Perfecting a pound of pasta
How local chefs do it
By Susan Manley firstname.lastname@example.org
Federico Fellini once said that “life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Coming from a filmmaker who wove hallucinatory images into scenes of everyday life, this speaks directly to the power of the simple flour-egg-water recipe that becomes delectable shapes designed to cling to lush sauces.
Now that the carb-counting trend seems to have fallen by the wayside and eating spaghetti isn’t akin to one of the seven deadly sins, it is safe to say that pasta is back. It is la dolce vita that a box of pasta that will feed four can be had for less than the price of a cup of coffee. And while the quality of the pasta is important, the devil is in the details. It is really about the sauce.
Local chefs offered up some of their favorite sauce recipes for a pound of pasta. Jeff Paige, chef-owner of Cotton in Manchester, simmers a hearty Bolognese with beef, lamb, pork and veal. Tom Puskarich, chef and co-owner of the new Z in Manchester, puts a California spin on pasta by tossing whole wheat penne with turkey, cranberries and walnuts among other ingredients. Chris Kamel, the chef at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester, takes the classic vodka sauce and dresses it up with shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes. Meghan Levins, chef at The Barley House in Concord, offers up a Guinness cheese sauce that makes a tasty “adult” macaroni and cheese. And finally, Justin Lyonnais, always thinking outside the box, is a big fan of these pad thai spring rolls dreamt up by his fiancée, with the noodles on the inside.
Jeff Paige, chef-owner of Cotton, 75 Arms St., Manchester, 622-5488, cottonfood.com
Rigatoni alla Bolognese
“Ragu alla Bolognese, Bologna, Italy, is the classic meat sauce with little tomato. American cooks often confuse this sauce with [the] Naples version, a tomato sauce flavored with little meat. This is the dish I love to make when I want to spend the day in the kitchen. It’s a very easy sauce to make, it just requires several hours of slow and low cooking. The choice of meat used will produce a sauce unique and distinct in flavor and character. The addition of milk may seem a little odd, but it is a crucial step in ensuring a tender sauce. I typically opt for Italian canned plum tomatoes since canned tomatoes are packed at their peak of freshness. Last, but not least, seek out a great Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. This sauce works well with either jumbo rigatoni or pappardelle. I often serve this at Cotton. My favorites are with lamb, beef-pork-veal and chicken. The ground chicken makes a great light sauce.”
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup minced onion
¼ cup minced carrot
1½ lbs. ground lamb, beef, pork, chicken, turkey or veal or
½ lb. each of beef, pork and veal milk
one 8-oz. can tomato puree or sauce
one 28-oz. can crushed or chopped plum tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
fresh ground black pepper
1 lb. rigatoni, pappardelle or fettuccine (fresh or dried)
? to ½ lb. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for shaving over pasta
1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the minced onions and carrots, cooking until soft, but not browned, stirring often. This will take 6-8 minutes.
2. Add the ground meat, stirring to break up into little pieces, and cook until the meat is cooked, but not browned.
3. Add enough milk to cover the mixture, raise the heat to a simmer, and cook until almost reduced dry, stirring often.
4. Add enough white wine to cover the mixture, raise the heat to a simmer and cook until almost reduced dry, stirring often.
5. Add the tomato puree and crushed tomatoes with juices. Reduce heat to a very, very low simmer. Cook the sauce for 2½ to 3 hours, stirring often.
6. Season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper.
7. Stir in the freshly chopped basil just before serving.
1. Heat a large pot of water, at least 1 gallon, to a rolling boil.
2. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt and the pasta, stirring for a few seconds.
3. Cook the pasta to desired doneness and drain, leaving the pasta a little wet. Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the sauce.
4. Portion into four to six serving bowls.
5. Grate or shave the cheese with a vegetable peeler over each portion and serve.
Tom Puskarich, chef and co-owner of Z, 860 Elm St., Manchester, 629-9383, zfoodanddrink.com
Pasta with Tenderloin
“My mother had a knack for stretching Sunday dinner into another two or three days’ worth of meals — turkey wasn’t just for carving. I’ve used a tenderloin in this recipe, but chicken works just as well. Chicken may also be used. If you don’t have dry sherry on hand, a dry white wine will do.”
1 lb whole wheat penne pasta
1 tablespoon XVO
1 cup chicken stock
1 small clove garlic, whole
1 small Bermuda onion, sliced
1 turkey tenderloin cut into cubes
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 bag baby spinach
¼ cup dry sherry
¼ cup butter
½ cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano
salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta in salted water until tender; drain and set aside. In large pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions, garlic and turkey until turkey is nicely browned (3-5 minutes). Remove garlic clove, deglaze pan with sherry, add chicken stock and reduce to low heat; add the cranberries, walnuts, spinach, and butter. Add the pasta, salt and pepper and stir until butter is melted. Serve family-style in a large bowl. Top with grated pecorino-romano.
Chris Kamel, chef at Billy’s Sports Bar, 34 Tarrytown Road, Manchester, 622-3644, billyssportsbar.com
Vodka Sauce with Shrimp & Sun-dried Tomatoes
1 lb of your favorite pasta (I prefer penna)
1 lb shrimp
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
¾ cup diced onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh garlic (chopped)
28 oz. crushed tomatoes with juice
1 cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup grated parm cheese
salt & pepper to taste
fresh basil for garnish
Sautée onions, garlic and olive until soft. Add shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, then add crushed tomatoes and cook until thickened. Then add vodka and let reduce for 3-4 minutes. Add cream and let cook 2-3 minutes. Add your cooked pasta and toss together well. Remove from heat and place on your favorite serving dish. Add grated parm cheese on top and garnish with fresh basil. I suggest serving this dish with garlic bread.
Meghan Levins, chef at The Barley House, 132 N. Main St., Concord, 228-6363, thebarleyhouse.com
Guinness Cheese Sauce
“Revered as the ultimate American comfort food, macaroni and cheese brings me right back to being a kid. This Guinness Cheddar Cheese sauce is more ‘adult,’ and its characteristic bitter flavor can be complemented with any of your favorite cheeses or a blend. Also makes a great dipping sauce! This is a huge hit at The Barley House.”
1 quart heavy cream
¼ cup butter
½ white onion, sliced
5 cups shredded cheese (your choice)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Guinness
Melt butter in a two-quart pot. Sautée onions in butter until translucent. Add heavy cream. When heavy cream comes to a boil, whisk cheese in small amounts into heavy cream. Turn burner off. Continue to stir until all the cheese is incorporated. Strain onions, then add Guinness.
Justin Lyonnais, chef at Commercial Street Fishery, 33 S. Commercial St., Manchester, 296-0706, www.csfishery.com
Shrimp Pad Thai Spring Rolls
“We don’t use much pasta at CSF but the one dish that I could eat for the rest of my life would be any variation of Pad Thai. I was inspired by my fiancée after intensely watching her create her own version of this classic dish from Thailand. Here is one of our new spring appetizers.”
20 spring roll wrappers
1 lb. rice noodles (soaked in hot water until tender, about 3-5 minutes)
½ lb. small shrimp
4 oz. sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemongrass
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup fish sauce
juice from 2 limes
3 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
½ cup toasted and ground peanuts
½ cup cilantro
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook ginger, garlic and lemongrass quickly. Add shrimp and cook until done. Add fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, chili sauce and sugar. Boil for two minutes. Scramble the eggs and add them to the pan. Let the eggs set up before you stir them. Turn the pan down to medium heat and toss in the rice noodles, cilantro and peanuts. Cook the noodles for two more minutes and enjoy with an ice cold beer. That’s what happens at home!! Or at the restaurant we cool and wrap the noodles with the spring roll wrapper and fry golden brown. We serve them with a ginger pea shoot salad and Thai peanut sauce.