The end of summer calls for heartier dishes such as soups and stews, but this is the time when I really start to crave breads and pasta. When we traveled in Italy we were surprised how uncommon tomato-based sauces were; white wine sauces made with butter or olive oil and grated cheeses seemed much more popular, along with light-bodied sauces with stewed meats with fresh vegetables and tender beans. Another surprise was an inability to locate “Italian” sausages which are apparently an American creation, in their place were dozens of local specialty sausages. Since experiencing pasta this way we rarely have it with marinara, and in place of spaghetti we prefer heartier shapes like rigatoni and top our plate with peppery arugula. Tonight we had rigatoni in a light stock-based sauce with grilled chicken sausages and arugula topped with a rich, nutty aged raclette.
One of our favorite European cheeses, raclette is famous for its tangy, nutty flavor and excellent melting qualities, but is hard to come by and very expensive in America. I was quite delighted to learn of a thoroughly authentic and utterly delicious raclette made in northern Michigan by a dedicated couple who have spent decades traveling around Europe making cheeses and memories, who now offer the fruits of their considerable experience to American gourmands at very reasonable prices. On a recent trip up there, I was invited to visit Leelanau Cheese to meet master cheesemakers John and Anne Hoyt to see how they make raclette and talk about how they got started in artisanal cheesemaking, which will feature in an upcoming article about their lovely creamery and exquisite cheeses.
While aged raclette doesn’t melt like a young raclette, it infuses the sauce with its rich flavors, totally transforming the dish with layers of ripe, earthy, and grassy flavor so I decided to pair it with L. Mawby’s Tradition sparkling wine. A classic pinot noir and chardonnay based non-vintage blend, Tradition brings ripe apple and pear, a lingering honeyed, velvety body and a crisp finish that cuts through the richness of pasta and aged cheese, refreshing the palate.
Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage, Arugula and Aged Raclette
2 cups rigatoni or pasta of your choice
12 oz. of chicken sausage
3 cups fresh arugula
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 cup shredded aged raclette
dash of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of olive oil
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper for taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add salt and cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain. Reserve 1/4 cup of cooking water.
In a grill pan, grill the sausages until lightly browned on all sides. Allow them to rest on your cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing them into thick chunks. By allowing them to rest you won’t lose their juiciness.
In a large non-stick skillet heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat, add the chicken sausage and cook 3 minutes on each side. Add the chicken broth and reserved pasta water to the skillet and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the arugula, red pepper flakes, raclette cheese and cook for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with shredded raclette and serve immediately.
Staub Cast Iron 12″ Round Steam Grill – Dark Blue
WÜSTHOF Classic IKON 3 ½” Paring Knife
L. Mawby Sparkling Wine Tradition
Epicurean Cutting Board
Leelanau Raclette Cheese