Fresh Fruit Tart

So ever since we’ve had a minimum of one nice day a week, I have convinced myself that the warm weather is here to stay, and with that comes an overpowering desire to bake with summer fruits, you know? I’ve been waiting for the rhubarb to arrive at the farm since practically last spring, but thanks to the stubborn cold weather, it won’t be for sale for around another month. A MONTH. I am devastated, as you can imagine, so to try and fill the void left in its wake, I made this tried-and-true fruit tart last weekend and I am happy to say that there was not a crumb left after dessert.

It begins with a buttery tart shell with just a hint of sweetness, topped with vanilla pastry cream that is literally so good that I ate the leftovers out of the bowl with a spoon, and an artfully disheveled pile of fresh fruit on top. The best part about this is that you can really use whatever fruits you feel like based on what’s in season- blueberries and blackberries alone would make a gorgeous and dramatic looking tart, pitted cherries or mango or some stewed rhubarb- it’s totally up to you what fruits should be featured. For this one, I settled on what I could find at the store because it’s technically not berry season, so I was going to take what I could get, but I would love to hear your flavor ideas as well!

I’m posting this on a Saturday because this week just got away from me, but hopefully this will give you an excuse to try your hand at this tart right away. As for me, I will be looking for any excuse to use a blowtorch so I think I’m seeing a meringue pie in my future. Happy Saturday!

Tart Shell Ingredients
from 
The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

2 cups All Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons salted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
¼ cup ice water

Pastry Cream Ingredients
from 
The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

3 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup granulated sugar (divided into ¼ cup for milk mixture and ½ cup for egg yolk mixture)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), or ½ vanilla bean (seeds and pod)
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Plus assorted fruit and berries, to top

Steps

1. Using a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and the butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender or mix with your hands until the butter is incorporated in the same way.

2. Move the mixer from the food processor to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the ice water into the middle and knead with your hands until the dough comes together and looks smooth. At this point, it should not be overly sticky or too wet. Wrap this dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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All ready to roll!

While the dough is chilling, start your pastry cream here.

3. Combine milk, salt, and ¼ cup of the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the vanilla (extract or paste), or add the seeds and the pod of the vanilla bean to the mixture. Heat to a simmer over medium heat- do not let it boil!

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Confession: I forgot to capture the pastry cream I was making this time, but this is what the beginnings will look like!

4. Meanwhile, in a glass bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the cornstarch so that they are evenly mixed without lumps. Whisk the egg yolks into this bowl until all is incorporated.

5. When the milk is simmering, remove the vanilla bean there is one and turn the heat to medium-low. Slowly, and whisking constantly to prevent scrambled eggs, add a little of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture to temper. Then, pour the bowl of egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk and return the pot to the stove, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula until the mixture is thick and just about to bubble, about 5 minutes.

6. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter until incorporated. Chill in the fridge until cold and set, pressing plastic wrap directly to the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Back to the tart dough!

7. Let your dough rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes so that it rolls out easily. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. On a lightly floured surface, roll your dough into one large circle, about 2 inches wider than your desired pan on all sides. Make sure to check periodically to make sure that the dough isn’t sticking to your work surface, and re-flour as necessary.

8. Very carefully roll the finished dough over the rolling pin, and then drape into your tart pan, pressing it into place and allowing the extra dough to hang over the side. If you’re using a metal fluted pan (like I am), you can roll your rolling pin over the top of the pan, and the excess dough will be cut off, leaving you with a perfectly neat tart.

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Look at those perfect edges!

9. To blind bake this crust (bake without a filling in it), cut a square of parchment paper slightly larger than the pan size and place it in the pan on top of the crust. Fill this with dried beans, rice, or pie weights and bake like this for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust starts to turn golden.

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Ready for blind baking!

10. Remove the parchment paper and weights from the shell and return the tart to the oven, baking for another 10 minutes until it’s evenly golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with 1 egg white- the heat of the shell will cook the egg white and seal the tart to prevent a dreaded soggy crust. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan.

11. When the shell has completely cooled, fill with the chilled pastry cream, and top with your desired choice of berries and other fruits. Now, eat the whole thing in one sitting and never look back.

xoxoxoxoxoxD

 

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Passionfruit Macarons

So something BIG happened this week, and that big thing was that someone was brave enough to pay me to bake for them! A few weeks ago after a tough work week, I brought in a batch of these passionfruit macarons as a morale booster, and my sweet sweet coworker then asked me to make some this weekend for a party she’s having. So the pressure was on because macarons are notoriously temperamental, but the gods of french baking were smiling down on me because these cookies went off largely without a hitch.

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Still some cracks, but it’s okay to be perfectly imperfect because the taste is remarkable!

Something that I’ve been noticing when I make macarons sometimes is their tendency to crack on the tops, and for so long I couldn’t figure out why. After some research and many MANY trials, it seems that the batter cracks for a few reasons, like a batter with too much liquid, a batter that’s under-mixed, or an environment that’s too humid. But never fear, there are solutions for all of these problems! To keep a batter from getting too wet, switch to gel food colorings instead of liquid. Not only will you get a more vibrant color, but you’ll be using way less food coloring while you’re at it. Next, when mixing your final batter (after the flour mixture is added to the whipped eggs), you’d be surprised how much mixing you actually have to do. I always used to be afraid of mixing too much and deflating the egg whites, BUT it turns out you have to mix the batter until it’s thin enough that when you lift up your spatula, the batter flows off in a v-shape like lava. Lastly, the humidity is a little tricky. If you desperately need to make these on a humid day, keep all the windows closed and crank the air conditioner way up to keep it cool and dry. If this isn’t possible, you may just have to postpone your macaron adventures until a less-humid day. Who knew cookies could be so high maintenance?

It’s important to remember that no matter what happens, these cookies will taste SO good that no one who eats one will even notice if there are some cracks. The passionfruit is tart and summery and a perfect compliment to the delicate sweetness of the almond cookie base and the rich buttercream. Feel free to make your own passionfruit curd if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, but since the cookies are labor intensive on their own, I figured I’d give myself a break and use store bought passionfruit curd (which, btw, I could eat with a spoon out of the jar). Anywho, let’s get started, happy baking!

Makes: About 50 2-inch complete macarons (depending on how big you pipe them)
Prep Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1.5 hours

Macaron Ingredients: (adapted from Ladurée Sucré: The Recipes)

2¾ cups + 1 tbs almond flour (ground almonds)
2 cups + 1 tbs confectioners sugar
6 egg whites + ½ an additional egg white, separated and lightly whipped until foamy
1 cup + 1 tbs granulated sugar
Yellow gel food coloring

Macaron Steps:

1. Begin by prepping your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Do NOT grease your pans for this type of cookie.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the ground almonds and confectioners sugar to remove all lumps. Set aside.

3. In the (CLEAN, GREASE-FREE) bowl of your mixer, whip the 6 egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add in a third of the granulated sugar and beat until it has dissolved. Add in another third, beat until dissolved, and then add the last third. Add the food coloring at this point to achieve the desired yellow color. I went for a lighter one this time, but it’s totally up to you! Whip this mixture until the egg whites are pure white and can stand up on their own when the beater is removed, it should be about 5-7 minutes total.

4. Fold the almond flour mixture into the egg white mixture, continuously mixing until all the flour is incorporated and, when the spatula is lifted out of the batter, the batter flows like lava in a v-shape back into the bowl. If your batter seems too thick, slowly add a little of the extra ½ egg white, a little at a time, mixing until the right consistency is reached.

5. Pour this mixture into a piping bag fitted with a wide circle tip (or just cut the tip of the piping bag into a 1 inch wide circle or so). Pipe the macarons about 2 inches in diameter, leaving about an inch of space in between each one- they don’t spread very much but you wouldn’t want any to bake together. If you get a little “Hershey Kiss” looking swirl on top, dip your finger in a cup of water and gently smooth it down. Tap your baking sheets on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles.

6. Preheat your oven to 300ºF now. Let the macarons sit on the baking sheets for 10-30 minutes until a sort of skin forms on the tops of the cookies- when you touch the tops, they should feel smooth and no cookie batter should come off on your hands.

7. Bake the macarons for 15 minutes and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheets before removing. If you pull them off when they’re still warm, they are more likely to break or fall apart. When they’re cool, gently peel them from the parchment paper and match up your pairs so that they’re ready for filling.
Passionfruit Buttercream (and Filling) Ingredients:

3 cups confectioners sugar
½ cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbs whole milk
¼ cup passionfruit curd, plus about ¼ cup more for filling

Passionfruit Buttercream (and Filling) Steps:

1. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter, vanilla, and confectioners sugar. Slowly add the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until you reach the desired smooth consistency.

2. Add in the passionfruit curd and whip the frosting until it’s light and spreadable.

3. On one cookie from each pair of macarons, pipe a wide circle of buttercream along the edge. Fill another small piping bag or ziplock bag with passionfruit curd, and pipe a small dot in the center of the buttercream for a little surprise bite! Place the second macaron on top and voila!

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The passionfruit curd is the perfect surprise in the middle!

These cookies are best enjoyed after a night in the fridge so that the flavors can fully develop, but if you simply can’t wait, they’ll be delicious immediately as well. Enjoy!!!

xoxoxoxoD

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Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

You know when you get the sudden desire to go to New Orleans? Or is that just me? I’ve never been and I’ve been thinking so much about it lately, but since a trip is out of the question right now, I’ve settled for cooking some classic cuisine to tide me over. This gumbo, borrowed from this recipe from The New York Times, is the perfect treat for when a beautiful, sunny Saturday turns into a cold and stormy Sunday- its slightly spicy, hearty, and chock full of shrimp, andouille sausage, and that savory-sweet mix of slow cooked peppers and onions. It’s SO good.

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In other news, what a crazy week, huh? I didn’t even work a full week last week and boy was I exhausted. A fancy brunch in NYC with a friend, complete with tomato and polenta baked “Eggs In Purgatory” with a Rose Sangria was exactly what I needed to cure me, and I have a good feeling that a recipe for that will find its way here soon, never fear. Also coming this week will be one of my newest and proudest creations, Passionfruit Macarons! I brought them in to work a few weeks ago on a whim, and they were an overwhelming success, so I’ll be taking a second stab at it later this week.

Secondly, I have to confess something. I have a serious issue where I collect cookbooks and random kitchen gadgets that only serve one purpose. My poor parents’ kitchen is filled to the bursting point with my pasta maker, various zesters, piping tips, and cookie cutters. The newest addition to that family? A blowtorch. I bought one mostly for creme brûlée, but I also hear it’s good for toasting the meringue on a Lemon Meringue Pie, which I have yet to make successfully, so I’ll keep you all posted. I also got TWO new cookbooks for my birthday, another from Queen Ina Garten to add to my collection of Barefoot Contessa books, and one with the most stunning pictures from Maine, and I just can’t wait to dive in.

I had so much cooking planned for this weekend and then suddenly it was Sunday afternoon and I had done literally nothing so that’s on me, I promise I’ll be back in the groove soon! But until then, please enjoy this recipe for gumbo and have a wonderful week, you can do this!

Serves: 8 to 10 dinner portions
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients: (measurements for 4 to 6 in parenthesis)

2 lbs. (1 lb.) shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup (¼ cup) olive oil
2 (1) red bell peppers, diced
2 (1) green bell peppers, diced
3 medium (1 large) yellow onions, diced
1 cup, 4-5 stalks celery (3 stalks), diced
3 cloves (1 clove) garlic, minced
½ cup (¼ cup) all-purpose flour
2 tbs. (1 tbs) tomato paste
2 tsp. (1 tsp) paprika
½ tsp. (¼ tsp.) cayenne pepper
2 cans (1 can) diced tomatoes
12 oz. (6 oz.) andouille sausage, sliced into inch-thick slices
8-10 cups (6 cups) chicken broth
2 cups (1 cup) okra, chopped
3 tbs. (1 tbs.) salted butter
3 cups (1 cup) white rice
scallions, for garnish

Steps:

1. Making the gumbo base: in a heavy-bottom soup pot, heat your olive oil on medium and add in the onions and bell peppers. Stir as the veggies get soft and the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix to combine, cooking for another 3 minutes to remove the raw flour taste.

2. Next, add the tomato paste, paprika, and cayenne pepper and mix so that the tomato paste is fully incorporated. After 1 minute, add the diced tomatoes and liquid, plus the andouille sausage, and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point, season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour in the chicken broth (use the lesser amount if you want the gumbo to be thicker), and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the flour and browned bits. Simmer the gumbo for 25 minutes with the top off, so that the mixture thickens. Taste and adjust your seasonings as necessary.

4. At this point, bring 5 cups (2 cups if using the 1 cup of rice) of water to a boil with the 2 tbs. of butter. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low and add the rice. Stir once to coat all the rice in butter, then cover and let the rice absorb the water for 20-25 minutes.

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4. Stir the chopped okra into the gumbo and cook until they become soft, about 5 minutes, then add the shrimp. Since shrimp cooks so quickly, let this mixture cook for another 2 minutes and then turn off the heat. Fluff the rice with a fork, and scoop a generous amount into a bowl. Top with a heaping portion of gumbo and sprinkle on some green onions if you’d like (I bought some and in the rush to eat I totally forgot, ah well!).

Tada!!!!!!

Now close your eyes and pretend you’re on Bourbon Street just like I was doing. Enjoy!!

xoxoxoxD

Cinnamon Birthday Cake (with Marzipan Succulents!)

Hello! It’s been a bit since I last posted, I’ve been all over the place but I’m back now, never fear. Today’s recipe is brought to you once again by my love of cinnamon, in case you haven’t sensed the theme here. I turned 23 on Monday, and because I know who I am, I’ve gotten into the habit of making my own birthday cake. It works because I can experiment and pick my favorite flavors, but no one complains because it’s a cake for me anyway! (As if anyone could complain about eating cake though.)

So to start, I use a classic birthday cake recipe from a Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook that I’ve had for years now, and it’s simplicity is its greatest asset. But because I can never leave anything alone, I added a few tweaks here and there in the form of some cinnamon, almond extract, and a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, and boy it went well. As my mo remarked, the cake smelled like snickerdoodles as it was baking, and was moist and amazing when iced and sliced. To complete the cinnamon masterpiece I covered this cake in a cinnamon-y buttercream and free-handed a few marzipan succulents for decoration. I, of course, know that they could be cleaner if I used cookie cutters or stencils, but I simply didn’t have any so I made do!

This whole recipe is great because without my flavor additions, they serve as basic templates for cake and buttercream that can be changed as you see fit. I’m including stars next to the ingredients that I added so that the following recipe can be two in one! Let’s get baking!!

Makes: 1 2-layer 9″ round cake or 1 9×13″ sheet cake
Prep Time: 1 hour+ (depending on how into decorating you get!)
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
Total Time: 1.5-2 hours

Cinnamon Cake Ingredients
adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon*
½ cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
½ tsp almond extract*
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten

Cake Steps

1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour your desired cake pans, or grease and line your pans with parchment paper (which is my preferred method, to keep the consistency correct and to prevent sticking mishaps).

2. In a large bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. If you’re using a vanilla bean, add the milk, almond extract, and scraped vanilla bean seeds + pod to a saucepan and heat over low heat (do not boil the milk!), until the vanilla has infused with the milk. Remove and discard the pod. If you’re using vanilla extract instead, add both extracts to your milk at room temperature.

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or large bowl + hand mixer), cream your butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add in the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

5. Drizzle your eggs into the bowl of the mixer on low speed, a little at a time, allowing each addition to incorporate before adding more.

6. Next you’re going to be adding your flour mixture and your milk mixtures alternatively, starting and ending with the flour. Add your flour in 3 batches, your milk in 2. Mix until just combined.

7. Pour the batter into your pans and spread evenly. Before baking, tap your pans on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Allow the cakes to cool almost entirely in their pans, trying to move cakes around when they’re still warm makes them way more likely to crack or break! While they’re cooling, you can make your frosting.

Cinnamon Buttercream
adapted from Domino Confectioners Sugar
*you may have to do this in 2 batches if you have a smaller mixer like me! If so, just divide these amounts in half*

7 cups (2 boxes) confectioners sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
¼-1/3 cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean, scraped, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract*
½ tsp ground cinnamon*

Buttercream Steps

1. Cream together your butter and sugar. Slowly add in the milk, little by little until your frosting has reached the desired spreadable consistency.

2. Add the extracts (or extract and vanilla bean seeds), and cinnamon, and mix to combine.

3. Once your cakes have cooled, generously frost the top of your first cake and stack the second cake on top, so that both domed tops are in the center and the top and bottom of your cake is flat.

4. “Crumb coat” the cake with a thin layer all over and chill for 15 minutes. Finish with a second, thicker coating of frosting. Dip your spatula in warm water and run it along the sides and the top to smooth.


Decorations

Almond paste (marzipan)
Food Coloring
Cocoa powder
Chocolate Shavings

or any sprinkles/ extra frosting you want!

Steps

1. To color your marzipan, break off a large chunk and make a well in the center, adding in a few drops of the color you want. Knead it around in your hands until the color is evenly distributed. Warning, you WILL dye your hands this way, I looked like Elphaba from Wicked for quite a while.

2. To make a succulent, I cut out star shapes in gradually smaller sizes, starting with the largest and then 3-4 more, getting smaller each time. I layered them on top of each other one at a time and pressed the center in until the pieces were stuck together.

3. Brush the edges with a little cocoa powder and arrange them on the top of the cake. Cover the area with chocolate shavings if you feel like it, I thought the cake needed to look a little more like a garden you know?

Then, take at least 600 pictures to brag to your friends about your masterpiece, and enjoy!!!

xoxoxoxoxoD

Fettuccine Alfredo with Homemade Pasta

Oh man, it’s been a week. I know it’s only Wednesday, but I am TIRED. For some reason despite being so tired, I made it my top priority to try out the brand new pasta maker I got a few weeks ago and I am so glad I did. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but pasta is actually really easy to make from scratch. It contains only 2 ingredients, flour and egg, and while, yes, it makes a mess and gets flour everywhere, you can literally just use your hands and a rolling pin (although it’s definitely easier with a pasta machine). The recipe that I started with came from my trusty Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, although some parts I had to improvise to get the results that I got.

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Now, because your time will be occupied making the pasta for this meal, I figure you might as well make things easier for yourself on the other side, and make a quick sauce that can slow cook while you mess around with the dough. In this case, it’s Alfredo. Taught to me by my mother, this sauce was probably my number one requested meal as a child, and some things never change. Containing butter, cream, and cheese, this is definitely not a healthy dinner, but when you need some comfort, this is the perfect dish. Let’s hope the rest of this week breezes by, but until then, I’ll be over here eating fresh pasta out of the saucepan. Without further ado, let’s get cooking!

*Disclaimer: I am not Italian (although I wish I was), this was my first venture into pasta making so I am simply writing about what works for me, I hope my methods don’t horrify any seasoned Italian chefs. If you’ve been doing this forever, let me know what your strategies are, I’d love to hear them!!

Serves: 3-4 dinner portions
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour (I know it doesn’t add up I’m just working in some wiggle room)

Pasta Ingredients

2-2½ cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Pasta Steps
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1. On a large, clean surface (I used a marble board, but you can use the countertop or a silicone mat as well), measure out your flour into a small pile, making a large well in the center. Crack eggs into the well and whisk them gently with a fork until the yolks are broken and slightly mixed.

From humble beginnings

2. Begin to knead with your hands until a dough starts to form, adding flour as necessary until you can press your thumb into the dough and nothing sticks. I ended up adding a lot more flour than the original recipe stated, but it changes based on the size of your eggs and whatnot, so everyone is different.

3. At this point, clear your surface and knead your pasta dough until it becomes smooth and stretchy, at least a full 8 minutes. Once this is done, cut the ball of dough into 4 equal sections to make it easier to work with.

4. Put your pasta roller on the widest setting. Flatten your first ball of dough and run it through the machine once. Fold in thirds the long way, and then run back through the machine, narrow side first.

5. Move pasta roller up from setting 1 to setting 3. Repeat step four on this thinner setting. Move the pasta roller up to setting 5 and repeat one last time. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the other sections of dough, until you have 4 long, thin sheets.

All the pasta

6. At this point, if you have a fettuccine cutter for your machine, add it. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut strips free-handed, but I just don’t have the coordination for that. Run each sheet of dough through the cutter, flouring and separating the strands once they’re cut so that they don’t stick together. Lay flat on a kitchen towel, making sure that the strands aren’t too tangled. Repeat with the other sheets. While the pasta is drying for a minute, let’s start the sauce!

Alfredo Ingredients

3 tbs salted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
Dash of nutmeg (I really mean a DASH, a little goes a long way)
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Alfredo Steps

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add in heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Heat for a minute or two on medium until the cream has been warmed through.

2. Stir in the parmesan cheese and allow the sauce to cook for around 5 minutes until it thickens and the cheese melts.

Pasta Pasta Pasta

3. At this point, cook your pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. The cook time ranges for fresh pasta, but mine reached al dente at around 7 minutes.

4. When the pasta is finished, transfer it to the saucepan and mix until all the pasta is generously coated in sauce.

5. Serve with a generous dusting of more parmesan cheese.

Have a great week! xoxoxoD