Dear SOS: I recently had a wonderful country style pasta dish called Penne Rustica at Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles, made with ricotta and pancetta. It seemed like the perfect, easy, at-home recipe that many of your readers would appreciate. Can you obtain the recipe?
Dear Susan: You're so right. The recipe is an easy, casual meal for family or company. It calls for imported Parmesan and rigatoni, but you can use the domestic varieties with success, as well. Prepare the ricotta-pancetta mixture while the macaroni is cooking.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely diced
4 ounces pancetta, coarsely chopped
6 ounces ricotta cheese
Grated imported Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound imported Italian rigatoni
Heat oil in small skillet. Add onion and cook over low heat until softened. Add pancetta and cook over medium heat until fat is rendered, but not crisp. Remove from heat. Place onion-pancetta mixture, including fat, in small mixing bowl. Add ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly with wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender. Drain, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons cooking water.
Place ricotta-pancetta mixture in large serving bowl. Add cooking water and mix well. Add rigatoni and toss to mix well. Serve at once with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Dear SOS: I was delighted with key lime pies I discovered in Florida recently. Would you happen to have a comparable recipe or know where one would find key lime juice?
Dear James: Key limes are difficult to find, except, perhaps, in Cuban or Latin grocery stores. Otherwise, use small limes. They'll do just fine for this lovely summery dessert.
Here's a recipe from Patricia Murphy's Candlelight Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale we happen to have on hand.
CANDLELIGHT KEY LIME PIE
Juice from 3 to 4 fresh key limes or small limes
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
Green food color, optional
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell
Whipped cream, optional
Using hand whisk, slowly whip lime juice into milk until well mixed and thickened. Add food color. Turn into baked pie shell and chill in refrigerator 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Top with whipped cream. Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.
Dear SOS: Benihana's in Los Angeles serves a wonderful mustard sauce, which I would love to try at home. Can you provide a recipe?
Dear Reader: Absolutely. We often receive requests for this popular recipe, which is served along with a ginger sauce for all teppan dishes (meats and vegetables cooked on a griddle).
BENIHANA'S MAGIC MUSTARD SAUCE
1/4 cup dry mustard
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon crushed sesame seeds
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Mix mustard and water in small mixing bowl, until mixture becomes pasty. Stir in cream and soy sauce. Add crushed sesame seeds and lemon peel. Place in blender container and blend at high speed 3 seconds. Makes 1 cup.
Dear SOS: My dad requested a chocolate cake with custard filling and whipped cream frosting for his birthday. Can you please oblige with a recipe?
Dear Erica: We'll try. Here is a cake recipe made up of assembled parts from different recipes, which, when put all together should spell happy birthday. I hope your dad will enjoy it. The chocolate cake is a recipe from Pauline (Abby) Phillips, of Dear Abby renown. The Custard Cream Filling is a standard custard cake filling, and the whipped cream frosting is added.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHOCOLATE CAKE
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
Butter or margarine
1 cup water
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Custard Cream Filling
1 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine 3 squares chocolate, 1/2 cup butter and water in top of double boiler. Heat over simmering water until chocolate and butter melt. Remove from heat. Cool. Sift flour, soda and salt into large bowl.
Beat eggs with sour cream until blended in medium-size bowl. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture. Beat into flour mixture, half at time, just until smooth. Batter will be thin.
Pour evenly into 2 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees 40 minutes or until center springs back when lightly pressed with finger tip. Cool in pans on wire racks.
Loosen edges with knife and turn out onto racks. Split cakes horizontally in halves. Spread top surface of 3 layers with Custard Cream Filling, using 1/3 custard for each layer. Stack layers, then add plain layer to top. Beat whipping cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until firm peaks form. Cover top and sides of cake with whipped cream mixture.
If chocolate drizzle is desired, melt remaining 1 square chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter in cup set in hot water. Stir until smooth. Drizzle top of cake with chocolate, letting mixture drip down sides. Makes 1 (8-inch) layer cake.
Custard Cream Filling
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt and blend with 1/2 cup cold milk. Scald 1 cup milk in top of double boiler over low heat and add sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Place over simmering water and cook and stir until thickened. Cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour small amount of hot mixture into eggs, stirring constantly. Combine eggs with remaining hot mixture and cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove custard from heat and add butter. Cool slightly, then add vanilla. Makes 1 1/2 cups.