“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Recognize that quote? It’s from Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. And there’s no better time to twirl away.
“Eating a bowl of pasta at the table with family and friends is magical,” agreed chef Joe D’Andrea of Vera Pasta in West Chester. “It’s one of those foods that’s more than just food.”
The third-generation Italian-American grew up watching his grandmother roll pasta and later honed his skills in Italy. He now sells 150,000 pounds a year.
“There’s a misconception about pasta that it’s going to make you fat, especially these days when people are so carb-conscious,” D’Andrea said. “If you like pasta, it doesn’t mean you have to abandon it if you’re watching your waistline.”
Be mindful, choose quality ingredients and experiment with different shapes.
“There’s a lot out there besides spaghetti, linguine, cheese ravioli,” he added. “Orecchiette, the little ears, that’s actually my favorite.”
Tara Hardy of At The Table BYOB in Wayne counts pappardelle among her top picks – housemade, of course, like every pasta on her tasting menu.
“Pasta brings me back to my childhood, and I think people have that sense of comfort when they’re eating it or making it,” said the co-chef/owner. Plus, “pasta can adapt to whatever season you’re in.”
Savor her pumpkin pappardelle with sage, rosemary, cider and chopped apple, which “takes it a notch up.”
“It’s a great dish because it can be vegetarian, or you can add lardons (bacon),” she described. “Our guests have been loving it.”
Back at Vera Pasta, there’s even more to love since D’Andrea opened Bronze Table, his new restaurant at The Bourse in Philadelphia.
“Let’s be honest. When we eat pasta, we feel good,” he said. “It’s magical in its own right.”
1 package pappardelle 1 sprig rosemary
1 bunch sage (optional garnish)
2 shallots, chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 cup white wine 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 apple, chopped
1/4 cup apple cider 1 tablespoon curry powder
1 pound slab bacon (cut into lardons)
Cook pasta according to instructions (I cook al dente). In a large pan, add 3 tablespoons butter and melt. Add shallots, garlic, apples, red pepper flakes and curry powder and sauté until translucent, approximately 7 minutes. Deglaze the pan with white wine and cider. Add puree. Add 1 sprig rosemary. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. In another nonstick pan, add lardon and fry until crispy.
Optional garnish: In small saucepan, add 2 cups vegetable oil until hot. Fry sage approximately 30 seconds. Set aside and garnish.
Combine cooked pasta with sauce. Top with lardons and fried sage, grate fresh Parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!
Sage Butter Sauce
Bunch of fresh sage
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
2 tablespoons butter Half a ladle of reserved pasta water
Vera Pasta ravioli
Place the ravioli in boiling water. Turn a saucepan onto medium heat and place cold butter in pan. When butter starts to bubble, add fresh sage and sauté until sage becomes fragrant. Make sure not to burn the butter, so if ravioli are not finished, take sauce off heat. When the ravioli are done, remove with a spider spoon, place into the sauce and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add about a tablespoon of pasta water and stir until sauce starts to turn a white color. This means it is emulsifying. Once sauce comes together, remove from heat, grate Parmigiano cheese on top of ravioli and enjoy.
Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce
1 crushed garlic clove 1/4 cup of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 ladle of reserved pasta water
Vera Pasta ravioli
Place the ravioli in boiling water. Put a saucepan on medium heat and place crushed garlic and extravirgin olive oil in pan. Heat the garlic until it turns brown and discard it. Once the ravioli are done, place in garlic oil, add 1 tablespoon of pasta water and sauté for a minute or two. Once sauce comes together, take off heat and add grated Pecorino cheese and parsley.
Use your noodle
Got pasta questions? Chef Joe D’Andrea of Vera Pasta has answers, starting with the right amount of water.
“Dry pasta does not need as much water or room to cook than fresh pasta,” he explained. “Fresh pasta needs a lot of room to move and twirl, in order to fully cook through.”
And skip the oil because “contrary to belief, it does not keep the pasta from sticking.” But whatever you do, remember the salt.
“Salting the water you cook the pasta in is the first and only chance to flavor the actual pasta product,” D’Andrea advised. “When the water comes to a boil, pour enough salt into the water until it has a similar taste to ocean water.”
Once ready, steer clear of rinsing, or you’ll wash away flavor and starch, which “helps the sauce ‘cling’ to the pasta.”
Finally, reserve a cup of cooking water. It’s “the key to making any pasta sauce marry together with the pasta.”
Quality shows in the pasta dough.
Vera Pasta sells fresh, dried and frozen pasta.
“Penne for your thoughts:” What’s your favorite pasta shape?