When I'm in a creative rut and the ideas are flowing about as fast as a new jar of ketchup, I try to make myself see an old ingredient with new eyes. I imagine myself as a chef from a foreign land who's never laid tastebuds on the ingredient, throwing out all preconceptions of how it should or shouldn't be used. This process often results in new and interesting combinations and exposes the hidden walls of convention that hold us all prisoner.
Take chocolate for example, it's a word that conjures images of sweet decadence and may as well be a synonym for dessert. But at its core, the roasted cocao beans that chocolate is made of could be described with adjectives such as earthy, nutty, and warm. These are words that don't necessarily go with "sweet" and could even be used to describe other ingredients such as wheat, mushrooms, and aged cheese. So what can you make from cacao, wheat, mushrooms and aged cheese?
Yep, you guessed it, I put it in the pasta. This isn't some sweet mimicry of a pasta used in a dessert, I'm talking about a real, savoury pasta like one you might find in a Trattoria in Emilia-Romagna. A minimalist preparation with each ingredient contributing to the dish without being an intrusive prima donna stealing the spotlight for itself.
The noodles have a wonderful toothsome chew and nutty flavour, thanks to the chapati flour and cocoa powder. It doesn't taste overtly of chocolate but it's subtly present and the cacao nibs add an edge to the dish from both a textural and flavour perspective. Roasted chestnuts bring a sweet creamy element that's a nice contrast to the sharp, savoury flavours pervading the dish. Gruyere cheese adds salt, umami, and depth, and finally the shaved black truffles marries all the earthy tastes under one luxurious unifying flavour.
It's a chocoholics dream, and even chocolate haters should have something good to say about this one. It's not the simplest pasta I've ever come up with (although I did make it on a weeknight), but it's quite possibly the tastiest pasta I've ever made.
- Knead flours, cocoa, salt and eggs together until combined, the dough will still be crumbly. Add water, one teaspoon at a time until the dough holds together without being sticky. Continue kneading until the dough takes on a satiny sheen and is very elastic (2-4 minutes). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour at room temperature.
- Start heating a large pot of salted water. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces then run it through a pasta roller to the second to the last setting (#7 on a Kitchenaid). After rolling each sheet of pasta out, dust it generously with flour and hang. When you're done rolling out the pasta, switch to the tagliatelle cutter attachment and cut the pasta, dust with flour again and hang.
- When the water comes to a boil, add all the pasta at once. It will take less than a minute to cook, so be prepared with a colander. When it's al dente, drain the pasta and shake off any excess water. Transfer the cooked pasta to a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Add the cheese, cacao nibs, chestnuts and shave the truffle on top. Toss the pasta to evenly distribute everything.
- Plate, then garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and a pinch of smoked sea salt.