  blog readers have also made requests:  one in particular was keen to try my Tortellini Gratinati with Gorgonzola, Rosemary & Parsnip Bechamel.  For some reason, the title was changed in the magazine to Tortellini Gratinati with Mushrooms and Parsnip "Bechamel. " For me, some of the romance and appeal of the dish had to do with the flavor profile of the gorgonzola and rosemary.  No matter.  The most exciting component of the dish is my parsnip "bechamel."  I was thrilled that this nascent idea came to life and was so delicious.  This original spin, based on the classic French bechamel sauce, is as creamy and rich as the authentic recipe (ever more so!) but is fashioned from boiled parsnips which give a luxurious mouthfeel, a bit of sweetness, and lots of good nutrition.  The parsnip puree takes the place of the traditional butter and flour used in making bechamel.   It has already become a "new favorite" in my repertoire.  This "bechamel" can be used as a warm cushion for roast chicken, poured over roasted eggplant and mushrooms for a great vegetarian main course, or used as a filling for a big baked potato strewn with bits of crispy bacon.  Loosened up with a bit more milk or chicken stock, it becomes a wondrous soup.

Tortellini Gratinati with Gorgonzola, Rosemary & Parsnip “Bechamel”

The recipe can be made in quick stages then put together right before baking.  I use a combination of large and small cheese-filled fresh tortellini from the supermarket.  Small ravioli or fresh cavatelli may be substituted.

2 large parsnips, about 12 ounces 2 cups milk ½ cup heavy cream 1 cup freshly-grated parmigiano reggiano 3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, in small pieces 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped 12 ounces baby portabellos, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary 1-1/2 pounds fresh cheese-filled tortellini or tortelloni, or a mixture 6 ounces imported gorgonzola dolce, in small pieces

Peel parsnips.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Place in small saucepan with salted water to cover by several inches.   Bring to a boil and boil 20 to 25 minutes until very soft.  Drain well.  Put in food processor with 1 cup milk and heavy cream and process until smooth.  With motor running, slowly add remaining milk.  Add ¾ cup parmesan, ½ to 1 teaspoon salt (depending on cheese) and pepper. Process until very smooth.  Return to saucepan.  Cook 5 minutes over low heat or until reduced to 3 cups.

Melt 2-1/2 tablespoons butter in large skillet.  Add garlic, mushrooms and rosemary.  Cook 6 to 7  minutes, stirring, over medium-high heat until soft.  Add salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook until just tender, about 9 minutes.  Drain well and toss with remaining tablespoon  butter.  place in a 10-cup overproof soufflé dish or casserole.  Scatter mushrooms over pasta.  Pour béchamel over pasta to cover completely.  Dot with gorgonzola and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.  Bake 18 minutes until bubbly, then broil 2 minutes until golden brown.  Serves 6

Love This Recipe!

Just a few days ago on, a food reviewer, Blake Royer exclaimed, "I'm in love with Rozanne Gold's new book Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease, for, well, exactly the reasons in the title."  Naturally that made me happy, but I was even happier with the recipe the reviewer chose to croon about -- Tortellini with Yogurt, Mint and Smoked Paprika Oil.  The recipe is loosely based on a Turkish dish called manti and I first learned about it from my sister-in-law who lived in Turkey for years and, in addition to speaking the language, has become a devotee of their cuisine.   I swooned when I read the description of the authentic recipe given by David Rosengarten in the Dean & DeLuca Cookbook: "This quintessential combination features lamb-stuffed pillows of fresh pasta that are drizzled with two sauces -- a garlicky one made from yogurt, and a spicy one made with butter, paprika, and hot pepper.  The whole is topped with fresh mint, and is unbelievably delicious. This type of Turkish ravioli, which originated in Mongolia, was eaten at the Ottoman court and has been popular throughout Anatolia ever since."   I think it was the creamy garlic-laced yogurt and the hot butter sauce on top that had me hooked.  Now that I think of it, how delicious it would be atop a mound of creamy polenta!  A new hybrid of Turkish and Italian?  Turkaly?

My radically simple version relies on top-notch, store-bought (fresh) meat tortellini and heady smoked paprika.  According to Royer, "a quick whisk of olive oil with a smashed garlic clove and smoked paprika is the deeply flavored foil to thick Greek yogurt whisked with more olive oil; torn mint leaves add an herby bite. Light and simple, it reminded me why I read cookbooks: to be inspired."  Another bonus?  It can be prepared in 10 minutes.

A review on Amazon uncovered another taker.  C. Merced (from Stamford, CT and sometimes Puerto Rico) said "I made the Tortellini with Yogurt, Mint & Smoked Paprika Oil" and it was extremely delicious.  I mean it was DELICIOUS!"

I recently had a very good version at a small restaurant on 7th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Istanbul, where the dumplings were tiny and tender -- the size of fingernails.   Afiyet olsun to all.  (Bon appetit in Turkish) Tortellini with Yogurt, Mint & Smoked Paprika Oil Sometimes I serve this with a nontraditional dusting of grated pecorino, which lends a desirable aroma.  Use fresh pasta if available.

1 pound fresh cheese or meat tortellini (raviolini can also be used) 1/2 cup olive oil 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika 1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed 1 cup plain thick Greek yogurt, room temperature 1/3 cup torn mint leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook 8 minutes, until tender.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, the smoked paprika, garlic, and a large pinch of salt.  In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 2 more tablespoons oil, and salt to taste.  Drain the pasta well; shake dry. Toss the pasta with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and add salt and a generous amount of pepper.  Divide among 4 bowls.  Top with the yogurt and mint, and drizzle with the smoked paprika oil.  Serves 4