The Importance Of Using Heavy-Bottomed Pots, Plus 3 Gourmet Recipes

It’s not just a fad, increased weight and density in your pots will improve your cooking. Chef Michael White of Campagna shows us how.



Risotto ai Funghi

Photography by Andre Baranowski

You’ve probably read these words scores, if not hundreds, of times: “In a heavy-bottomed pot...” is the recipe writer's standard opener. But let’s look at that phrase, trying to avoid its unfortunate Nicki Minaj connotations. Just what is a heavy-bottomed pot? And why is weight so important?

Weight and density in cooking vessels ensure even heat distribution, which is critical when you are attempting to braise or simmer a thick food without scorching it. Unfortunately, the extra material in these pots usually means a steeper price tag; don’t expect to snag a serious pot without paying a serious price.


Chef Michael White

Tortelli di Ricotta con Burro Profumato e Prosciutto 

 

Chef Michael White, whose recent debut of Bedford Post’s Campagna joins his landmark New York City restaurants, Marea, Ai Fiori, and Nicoletta (he also operates in the wilds of London, Istanbul, and New Jersey), recommends that cooks attempting the recipes below use brawny All-Clad pots, which are made with up to three layers of stainless steel and include core layers of copper or aluminum. (Prices range from about $99 for a 6-quart pasta pot to $499 for a 12-quart stockpot.)

When buying that Nicki Minaj of pots, there are a few things to keep in mind. Try to avoid the thin-walled pots that feature discs of metal fused onto the bottom; they're prone to scorches where the extra layers of metal don’t reach. Also, look for durable, riveted, heatproof handles—many stews and braises need to go from cooktop to oven. Such pots may be costly, but, to paraphrase Freddy Mercury, fat-bottomed pots make the cooking world go round. 

Tortelli di Ricotta con Burro Profumato e Prosciutto 

Serves 6 as a starter

• 1 lb whole-milk ricotta cheese
• 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten together
• About ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
• Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
• Kosher salt 
• Black pepper in a mill 
• 1 lb basic pasta dough 
• 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
• ¼ cup (loosely packed) thinly sliced herbs such as basil, mint, tarragon, and/or chervil
• 2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces 

Make the tortelli

Put the ricotta, whole egg, egg yolk, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper and fold together with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Spoon the ricotta mixture into a piping bag fit with a No. 3 plain tip and refrigerate to chill for at least 1 hour, but not more than 8 hours.

Roll pasta dough through a pasta machine set to the thinnest setting. Working on a floured surface, use a wheel cutter or sharp chef’s knife to cut the pasta sheets into 3” by 3” squares. Pipe about 1½ tablespoons of filling into the centers of half of the squares. Use a pastry brush or an immaculately clean finger to brush the edges with water, and place another square on top, using your fingers to push out any air. Tightly seal the edges and trim the edges with the pasta roller. As they are made, gather the tortelli on a flour-dusted baking tray.

When ready to cook and serve the tortelli, fill a medium-sized pot about two-thirds full with water, salt it liberally, and bring to a boil over high heat. While the water is coming to a boil, heat a wide, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it melt, tipping and tilting the pan to coat it. 

When water comes to a boil, lower the heat slightly so the water is boiling gently, then gingerly deposit the tortelli in the water a few at a time. Stir carefully once to keep them from sticking, but taking care to not break them. The tortelli are done when they float to the surface, 2 to 3 minutes for fresh or 4 to 5 minutes for frozen. Remove them with a slotted spoon and gather in a bowl or very gently drain in a colander. 

Add the herbs to the melted butter and cook for a minute, then add the drained tortelli to the pan and toss briefly to coat the pasta with the butter. Toss in the prosciutto, divide among individual plates, sprinkle each serving with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve immediately.

Risotto ai Funghi

Serves 3 as a starter or 2 as a  main 

• 4 cups homemade chicken stock 
• 2½ Tbsp unsalted butter
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• ½ lb assorted mushrooms (such as white button, shitake, and/or porcini)
• 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated in hot stock; allow any sediment to sink to bottom of bowl and discard)
• 1 Tbsp brandy
• Kosher salt
• Black pepper in a mill
• 1 tsp chopped thyme or sage leaves
• ½ small Spanish onion, minced
• 1¼ cups risotto rice, such as Arborio
• ½ cup dry white wine
• ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

Make the risotto

Pour the stock into a pot and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Keep the heat at a simmer; don't boil aggressively. Meanwhile, heat a wide, deep, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and tilt the pan to coat it. Add the fresh mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until they give off their liquid and are tender, about 8 minutes. Pour in the brandy and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in a tablespoon of the thyme or sage, cook for another minute or two, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and tip to coat bottom of pan. Add the onions and rehydrated porcini mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until onions have softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly to coat it with the fat, and keep cooking and stirring until the grains turn opaque at the center, without allowing them to brown, about 3 minutes.

Pour in the wine and cook, stirring continuously, until the wine has been absorbed by the rice, about 5 minutes. Ladle in about 1 cup of the stock and cook, stirring constantly and narrowing and expanding the width of your stirring, until the rice absorbs the stock. Continue to add the stock in half-cup increments, stirring constantly, and only adding more once the stock has been completely absorbed by the rice. During this time, if any rice begins to scorch or stick to the bottom of the pot, lower the heat slightly. After about 15 minutes, when there is only about a cup of simmering stock remaining in the pot, stir in the remaining tablespoon of thyme or sage, and begin adding the stock more judiciously, just a few tablespoons at a time. Stop adding stock when the risotto is nicely moistened, and the grains are al dente but not undercooked. (Remove one with a teaspoon and taste it; it should offer some resistance but not taste raw.) 

Fold mushrooms into the risotto with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese. Taste and season if necessary. 

Garganelli con Prosciutto

 

Garganelli con Prosciutto

Serves 6 as a starter

• Kosher salt
• 1 small head radicchio, julienned 
• 1 lb fresh or dry garganelli pasta (gemelli or penne may be substituted)
• 2 Tbsp unsalted butter or truffle butter 
• 5 oz thinly sliced prosciutto  (about 5 large, thin slices)
• 1½ cups heavy cream
• 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
• Black pepper in a mill 

Make the pasta

Fill a large pot about two-thirds full with water and salt it liberally. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes for fresh or 7 minutes for dried. 

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and let it melt, tilting the pan to coat it. Add the radicchio and wilt, then add prosciutto and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, to warm it and infuse the butter with its flavor, about 1 minute. Stir in the cream, bring it to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer until it reduces and thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. 

Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the pot. Toss to coat the pasta with the cream. Stir in the cheese to melt it and thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and toss well to cause the arugula to wilt. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper. 

 

 

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