“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.”

Pump­kin Pap­pardelle


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)

Parme­san cheese

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?

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