The event that prompted the creation of this dish was a day in September when Craig Claiborne simultaneously celebrated his sixty-second birthday, his twenty-fifth year at the Times, and the publication of his autobiography. Thirty-five of Craig’s friends from around the country and across the ocean came to East Hampton to cook for him and his guests. More than six hundred of the latter turned up. Under a vast tent, each cook had a table from which the dishes were served, except for Paul Prudhomme, who judiciously set up his flaming skillet of blackened redfish in the open air.
Craig had asked me to do a vegetable lasagne. I’d said I’d think about it. The people from Romagna are known for their obstinacy and independence and, since I am a romagnola, that may be the reason I find it difficult to accept directions. Whenever I am pushed to do one thing, I often end up doing something different. What I came up with in this case was to take my recipe for tonnarelli with endive sauce and wrap it in green cannelloni.
For Craig I had made the tonnarelli red, which together with the white of the sauce and the green of the wrappers provided an appropriately festive Italian national accent. When it comes to colored pasta, however, I strongly feel that the color must make gastronomic sense, that it must make a contribution to flavor, however subtle. There are only two ways to produce deeply colored red pasta that satisfies this criterion. One is to use commercially dried tomato powder, which, unfortunately, is usually unavailable to the general public. The second is to take tomato paste, dry it painstakingly in an oven, pulverize it, and mix it with the flour. The latter is too tedious for me to try it again, let alone propose it to others. For this book I have used tonnarelli made with basic egg pasta, which I find in no way diminishes the dish’s appeal to the eye or the palate.
© 1986 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.