Italian Pasta Dishes Welcome the World

Andrew Stephen Cebulka, Heirloom Photography

Resist your yawn. Chefs from South Carolina to Seattle are finding new ways to be creative with pasta.

Everyone loves pasta, but for chefs and managers, it’s easy to fall into a rut. After all, why shake things up when your pasta dishes are already popular?

From a customer’s perspective there is ample reason to make the investment in terms of time and money. Tweaking your mainstays creates new excitement among regulars and occasional diners, which can then increase the frequency of repeat visits. Among your staff, any time that front- or back-of-the-house employees get jazzed about a new offering, they can’t help but convey their enthusiasm to the customer.

It’s Seasonal

In keeping with the white-hot trend of using ingredients that are in season and grown locally, Chef Walter Pisano of Tulio Ristorante in Seattle uses ingredients that are both fresh and local to inspire him in creating new pasta dishes.

“For us, innovation is really about incorporating seasonal ingredients,” he says. “Overall, we’re seeing a trend toward lighter-sauced pastas, which really allow the flavor of the pasta to come through. But what I really see happening around the country is a new focus on using simple and fresh seasonal food that’s based more on taste than on presentation.”

Meg Colleran Sahs, chef di cucina at Chicago’s Terzo Piano, a casual restaurant founded by James Beard-award-winning chef Tony Mantuano, also keeps an eye out for the freshest in local ingredients. But in one of her new dishes she tweaks the pasta itself.

She’s particularly fond of her farro pappardelle with turkey confit, tomato, rosemary, arugula, sheep’s milk cheese, and crispy farro. Why farro, a chewy grain that’s often confused with spelt?

“The great thing about using farro instead of flour when making pasta is that it’s a whole grain that is rich in protein, complex B vitamins, and simple and complex carbohydrates,” Sahs says. “It’s healthier and easier to cook since, unlike some other whole grains, you don’t have to soak it overnight.”

Ethnic Variety

While Italian is the most common ethnic cuisine when it come to pasta, there are many chefs who are pushing the envelope and trying to encourage people to think about other flavors as well. Among them is Jose De Mereilles, who runs Le Marais in New York City, a kosher French brasserie. (Who knew there was such a beast?) So it should be no surprise that he looks far afield when it comes to his pasta offerings, whether as entrées or accompaniments.


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