Tonight at Local Kitchen

19 Nov

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Tonight LOCAL KITCHEN & WINE BAR brings together @basiliopesce @albertponzo@msangregorio @fabio_bondi @dennisjtay@thetemperedchef for #lagrandebouffe. 5 courses, 5 chefs and a menu curated by the famous film. It may be snowy out, but it’s winter… and it snows. So get out of the house or out of work and live a little. Hope to see you tonight and keep up with our instagram/twitter account if you want a play by play of tonight’s dinner!!!

Impasto & Porzia come together November 16th

7 Nov

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November 16th we are are very lucky to have our extended family from @IMPASTO_MTL@micheleforgione join @basiliopesce & the @porziaparkdale Family for an exclusive Sunday night dinner. Only a few seats left with waiting list in effect. Contact us at info@porzia.ca to book a seat. (Also check out our #porziacatering contest to win yourself 2 spots 😉)

RETWEET CONTEST:

DO YOU HAVE A FOOD IMAGE FROM YOUR VISIT TO PORZIA? ARE YOU COMING IN FOR DINNER SOMETIME SOON? TAG YOUR PHOTO #PORZIACATERING #OURSIDEOFTHEBRIDGE AND WE’LL ENTER YOUR NAME FOR A CHANCE TO WIN 2 TICKETS TO THE SOLD OUT IMPASTO DINNER WITH MICHELE FORGIONE AND BASILIO PESCE ON SUNDAY NOVEMBER 16TH 2014. WAITING LIST IS IN EFFECT FOR THIS DINNER ALREADY AND IF I WERE YOU, I’D GET ON IT. YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS OUT ON THIS ONE.

GOOD LUCK!!

Porzia Catering

5 Nov

So …… to answer many many questions. YES Porzia is officially catering. We pride our menus on the same philosophy that we run our restaurant on and that’s great food with great value. Look at is as us bringing the restaurant to you. Our catering menus are set up to cater small groups as well as large venue events. Please consider both our space at the restaurant for a private event, or should you be looking for something large format, we have our partner venue at 99 Sudbury available as well. Please contact us directly for inquiries for such events and we will put you in touch with our events department.  Take a look through our menus below and note that items listed are subject to availability. These menus are sample menus only and our kitchen team is fully prepared to work with our clients based on event perimeters as well as dietary restrictions.

Catering inquiries should be mailed to melissa@porzia.ca.

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This Weekend – get to the Delicious Food Show

14 Oct

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From October 17-19th, I invite you to head down to the Direct Energy Centre and march on over to my pavilion (you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see my signature red and white checkered signage). Once inside, chow down on the delicious delights from eight of Toronto’s top chefs, as well as tasty drinks from our booze sponsors, Samuel Adams and Fresita sparkling wine. Take a peak at the hot line up I’ve compiled:

Matty Matheson- Parts & Labour / P&L Burger

Ariel Coplan – Thoroughbred (NEW)

Jonathan Hamilton – Home of the Brave

Victor Barry- Splendido     Nick Liu – Dailo

Vittorio Colacitti – The Good Son / Top Chef Canada Contestant

Robbie Hojilla – Hudson Kitchen

Basilio Pesce – Porzia

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For only 5$, you can purchase and sample any of the 16 dishes our chefs have created using Top Shelf Pantry items like Canola Growers, Vitamix, Samuel Adams, Fresita, and Pantry items from Strauss Water, Italpasta, Sharwoods, Lagostina, Barry Callebout and more to come!   You can then vote on your favourite dish, the results of which will determine the top four people’s choice dishes and chefs of the weekend. These chefs will have the chance to battle it out on Sunday October 19th from 4-6 PM on the Food Network celebrity stage as they partake in a live cooking competition with lots of great samples. More details are coming, but expect a wicked line up of celebrity judges tasked with the challenge of crowning one chef the champion. PS- did you see our ad in the September issue of Food&Wine Magazine? Hey ma, it says Abbey Sharp AND Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium! Eek!!

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For more information on the Delicious Food Show, including the crazy wicked line up that includes the likes of Mario Batali, Tyler Florence, Chuck Hughes and Nadia G, check out their website here. Tickets are only $20 per adult and guarantee a boat-load of foodie fun.   To help kick things off, I will be giving away two tickets to this year’s Delicious Food Show. Simply tweet, share, like, follow, leave me a comment about which chef in the AK Pavilion you’re most excited about and leave a comment on any other post for your chance to win!

About the delicious food show

The Delicious Food Show is a 3 day food-lovers event designed to engage the consumer in a delicious, all food, lifestyle and entertaining experience featuring hundreds of exhibitors, cooking demos, tastings, hands-on workshops, book signings, and appearances by Food Network and international celebrity chefs.

SHOW DATES & HOURS

Friday, October 17th, 2014: 10AM – 9PM
(Nadia G’s Bitchin’ After Party: 9PM – 1AM)
Saturday, October 18th, 2014: 10AM – 8PM
Sunday, October 19th, 2014: 10AM – 6PM

LOCATION

Direct Energy Centre, Hall A
100 Princes’ Blvd
Toronto, ON M6K3C3
416-960-9030
www.directenergycentre.com

#DFS14 ONLINE

www.facebook.com/deliciousfoodshow
www.twitter.com/deliciousshow
www.instagram.com/deliciousfoodshow
www.pinterest.com/delicioussho

See more at:

http://www.abbeyskitchen.com/blog/contest-delicious-food-show-announces-aks-pavilion-s-top-che/#sthash.upmEqwZ1.dpuf

when i eat garbage……

9 Oct

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares ideas about using behavior science to improve your performance and master your habits. For useful ideas on how to live a healthy life, both mentally and physically, join his free newsletterFollow James Clear on Twitter: www.twitter.com/james_clear

 

Most of us know that junk food is unhealthy. We know that poor nutrition is related to heart problems, high blood pressure, and a host of other health ailments. You might even know that studies show that eating junk food has been linked to increases in depression.

But if it’s so bad for us, why do we keep doing it?

There is an answer. And the science behind it will surprise you.

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Why We Crave Junk Food

Steven Witherly is a food scientist who has spent the last 20 years studying what makes certain foods more addictive (and tasty) than others. Much of the science that follows is from his excellent report, “Why Humans Like Junk Food.”

According to Witherly, when you eat tasty food, there are two factors that make the experience pleasurable.

First, there is the sensation of eating the food. This includes what it tastes like (salty, sweet, umami, etc.), what it smells like, and how it feels in your mouth. This last quality — known as “orosensation” — can be particularly important. Food companies will spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip. Their scientists will test for the perfect amount of fizzle in a soda. These factors all combine to create the sensation that your brain associates with a particular food or drink.

The second factor is the actual macronutrient makeup of the food — the blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that it contains. In the case of junk food, food manufacturers are looking for a perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more.

Here’s how they do it…

How Science Creates Cravings

There are a range of factors that scientists and food manufacturers use to make food more addictive.

Dynamic contrast. Dynamic contrast refers to a combination of different sensations in the same food. In the words of Witherly, foods with dynamic contrast have:

… an edible shell that goes crunch followed by something soft or creamy and full of taste-active compounds. This rule applies to a variety of our favorite food structures — the caramelized top of a creme brulee, a slice of pizza, or an Oreo cookie — the brain finds crunching through something like this very novel and thrilling.

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Salivary response. Salivation is part of the experience of eating food, and the more that a food causes you to salivate, the more it will swim throughout your mouth and cover your taste buds. For example, emulsified foods like butter, chocolate, salad dressing, ice cream, and mayonnaise promote a salivary response that helps to lather your taste buds with goodness. This is one reason why many people enjoy foods that have sauces or glazes on them. The result is that foods that promote salivation do a happy little tap dance on your brain and taste better than ones that don’t.

Rapid food meltdown and vanishing caloric density. Foods that rapidly vanish or “melt in your mouth” signal to your brain that you’re not eating as much as you actually are. In other words, these foods literally tell your brain that you’re not full, even though you’re eating a lot of calories.

The result: You tend to overeat.

In his best-selling book Salt Sugar Fat, author Michael Moss describes a conversation with Witherly that explains vanishing caloric density perfectly…

I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it … you can just keep eating it forever.”

Sensory specific response. Your brain likes variety. When it comes to food, if you experience the same taste over and over again, then you start to get less pleasure from it. In other words, the sensitivity of that specific sensor will decrease over time. This can happen in just minutes.

Junk foods, however, are designed to avoid this sensory specific response. They provide enough taste to be interesting (your brain doesn’t get tired of eating them), but it’s not so stimulating that your sensory response is dulled. This is why you can swallow an entire bag of potato chips and still be ready to eat another. To your brain, the crunch and sensation of eating Doritos is novel and interesting every time.

Caloric-Density

Calorie density. Junk foods are designed to convince your brain that it is getting nutrition, but to not fill you up. Receptors in your mouth and stomach tell your brain about the mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates in a particular food, and how filling that food is for your body. Junk food provides just enough calories that your brain says, “Yes, this will give you some energy,” but not so many calories that you think, “That’s enough, I’m full.” The result is that you crave the food to begin with, but it takes quite some time to feel full from it.

Memories of past eating experiences. This is where the psychobiology of junk food really works against you. When you eat something tasty (say, a bag of potato chips), your brain registers that feeling. The next time you see that food, smell that food, or even read about that food, your brain starts to trigger the memories and responses that came when you ate it. These memories can actually cause physical responses like salivation and create the “mouth-watering” craving that you get when thinking about your favorite foods.

All of this brings us to the most important question of all.

Food companies are spending millions of dollars to design foods with addictive sensations. What can you and I do about it? Is there any way to counteract the money, the science, and the advertising behind the junk food industry?

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How to Kick the Junk Food Habit and Eat Healthy

The good news is that the research shows that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. My own experiences have mirrored this. As I’ve slowly begun to eat healthier, I’ve noticed myself wanting pizza and candy and ice cream less and less. Some people refer to this transition period as “gene reprogramming.”

Whatever you want to call it, the lesson is the same: If you can find ways to gradually eat healthier, you’ll start to experience the cravings of junk food less and less. I’ve never claimed to have all the answers (or any, really), but here are three strategies that might help.

1. Use the “outer ring” strategy and the “5 ingredient rule” to buy healthier food.

The best course of action is to avoid buying processed and packaged foods. If you don’t own it, you can’t eat it. Furthermore, if you don’t think about it, you can’t be lured by it.

We’ve talked about the power of junk food to pull you in and how memories of tasty food in the past can cause you to crave more of it in the future. Obviously, you can’t prevent yourself from ever thinking about junk food, but there are ways to reduce your cravings.

First, you can use my “outer ring” strategy to avoid processed and packaged foods at the grocery store. If you limit yourself to purchasing foods that are on the outer ring of the store, then you will generally buy whole foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc.). Not everything on the outer ring is healthy, but you will avoid a lot of unhealthy foods.

You can also follow the “5 ingredient rule” when buying foods at the store. If something has more than 5 ingredients in it, don’t buy it. Odds are, it has been designed to fool you into eating more of it. Avoid those products and stick with the more natural options.

2. Eat a variety of foods.

As we covered earlier, the brain craves novelty.

While you may not be able to replicate the crunchy/creamy contrast of an Oreo, you can vary your diet enough to keep things interesting. For example, you could dip a carrot (crunchy) in some hummus (creamy) and get a novel sensation. Similarly, finding ways to add new spices and flavors to your dishes can make eating healthy foods a more desirable experience.

Moral of the story: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland. Mix up your foods to get different sensations and you may find it easier than eating the same foods over and over again. (At some point, however, you may have to fall in love with boredom.)

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3. Find a better way to deal with your stress.

There’s a reason why many people eat as a way to cope with stress. Stress causes certain regions of the brain to release chemicals (specifically, opiates and neuropeptide Y). These chemicals can trigger mechanisms that are similar to the cravings you get from fat and sugar. In other words, when you get stressed, your brain feels the addictive call of fat and sugar and you’re pulled back to junk food.

We all have stressful situations that arise in our lives. Learning to deal with stress in a different way can help you overcome the addictive pull of junk food. This could includesimple breathing techniques or a short guided meditation. Or something more physical likeexercise or making art.

With that said, if you’re looking for a better written and more detailed analysis of the science of junk food, I recommend reading the #1 New York Times best-seller Salt Sugar Fat.

Where to Go From Here

One of my goals with this article is to reveal just how complex poor eating habits can be. Junk food is designed to keep you coming back for more. Telling people that they “need more willpower” or should “just stop eating crap” is short-sighted at best.

Understanding the science behind junk food is an important first step, but I don’t want you to stop there. I wrote a free 46-page guide called Transform Your Habits, which explains strategies for winning the battle against junk food and improving your eating habits. You can download it here.

a tavola – at the dinner table

6 Oct

(post from http://www.delallo.com/articles/tavola-table)

Much of Italian life revolves around the family dinner table. Piergeorgio, our guide to food-life in Italy, grew up in Venice in the 1960′s. In this brief memoir, he recounts the feast day meals his family celebrated, as well as family dinners, when times were lean. From Italian table etiquette to the typical dishes that filled the family board, this charming story  carries us right into the present day; as customs have changed with the times, the delicious foods remains the same.

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(Piergiorgio Nicoletti)

It’s well known that we Italians are deeply versed in the gioie della tavola, or “the joys of the table.” Perhaps the first thing people think of when they think of Italy is the joy, warmth and magic created around the Italian table. The dinner table is one of the most enduring images and metaphors in Italian art, celebrated in our greatest paintings and films, from the Renaissance to present day. “A tavola” - or “at the table” – our hearts open, and life’s greatest dramas and celebrations unfold. Familial bonds and battles are forged a tavola; the deepest ties of love and friendship are developed and strengthened around a dinner table. We Italians understand and appreciate the magical synergy that is created when the joys of conversation and intimacy commingle with the pleasures of beautiful food and drink.

For many of us, our first experiences of family feasts and joyous gatherings leave indelible imprints, and my childhood in Venice is filled with memories of such special occasions. The word for “feast” in Italian is festa, and feasts they were: the tables were set so beautifully – silverware and glasses sparkled on the magnificent handmade tablecloth, and crystal carafes of wine and water seemed always filled. But even with extensions, the table often just wasn’t big enough. A solution was always handy: la tavola per i bambini (“the kids’ table”), and we children loved this special zone just for us. The food was always so lovingly prepared and delicious that everyone’s spirits were lifted; and as the meal progressed, the good mood grew in a kind of crescendo – helped along by family jokes, more and more boisterous play, which sometimes culminated in a few rounds of our family’s favorite songs – all accompanied by the seemingly endless flow of good wine and … more good food.

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These miraculous feasts would occur on special occasions like Easter, Christmas, birthdays and religious celebrations – and went along with cherished holidays from school or work. But, for the women in the family – mothers, grandmothers, daughters, aunts – these were not leisurely days, though their joy and excitement was palpable too. The meals on such occasions would usually begin around 1:00 pm (except for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, when dinner was served late) and would last for hours. For these feasts, there would be an antipasto; our family favorite was vitello tonnato - sliced roasted veal with a blended tuna and mayonnaise sauce. This course would be followed by lasagne alla Bolognese, or a risotto ai frutti di mare (seafood risotto), or pasticcio ai funghi - which for us was baked pasta, or a baked filled pasta (such as, tortelloni or agnolotti), with besciamella sauce and wild mushrooms. (I was crazy about lasagne, and my younger brother loved dessert, so secret deals were always being made “under the table”: he would discretely give me his second helping of lasagna and I would give him most of my dessert.) After one of these primi(first courses), came the roasted meats – such as, brasato, which was a delicious, dark, slowly stewed beef dish, or roasted veal (vitello arrosto). For dessert, we would have a simple torta (cake) or else a tiramisu. Finally, the adults would have coffee and a digestivo, such as grappa or Fernet, while we children were happy to be released from the table to run wild in the calli or fondamenta (side streets) of Venice, where no cars ever interfered with our games.

These were the special feste (plural form for “feasts”); of course, our everyday dinners were something else entirely. Growing up in a family of six kids in Venice, in the ’60s, our dinners followed a very different rhythm than they do today. After a long, loud “A tavola, è pronto!” (“Come to the table …. dinner’s ready!”) was bellowed out by whoever set the table that evening, the rest of us had just a few moments to wash our hands, turn off the lights and get downstairs. “Ti sei lavato le mani, hai spento le luci?” (“Did you wash your hands and turn off the lights?”) was asked so automatically and routinely that the words were barely discernible. Though we weren’t supposed to start eating before our parents were seated, usually our mother would call out her permission for us to go ahead and start without her while she finished up in the kitchen – cooking dinner for eight hungry people every night was no easy task.

Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Italian children; if grandparents are present at the table – a more common scenario in the rural parts of Italy than in urban centers like Venice – special attention and deference is always shown to them at mealtimes. In our household, our grandparents were seldom present, and though dinners were not formal occasions, certain formalities were always observed. As in just about every Italian family, tablecloths were always used for lunch and dinner, as well as cloth napkins – though my mother insisted that we first clean our mouths, often covered with tomato sauce, with a piece of bread before using the cotton napkins. Elbows were not allowed on the table and no hand in the lap either – whichever hand was not being used was placed, loosely closed, on the table; forks, spoons and knives had to be handled correctly. Bickering about portions and who might have gotten the better serving – the last pasta plates served always got the most sauce – was promptly squelched by one of our parents.

The fifties and early sixties were very difficult times in Italy; the effects of the war were still keenly felt here. In those postwar years, a two-course dinner was the norm, but there were no luxury foods on the table. Most families had pasta or soups for primo (the first course), and then some form of meat, cheese or “salume” (cured meats) forsecondo (the main course). The pasta was often seasoned with a simple onion-based tomato sauce (in the summer, fresh tomato and basil); or sometimes a ragù (meat sauce); or simply butter and parmigiano. Pasta was never sautéed in that era; rather, it was placed in a large serving bowl and the sauce was ladled on top. Soups were healthy and simple: minestrone (vegetable soup); pasta e fagioli (bean soup); or pasta in beef or chicken broth, which is calledminestra in brodo. Meat was expensive and therefore served in very small portions, and prepared in a variety of ways – sometimes cotolette (breaded and fried beef, chicken or turkey cutlets), or spezzatino (stewed meat), or brasato(braised beef). A real favorite in our family was what we called carne alla pizzaiola, which was a ground-beef patty with a sauce made from canned tomatoes, topped with mozzarella and oregano. Salad or vegetables were often served along with the meat course. Antipasti and dolci (dessert) were not commonly served at home during these less affluent years, though sometimes fruit was served for dessert (or eaten as a snack in the afternoon). For a special treat, we would have gelato (ice cream) at the nearby gelataio.

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But dinner wasn’t the only meal eaten at home by the entire family. In those years, children and husbands came home for lunch every day. In my family, that meant my mother would have to prepare lunch in three shifts to accommodate all our different schedules. It was a daily ritual for two or three of us to stop at the nearby panificio (bread bakery) on our way home from school and buy over a dozen of the various small loaves of bread (panini) to accompany our lunch. At least several of those little loaves would be devoured before we ever reached the door. Our consumption of bread in those years was enormous, which was typical for Italian families then; bread and pasta were how we filled our stomachs.

The daily routine is quite different nowadays – the foods are more varied and the habits less formal. Families are smaller in Italy than they used to be, and one-parent households more common. When there are two parents working outside the home, the shopping, cooking and clean-up are often more evenly shared. Today, Italian kids eat lunch at school – which makes a huge difference in the routine – as working parents are unable to attend to them at home in the middle of the day.

get smart about your pasta shapes

1 Oct

[Photograph: Craig Cavallo] again another post from serious eats. As you can see i go here to get inspired. Tonnes of information on this site, a lot of it pertain to questions that i have on the daily about italian food and product. I am not a chef by any means, and i haven’t done all the research myself, but i think that it’s great to have a collection of posts that inspire us here at Porzia. AND>>>>>>>> on with it……

Oil shimmers in a pan on one burner. On another, a fat pot of water rolls at a full boil. You’re making pasta for dinner, but which one, and why?

Maybe you’re still at the supermarket, walking the miles of aisles of Italian pastas with names like creste, gramigna, and strozzapretti. And if you’ve never heard of half of them, you’re not alone. Today’s groceries can carry dozens of pasta shapes, each suited for their own sauces and cooking methods. How do you know what to do with them all? Think like a chef and get nerdy about it.

“There’s a reason for all pasta shapes,” says Michael White, chef and co-owner of the Altamarea Group, whose restaurants include Marea, Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini, and others. “Not each and every sauce goes with each pasta shape.”

Think Regional

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Trofie. [Photograph: Rabi Abonour]

The star of White’s roster is at Marea, where he pairs the short, twisted pasta fusili with fatty bone marrow and spindly octopus that mimic’s the pasta’s curls. And at Ai Fiori, one of his signatures is squid ink-blackened Trofie Nero with Shellfish Ragu. “We make the pasta in house, but you can buy the same shape at grocery stores or specialty Italian food marts,” says White.

Trofie Nero from Ai Fiori. [Photograph: Evan Sung]

Trofie, which looks like meat pulled from a crab’s claw, “comes from Liguria and is twisted loosely,” White explains. The Ligurian coast is famed for its seafood, and trofie’s short length and loose curls are natural bedfellows with shellfish like crab and scallops. When it comes to buying pasta, it helps to put yourself in the mindset of those who first made it.

If you have trouble finding trofie, White recommends fusili or penne.

Mind Your Geometry

“Many different pastas go with many different sauces,” says Marc Vetri, the chef and owner of Vetri in Philadelphia. Vetri has spent the past two years writing a book called Mastering Pasta. On the topic of shape and sauce, he says, “I tackle this issue several times throughout the book.” For him, “Putting a certain pasta with a certain sauce is really a matter of tradition and personal preference.”

One of his preferences is to pair Funghi Porcinia proprietary dried pasta sold by Setaro, with Chianti-braised snails. The dried porcini mushrooms that flavor the pasta (and pair well with the wine sauce) grow in the same muddy environs as those snails, and the tight, tangled curls of pasta mimic the snail’s shells. It’s a pasta dish that doesn’t just pair flavors, but also makes a neat biological pun.

Should funghi porcini prove too scarce, Vetri suggests radiatori—little steam-radiator-shaped pasta—instead.

Use New Pasta for Old Tricks

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Bucatini. [Photograph: Rabi Abonour]

Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens are fresh from a ten-year anniversary with their Brooklyn stalwart Franny’s, where an innovative approach turns local, seasonal, farm fresh ingredients into exceptional salads, pizzas, and pastas. “They are inextricably linked,” Feinberg says of the relationship between pasta shape and sauce. “Pasta is shaped specifically to catch sauce and sauces are created for the various pasta shapes.”

One of the latest creations by John Adler, Franny’s Executive Chef, isBucatini with Guanciale, Pea Shoots, and Pine Nuts, a spare pasta dish sauced with rendered guanciale that some home cooks might do with plain spaghetti. But bucatini has a firmer bite. The fat noodle’s hollow center soaks up sauce especially well, and as the noodles twist around your fork the rest of the dish’s ingredients get caught in the tangle.

Bucatini with guanciale, pea shoots, and pine nuts at Franny’s. [Photograph: Craig Cavallo]

“I was standing in the walk in snacking on freshly delivered pea shoots,” Adler began, “when one of my cooks brought me some of the pine nuts they’d just pulled out of the oven.” That’s how the pasta got started; bucatini filled the pasta role and guanciale, cured pork jowl, became a natural addition. “It’s one of my favorite ingredients in pasta, and it is most often found used with Bucatini in classical Roman cuisine.”

Bucatini is easier to find these days, and if you’re looking for a change from your spaghetti routine, it works well with spaghetti-friendly sauces.

Check Your Die

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Spaghettoro with rough, sauce-clinging edges. [Photograph: Rabi Abonour]

Even with simple pastas like spaghetti carbonara, it pays to mind your details. At Chicago’s Spiaggia, the spring menu will include a carbonara “served by the gram (starting at 50 grams), and we’ll be using Verrigni’s spaghettoro pasta, which is cut through a gold die,” says chef Tony Mantuano.

“Soft metal dies like gold or bronze,” Mantuano points out, “create more grooves and grain along the pasta edges that allows for the sauce to grasp onto the pasta and create a wonderful flavor.” Pasta made this way is more expensive, because the tough dough breaks down the pricey extruders over time, but the gain is well worth it—a pasta that clings more tightly to its sauce.

Consider How You’re Eating It

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Maltagliati cooks into soft, floppy sheets. [Photograph: Rabi Abonour]

Most of the pastas on the menu at Mario Batali’s ten-year-old Greenwich Village haunt Otto use dried pasta. One of them, Taccozzette con Stracotto, is a classic ragu. Pork shoulder braises in red wine and balsamic vinegar for hours. Taccozzette, a flat pasta with frilled edges, catches the shreds of meat after they’ve been tossed with tomato sauce.

“As for the taccozette,” says Dan Drohan, the restaurant’s executive chef for more than eight years, “I just loved the shape and had not seen it before.” But it has a practical purpose, too. The pasta to ragu ratio in this dish is 50/50. You could use rigatoni or penne, but wide, flat taccozzette has a smart shape to capture all that sauce. You pick it up with spoon or fork and discover, when the pasta’s gone, that little sauce remains.

Taccozzette con stracotto at Otto. [Photograph: Craig Cavallo]

“Normally,” Adler says, “I follow the guidelines of chunky sauce = short noodle, smooth sauce = long noodle.” Drohan takes an intuitive approach. “Choosing the right shape for the right sauce can be very subjective,” he says. “I just try to go with what makes sense.” And so should we all. That is, after all, how this whole pasta pairing business got started.

“There are traditions behind the combinations that people have come to know and love in Italian cuisine,” Vetri says. “That’s where the rules come in. Many of those combinations were born of necessity, created by housewives who struggled to feed their families and came up with interesting ways to turn everyday ingredients into something new to eat.”

So keep practicality in mind. If the sauce is easy to scoop up with a fork, the pasta should be, too. If you’re making pesto, look for long noodles that cling well. Does the asparagus, spring onions, and baby carrots you cut up for primavera look like penne? Use penne then. It’s worth having a few shapes of pasta in your pantry to experiment.

And then if you need some more inspiration, keep Vetri’s words in the back of your mind: “Rules be damned for most combinations.”

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