Growing up, my grandma used to make us the most simple and delicious dish which she called “cheese noodles,” and which my sister called “cheese noo-noo.” They were literally that – wavy egg noodles with cottage cheese, served warm, occasionally with a pat of butter. Pljukanci is a Croatian noodle similar to the classic egg noodle of my youth; it certainly elicits that warm and cozy familiarity for me which cheese noodles evoke.

Pljukanci (prono: ple-oo-kantsi) is a hand-rolled Croatian pasta, made by rolling small pieces of dough between the palms of your hands or on a clean surface. The shape tapers at the ends and is thicker in the middle, giving it a nice chewy texture. Pljukanci can be served with a variety of sauces, but here, I re-create one of my childhood favorites – my grandma’s cheese noodles. 


for the pljukanci dough

for assembly and serving

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of whole milk cottage cheese


Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook, food processor, or a large bowl if you prefer to knead by hand. Make an indent in the center of the flour and add the egg, oil, water, and salt. Mix and knead the dough until it is evenly combined not too sticky, about 5-7 minutes.

Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for an hour. Cut into pieces the size of almonds and roll each piece between your palms or on a clean surface. Taper the edges by rolling the ends out more and keeping the middle of the noodles thicker.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pljukanci for about 5 minutes. Remove from the water, strain, and add butter. 

Fuži (fusi) is a type of Croatian pasta that is made by thinly rolling out egg pasta dough, cutting it into squares, and folding one side over the other, pinching it in place. It is typically rolled over the handle of a wooden spoon but can just as easily be wrapped around your finger. To me, the shape is similar to my family’s Austrian cream cheese cookies.

Fuži is typically served with fresh truffles which are abundant on the Istrian coast of Croatia. Now, because I don’t regularly keep truffles around, and I am not in Istria, I use truffle salt in this fresh fuži with creamy mushroom sauce to achieve a truffle flavor. The truffle salt wonderfully enhances the chewy cremini mushrooms and enriches the overall depth of the sauce.

Making fresh fuži a fun activity for those of all ages. You can make fuži at home without a pasta machine, by simply rolling the dough out by hand. It is delicious, entertaining, and rewarding. Fresh fuži with creamy mushroom sauce is a surprisingly light and creamy dish that is a sure crowd-pleaser.

for the fuži dough

  • 1 cup soft wheat (tipo “00”) flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon olive or neutral oil
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • Pinch of salt
  • All purpose flour for rolling out dough

for the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 12 ounces (about 1 ½ cups) cremini mushrooms
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons truffle salt
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Place flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook or food processor and add the egg, oil, water, and salt. Mix and knead until evenly combined and the dough is not too sticky. 

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a well-floured board as thinly as you can. Cut the dough into squares and fold one corner over the opposite corner, slightly wetting the underside to pinch and stick the dough together. Let the dough sit and dry out slightly while you cook the sauce. 

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add the shallot. Cook for 5 minutes or so then add the pepper, minced garlic, thyme, and oregano. Cook for 2 more minutes to toast the spices, also known as “blooming” the spices, then add in the mushrooms.

Cook the mushrooms until they are golden brown, about 7 minutes, then add the wine. Cook until it reduces, about 5 more minutes, then slowly add in the cream and truffle salt. Continue cooking the sauce until it thickens slightly. 

While the sauce cooks, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for about 4 minutes. Drain and drizzle with olive oil.

Mix the parsley and parmesan into the sauce then add the pasta into the pan with the sauce. Lightly toss it until the pasta is evenly covered, and serve hot!

On cold winter days such as today, I find myself seeking comfort wherever I can, be it in a warm bath, relaxing, cozy clothing, hot tea, an early glass of wine, or satisfying food. And what food is more comforting than pasta? Introducing: rigatoni with escarole and sausage.

Rigatoni with escarole and sausage includes a full serving of greens nestled alongside nuggets of sausage and chewy rigatoni. Escarole is technically a chicory which can be eaten either raw or cooked. My parents always made it when I was younger braised in simple stock or bouillon. Throwing it into a hearty dish of pasta with sausage creates a delectable meal.

For me, rigatoni with escarole and sausage evokes cozy comfort, perfect for a chilly winter night. Escarole and sausage sort of reminds me of the timeless duo of broccoli rabe and sausage. The bitter escarole balances the rich sausage in this harmonious pasta dish.


  • 1 pound of loose sweet or spicy sausage, or sausage removed from the casing and broken into ¾-inch balls
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 head of escarole
  • 8 ounces rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Grated parmesan


In a large skillet, brown the sausage until nearly cooked. Add the crushed red pepper, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Make room in the center of the skillet and at the garlic. Cook until it browns.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al-dente, 6-7 minutes.

Tear apart the escarole leaves and add to the skillet. Cook until the leaves are tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain the pasta and mix in the olive oil then add to the skillet. Mix to combine and top with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese.