A delicious dish inspired by a Uruguayan favourite!
My grown son is a sports fanatic and I have learned so much from him as a result. Lately, he’s been informing me not only of the obscure details about various sports and competing teams, but also some culinary oddities from locales around the world that he’s stumbled across in his sports-related research. This weekend, thanks to the ongoing World Cup soccer tournament, he expressed a yearning to try one of the most iconic dishes in Uruguayan cuisine, that being pasta with Caruso sauce. Legend has it this sauce was created by a restaurateur in the country’s capital city, Montevideo, in the 1950s, to honour legendary Italian singer Enrico Caruso, who toured South America to great acclaim in the 1910s. This sauce quickly gained international culinary recognition and is now considered an essential part of the Uruguayan cultural heritage. It’s easy to make and very tasty, kind of like fancy homemade mac and cheese. I’ve taken a few liberties with the classic recipe provided by a friend, to boost the flavour and texture just a little. This sauce can easily be made ahead of time; in fact, I think it was even more delicious on day two.
- 1 pound (454 grams) uncooked pasta shells
- 1 cup (250 mL) beef stock
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces (227 grams) mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 pound (110 grams) smoked ham, chopped
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) flour
- 2 cups (500 mL) milk or light cream
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly grated parmesan cheese
- pinch hot pepper flakes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- chopped fresh parsley and additional grated parmesan, to garnish
- Put beef stock in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until reduced by half.
- While stock is reducing, put 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Transfer cooked onions and garlic to a bowl and set aside.
- Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pan, then add sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are nicely browned and moisture has evaporated. Stir in ham and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute more, then add the mushrooms and ham to the bowl with the onions and garlic.
- Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking, melt butter in the skillet used to cook the vegetables. Sprinkle flour over top and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, until flour is fragrant and mixture is bubbling.
- Add reduced beef stock to the pan, whisking constantly. Add milk slowly, continuing to whisk. Let sauce cook, whisking often, until it is just about boiling and has begun to thicken.
- Remove pan from heat and add cheeses and red pepper flakes; whisk until smooth.
- Stir in cooked onions, mushrooms and ham. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- When pasta is al dente, remove 3/4 cup (185 mL) of the cooking water and stir it gently into to the pasta sauce.
- Drain pasta well. Ladle sauce over pasta in four serving bowls. Garnish with additional parmesan and fresh parsley then serve hot.