It was a beautiful fall weekend in New Jersey. As our son was making his way across the country, John and I had plenty to do at home.
When our friend, T, called early Saturday evening asking, "What are you cooking for dinner?", there was only one way to respond. "Come on over."
I checked out the refrigerator and poked through the cupboards--pasta it would be.
After I cleaned and sliced some cremini mushrooms, I sauteed them in olive oil in a large skillet along with some shallots.
When the mushrooms were browned, I seasoned them with salt and pepper, set them aside and put the water on to boil for the fettuccine. As they sipped their Martinis and the fettuccine was dropped into the pot, I put the heat on again under the mushrooms, added some thyme to the pan and deglazed it with some dry Marsala. When the Marsala had reduced a bit, in went the drained pasta and a knob of butter. Adjusted seasoning, tossed in chopped parsley, and passed a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano to grate on top. Done!
Earlier in the day I had made one of my favorite fall cakes, and it became dessert.
This very simple cake feels as if it is straight out of a country kitchen.
Torta di Pere alla Paesana
By Marcella Hazan from her book, More Classic Italian Cooking
1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 pounds fresh pears
A 9 inch layer-cake pan
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat eggs and milk together in bowl. Add the sugar and salt, continue beating. Add the flour, mixing it thoroughly with the other ingredients.
Peel the pears. Cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and core; then cut them into thin slices, no more than 1 inch broad. Add them to the bowl, mixing them well with the other ingredients.
Butter the pan, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on it. Turn it upside down, and tap it or shake it lightly to get rid of all the loose crumbs. Dot the surface with butter.
Bake in the upper level of preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top has become lightly colored.
Remove from pan as soon as it is cool and firm enough to handle.
The cake is very forgiving. I didn't have two pounds of pears on hand, so the four I had were enough.You know that I can't stop tinkering, so I like to add a pinch of nutmeg to the flour before mixing into the eggs and sugar. I happened to have some small amaretti cookies on hand, so I finely crushed them and used in place of the breadcrumbs. Nice touch.