I live in New York City. Home to various enclaves of actual Italians from Italy and their glorious cuisine. There is even a neighborhood in Manhattan known as “Little Italy.” Where that ends and Chinatown starts, I couldn’t tell you, but that’s beside the point.
How unlikely, then, that my most memorable Italian meal this year happened in exotic Danbury, Connecticut! Castello Restaurant is…interesting. It’s like…your grandmother’s dining room…but in a garage…over an office…but really awkward…so not so much your grandmother’s dining room as your grandmother-in-law’s.
But the food is good, so you find yourself back there after enough time has passed that you’re able to convince yourself it wasn’t really so weird. Indeed, I’ve found myself haunted (in a good way!) by the last thing I ate at Castello: the Pappardelle al Fungi, or homemade pasta with spinach, portobello, walnuts and mascarpone sauce. It had some greens in there too, and I remember just loving the delicate flavors and the variety of textures.
Since I can’t just go to CT for dinner any old time, I figured I’d take a stab at recreating the dish, or at least creating a dish that incorporated my favorite elements of Castello’s pappardelle. In other words, no, I am not about to try making my own pasta in my Brooklyn galley kitchen. Rice, however—that I can do!
Italian Fried Rice
- 3 cups cooked brown rice (aka 1 cup dry rice, cooked)
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ~ 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach
- handful chopped walnuts (~1/2 cup)
- handful raisins
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice from 1/4 lemon, or about 1 tbsp
- nutritional yeast/vegan parm or parmesan cheese for topping
- Heat oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add garlic and let it sizzle and cook for a minute or two.
- Add spinach, walnuts and raisins and saute until spinach is thawed and coated with oil.
- Add rice, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Stir-fry for several minutes, until warmed through and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste to make sure it’s hot enough, and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
This dish had the luscious rice factor of a risotto and my favorite flavors from the beloved pappardelle dish, but that’s probably where the resemblance to Italian food ends. But hey, I’m a New Yorker, and if Little Italy can share a neighborhood with Chinatown, then I can make Italian food in my wok.