Pasta with Jerusalem Artichokes (Topinambur)

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The star of this dish is certainly the Jerusalem artichoke.  If it doesn’t ring a bell to you, it looks like ginger, has the consistency of potato, but tastes like artichoke!

I still remember that the first time I tried this delicious tuber.  It was in the Tuscan town of Suvereto.  During a local festival someone gave me a piece of quiche to taste.  When I first tried it, the flavors of the artichoke tarts prepared in Lima came to my mind.  It felt like pure comfort food, because I had always loved them.  I was surprised to learn that for the quiches they had used what I know now are Jerusalem artichokes, which look nothing like artichokes!

Since then, I always take the chance of ordering them whenever I find them in a menu, and it is seasonal (here Nov-Apr).

This week I discovered that they had local, organic Jerusalem artichokes in the market and decided to experiment my first dish using them.  It turned out delicious!

500 g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and thinly sliced – Set them aside in a bowl of water to avoid discoloring.

lemon juice, just a few drops
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 – 1½ cup milk
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
300 g pasta of your preference – I used fusilli, the last package from Turin; I will have to go back!
½ cup any herb of your preference (parsley, sage, rosemary, estragon, thyme, etc.), leaves finely chopped

Precook Jerusalem artichokes and garlic in boiling water, adding lemon juice and salt.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, until tender. Drain.  Press the garlic with a fork.  Set aside.

Cook pasta al dente.  Keep 1/2 cup of the pasta, cooking water before draining it.  Set aside; you may need it to thin out the sauce.

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In a casserole melt butter.  Add flour, stirring constantly (med-low).  Cook for approx. 2 min to avoid the taste of raw flour.

As soon as it bubbles (don’t let it brown!), stir in Jerusalem artichokes and pressed garlic.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in parmesan cheese.

Stirring constantly, add milk.  Bring it to a boil, stir constantly along the bottom of the pan.

Incorporate pasta. Gently toss the pasta to coat it with the sauce.  If it turns too thick, use reserved, pasta water, adding it little by little, looking for the desired consistency.

Correct the seasoning.

Stir in herbs, reserving some to sprinkle over when plating.

Serve and enjoy immediately.

Notes:

  • Jerusalem artichokes are as versatile as potatoes; actually, you can use them instead of potatoes in any recipe.
  • A good link:  “25 Ways of Using Jerusalem Artichokes” from Cooking Channel. 
  • Andrew Knowlton also reveals here something you must be aware before getting too excited about this tuber …  And don’t tell me, I didn’t warn you!

 

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