It’s August 17th and my husband’s birthday, so it calls
for a special dinner. We celebrate birthdays in a big way in our house.
Everyone gets to request a special menu and we all gather to celebrate their day at dinner time. Tajarin with a white truffle sauce would be a favorite for Charlie but unfortunately, white truffles are not in season but I’ll be able to surprise him with a sauce made with black truffles and my version of an Italian Cream Cake.
Tajarin are the typical thin egg-yolk noodles of Piedmont. The high ratio of egg yolks gives the pasta its rich vibrant hue and the noodles also become extra tender. Tajarin, pronounced “tie-yah-REEN” is also Piemontese for tagliolini, but you will mostly see it as tajarin all across northern Italy. And there is an Italian saying “No tajarin can be too rich or too thin”. 1/8 – ¼ is typical but mostly closer to the 1/8 mark.
White truffles are generally associated with Alba, but you will find them in many parts of Italy and certainly in Tuscany where my Father was born, in the beautiful little hamlet of Montefollonico a province of Siena. I am fortunate that I still have family there that my husband and I visit every time we journey to Italy. But back to white truffles; they are a delicacy and are in season only from November to January.
2 cups 00 flour
10 egg yolks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup water – plus more as needed
Semolina flour for dusting
¾ cup unsalted butter
1 oz white alba truffle, cleaned delicately with a soft brush
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Combine the 00 flour, egg yolks, olive oil, and water to make a dough (combine all the ingredients and then roll out the dough with either a pasta machine or the pasta rolling attachment on your stand mixer.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, egg yolks, olive oil and water and pulse until the dough starts to form – usually less than 10 pulses.
The dough should be smooth.
Transfer to a clean lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it is very smooth. Form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes. If not using shortly, you can leave it wrapped and refrigerate overnight. Let it. Come to almost room temperature the next day when ready to use.
Heavily dust a baking sheet with semolina flour. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and cut the dough into ½ inch slices. Keeping the remaining dough covered to eliminate drying out. Roll the dough through the widest roller setting on your machine, lightly dusting with flour along the way so that it does not stick. Be carefully to not use too much flour or the dough will become dry. Fold the sheet of dough in half and roll it through again. You will do this same thing 7 to 10 times, making sure that you fold it each time.
Now change the machine setting to the next narrow setting and roll this same sheet through once. Now continue to change the setting down to the next narrow setting and roll the sheet through. The pasta sheet will become longer and longer and thinner as you send it through each successive setting. Continue rolling until the next to the last setting. After the last rolling carefully set the pasta sheet on the floured baking sheet and cover lightly with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Repeat this process using the. Remining dough.
When all the pasta has been rolled into sheets, take each sheet, and roll up from the short end into a not too tight cylinder. With a sharp knife cut the roll into 1/8-inch-wide pieces. Then loosen each strand, shake gently, dust with semolina flour and twist into a bird’s nest shape. Transfer back to your floured surface.
Some pasta machines also have a tool for cutting into strands. Us the setting that is about 1/8-inch but less than ¼-inch.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and heavily add salt. Shake off any excess flour from the pasta and drop the nest into the boiling water. Stir gently and cook for about 2-3 minutes after the water has returned to a good simmer. Test a strand and, if al dente, drain immediately.
While the pasta cooks, using a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Toss the drained pasta in the melted butter until well combined and remove from the heat. Add the freshly grated cheese, a little pasta water, stir to make a slightly creamy sauce, and toss gently again.
Divide the pasta among warm bowl and top each serving with shavings of fresh truffles. Serve immediately.
ITALIAN CREAM CAKE
This is a family favorite birthday cake!
We celebrate several birthdays in August and usually have one big party.
1 STICK BUTTER – softened
1 CUP WALNUTS – baked and crushed
½ CUP CRISCO – solid
1 TSP BAKING SODA
2 CUPS SUGAR
1 CUP BUTTERMILK
5 EGGS – separated
1 SMALL CAN COCONUT
1 ½ TSPS VANILLA EXTRACT
Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans. Cream butter and Crisco, add sugar and beat until smooth. Add yolks, one at a time and beat until well incorporated. Combine, flour and soda and add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla, add coconut and nuts. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold in. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350º for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
1 (8 OZ) PKG CREAM CHEESE – softened
1 TSP VANILLA
½ STICK BUTTER – unsalted
1 CUP RASPBERRY JAM – or as necessary
1 (16 Oz) BOX POWDERD SUGAR
NOTE: Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until all well combined. Spread jam on bottom cake layer. Don’t get it too close to the edge or it will bleed into the frosting. Add top layer and frost cake. Garnish with nuts and coconut, if desired. My family likes lots of frosting, so I make it to 1 ½ times.