Many years ago while flipping through the TV channels, I came across a cooking show that was so beautifully shot – natural lighting, sleek, modern restaurant setting, spectacular looking, rustic food - it stopped me in my tracks. Turns out PBS was running an episode from the British television series called The Italian Kitchen. The chefs were Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of London’s River Café and I instantly became a fan. Since then I have bought several of their books and vowed to someday taste their delicious Italian farmhouse cuisine firsthand at their restaurant on the banks of the River Thames.
Sadly, I heard Rose Gray passed away on February 28th at the age of 71. For twenty-plus years the River Café has helped influence and transform the British food scene. Rose and Ruth, both self-taught chefs, were passionate about sourcing the freshest seasonal ingredients and preparing them simply. They embodied locavorism long before it became fashionable. Like similar-minded American chef Alice Waters and her restaurant, Chez Panisse, many stellar chefs have emerged from the River Cafe kitchen; Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and April Bloomfield all learned and worked under Rose and Ruth.
One of my favorite recipes from the River Cafe is a delicious pasta dish made with lemons, crème fraiche, arugula, and Parmesan. It’s so rich, so creamy, and so easy it’s dangerous!
Tagliatelle with Crème Fraiche and Arugula
Adapted from Italian Easy by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
I was able to source many of the ingredients for this recipe from local New York farms. The crème fraiche came from Columbia County’s Ronnybrook Dairy and the arugula from Windfall Farm in Montgomery, New York. Instead of the dried egg tagliatelle called for in the original recipe I substituted Dutchess County's Knoll Crest Farm’s fresh pasta.
You can play with the ingredient amounts; depending on how you feel about lemon, you can add a little more or a little less. The same is true for the arugula. And tossing in a bit more Parmesan never hurt anything!
1 cup crème fraiche
Finely grated rind and juice from 2 lemons
12 ounces dried egg tagliatelle
5 cups loosely packed arugula, large stems removed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Stir together crème fraiche, lemon juice, and zest in a bowl until just combined. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain and return to pot. Add crème fraiche mixture, arugula and half of Parmesan; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve pasta with remaining Parmesan on the side.