Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fresh Pasta with Morels and Carmelized Vidalia Onion Cream Sauce - The Roma Bakery Story

First, the story of how this fantastic dish came to fruition...

Some friends of ours visited last weekend from Ann Arbor (booooo, hisssss!!!). Charlie, one of Matt's ushers at our wedding, brought over a large bag of Morel mushrooms that his uncle had given to him. My jaw dropped when I saw how many he had. When he left, he gave us a bag of them, saying he wouldn't be able to eat them all before they went bad. And so they've been sitting in our fridge, burning a hole all week, until I had time to properly prepare them.

So yesterday, on our 11-month anniversary, I knew I was going to cook up the Morels for dinner. I had done some research on the internet and wanted to make a cream sauce to go with pasta. I had gotten off work a little early and had the brilliant idea to stop by Roma Bakery, in hopes of finding some fresh pasta.

One of the staff there pointed me in the direction of their freezer case to find fresh pasta. Much to my dismay, all they had was stuffed ravioli, tortellini, gnocchi and other stuffed pasta varieties (I am DEFINITELY going back to get some of this in the future).

A short gentleman in a white hat walked up and asked if he could help me find anything. I told him about my Morels and that I wanted to have some fresh pasta with them. He shared that they used to carry fresh pasta but stopped making it because no one was buying it. Having my mind set on the fresh pasta, I asked if he knew of anywhere I could pick some up. He gave me the names of a couple shops, I thanked him and walked over to the bakery to admire their delectable-looking treats. I picked out a few dessert treats and a sourdough baguette. While the woman was packaging them in a box for me, the man in the white hat came by and said "I'll tell you what. Come back in half an hour and I'll have some fresh fettucine waiting for you." What what what?!?!!? I couldn't believe my ears. Someone was going to make ME some fresh pasta... just for me?!?!?!? I thanked him profusely, asked the woman at the bakery to hold onto my things for a bit and then drove around for half an hour until it was time to go back.

When I got back to the bakery, out came the man in the white hat with a white box. He opened it up and showed me the pasta he had made special for me.

I thanked him again and then he looked at me and said "There's no charge for this." I almost started crying. What a kind and generous man to be giving me something he had just made with his own hands. He walked back towards the kitchen, whispered something in the bakery woman's ear and then was gone. I was all ready to be rung up for my pastries and bread, still in shock about the pasta, when the woman crossed out my total on the pastry box and said "there's no charge for this." At this point, I think I just stood there with my mouth hanging open and shaking my head. I couldn't believe the kindness shown at this local institution. So I proceeded to the front counter and handed the cashier $2.09 for my baguette. I asked for the name of the man in the white hat. His name is Sostine Castriciano. He and his wife, Mena, own the Roma Bakery.

What Sostine gave to me yesterday embodies the kindness and generosity of the human spirit. If we can all stop focusing on the negative (i.e. the economy, etc.) and embrace each other, I think we can get out of the funk that seems to have settled over our great nation.

More Articles on Roma Bakery:
Roma Bakery Shares Old World Flavor
Roma Brings a Taste of Italy to Mid-Michigan
Lansing Traditions Worth a Taste
Ethnic Groceries Anchor New Economy Neighborhoods

Oh, wait, you want the recipe for the Morels and Carmelized Vidalia Onion Cream Sauce? :-) Recipe follows. I'll also blog about the yummy salad dressing I made and our desserts. Both are worthy of their own post.

8-10 fresh Morel mushrooms
Half of a large Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp butter
3 oz of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 C half and half

Cut the Morels in half lengthwise and dunk in a cold water bath for 5-10 minutes, agitating the water to help remove any dirt on the 'shrooms.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, bring 2 Tbsp butter to a bubble over medium high heat. Add the Vidalia onions and sautee for 15-20 minutes, or until caramelized.

Pat the mushrooms dry and roughly chop. Once the onions are done, remove them from the skillet, add 1 Tbsp butter and the mushrooms. Let sautee for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

Reduce the heat to low and add in the cream cheese. When the cheese had started melting, slowly start adding in the half and half until the sauce reaches a soupy texture. Pour over fresh pasta and serve with some fresh grated parmigiano reggiano.


  1. What a great story. That couple sounds like they know what the important things in life are. You'll share this experience with so many people that that bakery will get all the $$ it deserves.

  2. What am amazing story! And the pasta look SOOOOO good!

  3. What a cute post! And the recipe looks delicious - I'm going to have to try it out on some of the vidalia onions we have!

  4. That is so awesome - I love stories like that.