Pan-roasted parsnips – Pastinaco al forno

December 26, 2010 § 6 Comments

A few weeks ago the latest expansion for my favorite game was released, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Blizzard is known for its witty quests and NPC names, and this expansion is no exception, with the awesome introduction of Bario Matalli, a vendor for cooking recipes.

But let us backtrack a bit: a few weeks before Cataclysm, I finally bought a copy of the fabulous Molto Italiano (I got it on sale in that box set at the bookstore – hooray for Black Friday!), for which I admittedly had high hopes, since so many chefs and cookbook authors credit him as both expert and inspiration.

Unfortunately, thanks to the combination of finals and the game release, I hit a bit of a backlog on not only posting recipes but also even on reading all my new cookbooks, but I think this one is worthy of the title of “last post in 2010” and definitely rewards both my, and your, patience!

Once I finally cracked open the new cookbook after finals though, “Pan-roasted turnips – Rape al forno” immediately captured my interest. I love turnips and parsnips, but I think many have never tried or are intimidated by them, but with this recipe simply yet stunningly prepared seasonal root vegetables really shine. An excellent foil for rich braises, these parsnips would also be quite at home served alongside plain roasted chicken to brighten it up, and is perfect for cold winter nights spent by the glow of the computer screen.

Basically, the recipe is almost perfect as written, a tribute to Mario Batali’s expertise. But, instead of making it exactly as written (gosh, have I ever made anything exactly as written on here?) with turnips, I swapped for parsnips, and not just because I had some; I felt the sweetness of the parsnips would be better complemented by the fragrant browned butter and slight twinge of red wine vinegar, but strong enough to withstand the smoked paprika I selected as the recipe didn’t specify. Switching to parsnips may have steered this dish even further from its quasi-Italian roots – the poppy seeds and paprika indicate some Austo-Hungarian influences – though I think completely in the spirit of Mario Batali’s cookbook.

Plus, I think it’s quite amusing that now I can say I’ve learned recipes from both Mario Batali and his WoW alter ego, Bario Matalli…

Pan-roasted parsnips – Pastinaco al forno

Slightly adapted from Molto Italiano, with a nod to Google Translate for the Italian title (here’s hoping it’s somewhat accurate!)


  • Four tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • Two pounds parsnips, washed, peeled, and sliced into approximate one-inch dice
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • Two tablespoons poppy seeds
  • One tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1.Prepare parsnips by washing, peeling, and then chopping.

2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Keep an eye on it, and once the butter starts to brown immediately add parsnips. Add in salt and pepper and stir. Then add in poppy seeds and cook until parsnips are mostly cooked through, or caramel-colored in spots (about ten to eleven minutes).

3. Mix in smoked paprika and stir. Turn up the heat and immediately pour in vinegar. It will cook off very quickly. Continue cooking parsnips for an additional three minutes, or until parsnips are cooked through and tender with a slight bite. Check seasonings – you may need to add more salt. Enjoy right away!


Batali, Mario. “Pan-roasted Turnips/Rape al Forno.” Molto Italiano. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2005 (444).


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