Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Make Your Own Pasta

In a recent LA Times story, Evan Kleiman, the host of KCRW's Good Food radio show and the woman behind the great Caffe Angeli on Melrose in LA (which I adored when I lived there), wrote about why shoppers should not buy supermarket "fresh" pasta.

"If imported Italian dry pasta were choice A and fresh pasta were choice B and I could only choose one to eat for the rest of my life, there would be no contest. I’d choose A, dry pasta. Many home cooks, bamboozled by the glut of fresh pasta in restaurants, have come to believe that if it’s the chef’s choice, then it’s the better product. It is not."

Now while she acknowledges her story is about her love of dry durum wheat pasta, she also readily acknowledges that fresh pasta made well and served with appropriate sauces is a great dining experience.

Making really good fresh pasta demands quality ingredients and skill--and it's something that with practice home cooks can do for themselves. Back in the 80s, the idea was to make it, then hang it on "pasta racks" or broom sticks to dry and then cook later. Today, of course, we recognize that you can put a big pot of water on the stove to heat and make your pasta while the water is coming to the boil.

Because I've spent a lot of time with a several chefs who have shown me their techniques--and because with summer almost upon us and fresh tomatoes being a perfect foil for a good pasta in many cases, I thought I'd do a round up of four of my favorite pasta-making experiences with San Diego chefs. And next week, I'll have a new one for you from Daniel Wolinsky, chef de cuisine at Cucina Sorella in Kensington, whose tagliarini is in the photo above.

Here they are:

Fabrizio Cavallini's Organic Handmade Pasta: Who better to teach the art of pasta making than an Italian chef? Fabrizio Cavallini of Bencotto and Monello demonstrated how seemingly easy it is. All it requires is high quality 00 flour and organic semolina, both of which are available locally at Mona Lisa, and eggs. Oh, and skill. But I have a video of Fabrizio's demo, which shows how you go about making the dough.

Nick Brune's Dark Roux Noodles: Nick Brune is a Louisiana native who lives in California and has combined his culinary understanding of the two states to create a Cali-Creole cuisine that was the focus of Local Habit in Hillcrest. No longer there (both Nick's affiliation with the restaurant and then the restaurant itself), Nick has turned his focus to his longtime catering company Eco Caterers. When I came for a visit, he taught me a dish that combined his Creole background with Southeast Asian flavors, based on his travels there. This dish places dark roux noodles into a pho-like soup, which is stunning. But you can also enjoy the noodles as pasta with your favorite sauce? What's the secret to these dark noodles? You'll have to read to find out!

Ryan Studebaker's Roasted Vegetables and Goat Cheese Raviolini: Ryan, of MIHO Catering, makes a lovely egg pasta that he turns into little pockets of savory cheesey appetizers, thanks to a variety of seasonal roasted vegetables blended with goat cheese. You can take his recipe full hilt with the raviolini or simple enjoy the pasta recipe, make noodles, and top them with his vegetable goat cheese mixture.

Amy DiBiase's Ricotta Gnudi: Okay, technically this may be considered the "anti-pasta" since "gnudi" means naked, as in ravioli without the pasta. But why not make a tender, creamy pasta-like dumpling that so easily takes a good sauce. Amy, who is now with Grand Restaurant Group, taught me this dish while she was at Tidal. It's so luxe it's a whole meal, depending on how you sauce it.

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