Saturday Pasta Party

by AliMargo on April 10, 2012

Denise was my first friend in Aspen. We met at “snowboard school,” and would laugh that as 32-year-old professionals we had somehow ended up on the bunny hill at Snowmass, teaching little rich kids how to ride.

Fast forward 12 years: Denise has two young boys and is married to a chef. I mean a Chef with a capital “C” as in Chef Matt Zubrod, the Executive Chef at BB’s Kitchen in Aspen with an impressive resume that includes twice being recognized by James Beard as one of the great hotel chefs, competing against Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America. 

So when we invited the Zubrods over for a lazy Saturday lunch, I asked Denise if Matt would give us a cooking lesson. Yes, I realize it’s probably lame to ask a chef to cook for you on his day off, but Denise insisted Matt loves to cook for friends.

Ryan gets his ravioli on.

“What do you want to make?” she asked.

I knew the answer in one word: PASTA.

Surprisingly, Matt was happy to spend his only day off in six months cooking with us. His passion for food is palpable and comes through in flavor. Despite the chaos of his sons Bode, 4 and Finn, 2  running around he whipped up one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory. Thanks Matt and Denise for a fun and delicious Saturday!

Chef MZ doing his thang.

Here are the improvised recipes … I don’t think we had any specific measurements aside from the pasta dough, but hopefully this gives you all a “taste” of this amazing meal!!

Matt Zubrod’s Saturday Pasta Party

Serves 4

Chef MZ’s Pasta Dough

4 cups flour (seminola or Italian 00 flour work best—we used regular white flour and it made our dough a little tougher than what is ideal, but it still tasted delish, just not as delicate as a finer flour would make.)
2 eggs

To make pasta dough:

1)   Dump flour onto work surface and create a little trough in the middle.
2)   Crack eggs into the trough.
3)   Knead with your hands slowly to combine egg and flour until dough forms. This may take several minutes and a lot of muscle. (A Kitchen Aid mixer would do this for you—this is the old school way!) Add water if needed.
4)   Once dough is formed, set aside for 1 hour.
5)   After dough is rested, roll out the dough to a thin consistency but not so thin it breaks.
6)   Cut dough according to what pasta shape you want. For paparadelle, cut into strips about ¼” wide. For raviolis, use a round cutter.

Chef MZ’s “On the fly” Papardelle Pasta with Shrimp

The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity. With such a hearty, fresh pasta, very little is needed in the way of sauce. We tossed the fresh shrimp with what we had in the fridge (a purple pepper, grape tomatoes) but you could improvise with this and use your choice of beautiful, colorful veggies and fresh herbs. We call this “on the fly” because Chef Matt had not made fresh pasta in a while and we worked with what we had in the fridge, not an ingredient list we’d prepped beforehand. What resulted was a flavorful, gorgeous plate of pasta the way pasta should be done.

½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 red or green pepper, chopped (Chef MZ had some purple peppers he  salvaged before BB’s closed for the season).
½ onion, chopped
7 garlic cloves (we used a local variety of “purple haze” garlic, which is only harvested once a year)
1 package grape tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup white wine
¼ stick butter
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
red chili flakes

1)   After you roll and cut the pasta dough into thick-ish ¼” strips, lay it over something (we used an empty box from a 12-pack of Bud cans) to dry.
2)   Boil water with a little salt—(10 cups water to 1 pound pasta is the general rule)
3)   Cook pasta 1-2 minutes then drain
4)   In a large sauté pan, cook chopped garlic, peppers, onions, in olive oil, white wine and butter over medium high heat. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian spices (oregano, basil, parsley) Add pasta and toss to coat. Add shredded parmesan cheese and chili flakes to taste and serve.

Enjoying the fruits (and pasta) of our labor.

Chef MZ’s Ground Elk Ravioli with Mint Pesto
This was another improvised recipe that came together beautifully. In retrospect, Chef MZ would have used a lighter, creamier, more delicate ricotta cheese instead of the saltier, heartier Manchego I had in the fridge, but I still loved it. This is a very colorful dish—the mint pesto a bright green—and also very fragrant. The mint pesto cuts the richness of the meat and provides a wonderful contrast of flavor. I had never seen a meat filling that was pureed but it was delicious and created a nice texture that held together when the raviolis were boiled. We were also happy this was a real farm to table meal: the elk came from Ryan’s hunt last year and the mint came from our garden. I would proudly serve this dish as a special treat—it is decadent and tastes every bit handmade—filled with love!

Meat filling:

1 pound ground elk
1 package baby bella mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
6 ounces Manchego cheese

Mint Pesto:
2-3 sprigs of mint
A few handfuls of arugula
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

To make filling:

1)   In medium saucepan season pan with chopped garlic and olive oil then add the ground elk and musrooms. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and whatever Italian seasonings you have on hand. Add a little butter and cook until meat is done and mushrooms are tender.
2)   Empty all ingredients into food processor, add shredded Manchego cheese and puree. Set aside.

To make pesto:

Puree mint, arugula, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts in food processor. Add salt to taste and set aside. (Pesto is a very personal thing—add or subtract amounts of ingredients to taste).

To make ravioli:
1)   Roll out pasta dough and cut approx 2” round circles with pasta or cookie cutter (we used the top end of a glass since we had neither)
2)   Put a dollop of meat filling in the middle of circle and then put another circle on top. Close edges by pressing your glass or dull side of cutter on top and then closing the edges with your fingers.
3)   Baste raviolis with egg yolk and put in fridge on cookie sheet for 10 minutes to set before cooking.
4)   Cook ravioli in salted boiling water until they float to the top and remove quickly so they don’t overcook/fall apart.

Serve ravioli with mint pesto on top. These are hearty—depending on size, serve 2-3 per person. Though chances are everyone will want more!!










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