“Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.”
Considering that little is more comforting in cold weather than a warm plate of noodles, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite pasta recipes, from a classic meaty pappardelle to a newfangled bucatini with pork belly and watermelon.
In fact, we've rounded them up in video form, Click through for four ways to use your noodle this winter!
Bucatini With Pork Belly And Watermelon
Evan Rich might be the only pasta-preoccupied chef in America who doesn't aspire to make agnolotti that tastes like it was made by someone's Piedmontese nonna.
"I try to be the least amount Italian possible," he says with a slightly mischievous smile.
He and his wife, Sarah, moved to San Francisco from New York six years ago. Following stints at Quince and Coi, they opened Rich Table, their self-titled debut in Hayes Valley about a year ago.
The walls of their dining room are lined with weathered wood planks and softly lit by industrial sconces. The place feels familiar, neighborly — and not particularly revolutionary.
Still, there is Evan's near-heretical anti-authenticity — "If someone tells me a pasta I've made is a version of something traditional, I change it right away. I don't want to do things specific to a particular region. I want to make things that are particular to us."
The couple met working at Bouley (she was his boss). Now they share kitchen duties, each contributing to a personal culinary style that's thoughtful and technique-driven without being overly fussy. That means "richilini" (a pasta shape they made up) with chanterelles and very un-Italian dill.
And, it means a menu that feels Californian without overstating its case. "If I have to make a point of telling the diner that my restaurant is seasonal and market-driven then I'm not doing my job as a chef," Evan says. "We want this to be a reflection of the two of us, our style, and the kind of place we would want to go to on any given night," Sarah says. "I think when you're eating in our restaurant, you really are eating our food — something we would cook for ourselves."
"You're eating at the Rich's table," Evan adds with that grin again. "Hence the name of the restaurant."
Tortelloni With Spinach And Ricotta
Giovanni Rana used to make pasta the old fashioned way — he'd roll it by hand and deliver it himself from the back of a motor scooter.
These days, Rana can afford a fleet of Vespas. What began in the 1950s as a small operation producing tortelloni in a village outside of Verona is now the largest fresh pasta company in Europe. Recently he's expanded into retail locations in the United States, including a shop and restaurant in New York City's Chelsea Market. As business took off, his company invented a machine that turns out extremely thin pasta ribbons. At less than a millimeter, they're said to be the thinnest fresh noodle in the world. They've also gone the other way, making a thicker noodle that's engineered to hold on to as much meaty Sunday ragu as possible.
Rana stopped by TT HQ to demonstrate how a proper tortelloni is made. At 75, he's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and break out the rolling pin. (Though, ever the Italian gentleman, he did worry that taking off his sport coat might offend the ladies present).
He walked us through making his classic fresh tortelloni with spinach and ricotta. Rana made the dough OG (Old Grandmother) style, rolling it out by hand and shaping the pasta effortlessly — as someone with decades of experience would. He then dressed the finished tortelloni with nothing other than olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. And put his jacket back on. Perfection.
"You get the magic of the noodle in the first bite," Rana says. "Then you taste of the filling. Stuffed pasta is like a treasure."
Fettuccine With Cherry Tomatoes, Parmesan, And Basil
"I've cooked for anybody who's anybody," says the Italian chef Enzo Febbraro. "Imagine presidents, kings, queens, actors, actresses — you name it. And, as you can see, I'm very humble about it."
Febbraro grew up in Naples, rolling out fresh pasta alongside his mother and grandmother. After working in kitchens all over Europe, he arrived Stateside in 1996 to cook for the Grammy Awards dinner and never left. These days, the chef serves up generous portions of honest Italian-American fare at Allegro restaurant, located at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel.
"My cuisine is a kind of sophistication through simplicity," says Febbraro. "It's very rustic, very authentic."
"Rustic" and "authentic" are probably not the first words that come to mind to describe a 174-seat Las Vegas trattoria that serves dinner until 6 a.m. But, listen to Febbraro talk about the simple pleasures of homemade pasta and watch him flatten a round of fresh pasta dough with a wooden dowel (see the video), and it's easier to imagine.
"This pasta is something you make with a little bit of flour and egg and a little bit of salt and olive oil, and then you put it together and it's endless," he explains. "There's only one pasta sheet, but you can make so many different things out of it."
For this recipe, Febbraro keeps things as simple as can be — ribbons of fettuccine cut by hand and dressed with little more than cherry tomatoes and olive oil. It may be a bit understated for Vegas, but it's just the kind of dish we find ourselves craving all the time, anywhere.
Culurgiones With Brown Butter
Not many chefs would cop to watching YouTube videos to learn a technique. But, when Adam Leonti, handsome bearded dude and chef de cuisine at Marc Vetri's Philadelphia Italian restaurant, Vetri, was researching an obscure Sardinian filled pasta, there was nowhere else to turn.
"I first saw them in an Italian book on Sardinian pasta from 1958," he says of culurgiones, little stuffed pockets that we'd never heard of either. "But, then I couldn't find any translation. The Spanish, Arabs, Italians, and Occitanes all crossed through Sardinia, so the language is really strange." Hence, the YouTube tutorials. Followed by weeks spent perfecting the intricate braid that forms a zipper-like seal.
We tried our hand at culurgiones with a simple filling of potato, mint, and Pecorino Romano. Follow Leonti's braiding technique (watch the video of him and Vetri) — or make your life easier by rolling the pasta into ravioli or simple half-moon shapes and sealing the edges with a fork.
At the restaurant, Leonti finishes the dish with butter-sautéed sweetbreads. We left out the meat and found a simple topping of brown-butter — with loads more freshly chopped mint and shaved Pecorino — very satisfying. Either way, it's all about honoring old traditions worth savoring — and saving.
"These antiquated pastas are vanishing." Leonti says. "It's been my personal mission to find them, make them and teach other people how to make them."