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14 days of love for Valentine's Day: Day 13 make a delicious baked pasta, arugula salad and chocolate-hazelnut ganache cake, recipe offered up by famous chef Gail Monaghan

Let me share with you a fabulous baked pasta recipe
I learned while taking a fun and informative 
cooking class from
famous chef and cooking teacher
this baked pasta is truly one of the best pasta dishes I have had.
The pasta comes out perfectly cooked,
with that Al dente bite yet the flavors meld perfectly together

 Over the years I have taken many cooking classes, but one of the
most interesting experiences has been cooking a meal
with Gail Monaghan in New York City
I can tell you taking a cooking class with friends is one of the most enjoyable
(and hilarious at times) experiences I have had. 

 Guests arrive to Gail Monaghan's cool apartment
with fabulous art and a kick-butt commercial kitchen
Gail's relaxed approach to food and entertaining
immediately puts you at ease
Thank You Gail Monaghan for sharing your pasta and chocolate cake recipe with Nest
 We gather around her kitchen island
and the fun begins. 
Gail has generously allowed me to share some of the menu
we put together for my viewers
today as you plan your Valentine meal.
we made this rich and delicious chocolate cake in class
We cooked an extensive meal, but this pasta caught my attention - and it would make a perfect, effortless Valentine's meal for someone you love. 
I love pasta, and who doesn't?  There are so many tricks of the trade when making good, Italian pasta dishes.  However, throw all that out the window when you make this recipe because it has a different approach - it is cooked quickly at a high temperature in the oven.  To be perfectly frank with you when I saw the hand out describing this pasta it was not the first item on the list that caught my attention, however, it is very unique and delicious.  Do you know the infamous restaurant Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island?  It is critically acclaimed for putting out some of the area's best Italian food.  Gail was inspired by a similar dish from Al Forno.
Gail Monaghan
34 East 30 Street
New York, New York, 10016
212 243-29
This chic dinner menu is another one that can virtually
all be assembled in advance by Gail Monaghan.
"Who doesn’t love a perfectly balanced baked pasta? Here the combination of shells, asparagus, peas, onions, lemon and mixed cheeses is just that, Assemble it the night before your dinner, and then pop into the oven 45 minutes or so before you plan to serve it. You can even make and freeze extras to defrost and bake when you need a great meal last minute. In this menu, the pasta serves as the first course, but it also makes a great vegetarian main course for lunch or a simple supper. The hazel-nutty chocolate cake with its rich ganache frosting is sublime—a recipe you’ll make again and again once you’ve tasted it. And like all chocolate cakes, it is even better when made a day or two ahead".  Gail Monaghan
Our menu had a delicious rolled turkey breast with fig-olive anchiode and green herb mayo watercress and cauliflower salad, but for tomorrow's Valentine's meal I plan to keep it simple with making the baked pasta dish, a simple green salad, and finished off with this rich delicious chocolate-hazelnut cake with ganache filling

 Valentine menu:
Baked Shells with Asparagus, Green Peas, Onions and Lemon
arugula salad w/balsamic vinegar, olive oil, toasted pine nuts and shaved parmigiana
Chocolatissimo Chocolate-hazelnut Cake with Ganache Filling and Chocolate Glaze

Baked Shells with Asparagus, Green Peas, Onions and Lemon serves 8 as a first course
2 ½ ups heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
½ cup grated Fontina cheese
½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons ricotta
¼ cup finely minced yellow onion
1 ½ cups frozen green peas, thawed
1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
dash of Tabasco Sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/8 inch thick slices on a severe diagonal
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced into paper thin rings
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 pound imported pasta (shells or penne)

1 Preheat the oven to 500
2. Bring at least five quarts of salted water to the boil
3. In a large bowl combine the cream, zest, cheeses, minced onion, thawed peas, salt, Tabasco, and pepper.
4. In a separate bowl, toss the asparagus slices, onion slices and melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste
5. Parboil the pasta in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and add to the bowl with the cream mixture
6. Transfer the mixture to a large gratin dish. Pasta should be no more than 1 ½ inch deep. If necessary, use a second dish.
7. Evenly divide the asparagus/onion mixture over the top and sprinkle generously with parmesan
8. Bake until the pasta is bubbly and very hot and the asparagus begins to brown, about 12-15 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Chocolatissimo Chocolate-hazelnut Cake w/Ganache Filling & Chocolate Glaze
1 cup milk
¾ cup cocoa
1/3 cup white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. Heat the milk in a small pan until bubbles begin to appear around the edges. Remove from the heat. Mix the cocoa and white sugar together in a small bowl and slowly beat in the warm milk. Let cool.
3. Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the cocoa mixture. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together and gently blend into the butter mixture along with the chopped hazelnuts. Do not overbeat.
4. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the pans and springs back when touched gently in the center. Cool on a rack for a few minutes, then turn out of the pans onto the rack. Let cool completely before filling and glazing.
5. Lay one cake layer on a serving plate. Top with the ganache filling and then the second layer. Pour the warm chocolate glaze over the cake, spreading with a metal spatula. Dust with chopped hazelnuts if desired
½ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
Bring the cream and butter to the boil in a medium saucepan. Off the heat, add the chocolate and allow the mixture to stand for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache stand until cool but still pourable. Beat the ganache on medium speed until light and smooth, 1-2 minutes
Melt 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate with 2 teaspoons of tasteless vegetable oil and pour over cake.

I added a simple arugula salad
Randy loves a simple arugula salad, and with the pasta and rich cake, to me this is a perfect pairing.  Don't forget to wash that arugula very well - it can be sandy.  Simple arugula, shave parmigiana and toasted pine nuts, and dressed with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, add salt and fresh cracked pepper and serve immediately.

add some beautiful flowers,
a good bottle of wine and mix with love....a perfect Valentine's Day!

 Our very full and happy group
after completing our dinner in Gail's home. 
 Gail has you study her menu,
and everyone lends a helping hand,
however, she does lots of the prep chef job in advance of chopping,
dicing and measuring
so there's plenty of time to chat about the food.
my friend Tana offering up a glass of her Prosecco
For a complete splurge and the adventurous cook, Gail offers up travel vacations to explore and cook together.  There will be upcoming trips to Catalonia, Morocco, and more, but there is still a few days left to sign up for her exotic trip to Viet Nam—meeting in Saigon April 16 with an optional extension at the end to Cambodia.
The deadline for registration is this Friday,
and sign up with Brown and Hudson
this week.
Read about a recent trip Brown and Harris took to South America