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Wednesday, April 9, 2008 03:50 pm

Tuscan temptation

Here’s the recipe for the superlative “Tortellini Michelangelo”

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Dear Julianne: Would there be any way you could get your hands on the “Tortellini Michelangelo” recipe from Tuscany Italian Restaurant? I am in love with the cream sauce and cannot figure out how to duplicate it. — Beth
Tortellini Michelangelo is one of my favorite dishes at Tuscany Restaurant, too. Once I spoke with head chef Troy Tamminga and sous-chef Shelby Padilla, it was clear to me why it’s so delicious: butter, cream, and Parmesan. As the legendary chef Auguste Escoffier reportedly said about one of his own creations, “With a sauce this good, I could eat my mother!”
As with all simple preparations, the quality of the ingredients is crucial. Real butter, good cream, and genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano or a high-quality domestic equivalent — not that stuff in the green can — will make the difference between a sauce that’s just OK and one that makes you want to lick the bowl. If you’re going to splurge and spend the calories on a sauce this decadently rich, why not make sure that it’s great? About that cream: It’s worth looking for heavy cream that’s not “ultrapasteurized,” a process carried out at higher temperatures than regular pasteurization. Ultrapasteurization is increasingly used by dairies that ship their products long distances because it extends shelf life and because it’s cheaper, not because it’s better for the consumer. It destroys flavor enzymes and enzymes that aid digestibility (one reason for the dramatic increase in the incidence of lactose intolerance) and imparts a cooked taste. Though it’s often touted on dairy labels, ultrapasteurization is actually an indication of lower quality, and most food professionals avoid it. Regular pasteurized heavy cream can be found in local groceries such as Meijer and Schnucks; check the label to be sure.
Do you have a question about food, cooking, an ingredient, a recipe, or a restaurant; or  something you’d like to share? Send your questions and comments to Julianne Glatz at realcuisine@insightbb.com.
Tuscany’s Michelangelo Sauce
3 tablespoons butter, divided Heaping 1/2 cup finely diced onion 1 cup sliced mushrooms 1/2 cup prosciutto, about 1/8 inch thick, cut    into strips about 1/4 inch wide 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas 1/4 cup chicken stock 3 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed 2 cups Parmesan cheese, preferably freshly    grated, plus more if needed Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, heavy pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s softened and golden, stirring occasionally. Set the onion aside in a bowl. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan, increase the heat to medium high, and add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms until they’re cooked through, stirring frequently, and add them to the bowl. Reduce the heat to medium, put the prosciutto in the pan, stir for a couple of minutes to separate the pieces, and add the prosciutto to the bowl along with the peas. Set the bowl aside. Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Add the cream and bring the contents of the pan to a bare simmer, then stir in the cheese. Stir constantly until the cheese has melted and the mixture has become smooth and thickened. Add a little more cream or cheese, if necessary, to obtain the right consistency. Add the reserved vegetables and prosciutto and cook for a couple of minutes until they are warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts. The amount of sauce needed will vary, but there should be enough for 1 to 2 pounds of dried pasta and 2 or more pounds of tortellini or ravioli. The pasta should be well dressed with the sauce but should not be drowning in it. Tuscany serves this sauce with tricolor cheese tortellini, but it could also be used with a tubular pasta such as rigatoni. Leftover sauce can be frozen.
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