Pasta

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Set aside a weekend afternoon to make this perfect winter dinner

An oval casserole dish of gnocchi gratin garnished with crispy sage leaves.
An oval casserole dish of gnocchi gratin garnished with crispy sage leaves.
Photo: Aya Brackett

If you’re in the Northeast and Midwest, you’re likely slogging through days that include snow, sleet, and grey skies. In other words, it’s the perfect weather for comfort food dishes.

This one is a bit of a project: Since gnocchi are known to be ornery, the key to getting pillowy lightness with these Italian dumplings is to add only enough flour to bring the dough together. The first thing you’ll notice with this dish is probably the rich sauce, then you’ll bite into the sublime dumplings. You’ll want to make this over the weekend.

Gnocchi Gratin


A most basic plate of pasta with one delicious addition

Pasta with squash
Pasta with squash
Photos: Ed Schneider

I cannot overstate the perfection of spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, and hot chile— aglio, olio e peperoncino — gussied up with only a handful of chopped parsley.

Tinkering with perfection is often a case study for the law of diminishing returns. There are delicious exceptions: Pasta with clams, for instance, is built on that garlic-oil-chile foundation. And I think I’ve come upon another.

Last week I was staring at a kabocha squash that had been on display in the dining room for a couple of weeks. It was doing fine, as winter squashes generally do, but Jackie and I…


Get ready for winter with pasta and lentils and other variants of pasta + starch

pasta with lentils
pasta with lentils
Pasta with lentils. Photos: Edward Schneider

One of the things that delight me about Italian pasta cooking is its occasional redundancy.

To my parents, eating, say, pasta and potatoes would have been unhealthy in some undefined way and frowned upon as “starch on starch.” Yet pasta with potatoes is a great dish — especially on a chilly evening. And so is the better-known pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans, often in a particularly warming souplike version). Then, there’s pasta with chickpeas, of which I described a not-so-classic variant.

Here I shall describe our new favorite: pasta with lentils. It began a few days before with a…


Use greens, beans, nuts, and broth to make beyond-satisfying vegan sauces

Scroll on to learn about the kale-almond pesto coating these lumache.
Scroll on to learn about the kale-almond pesto coating these lumache.
Scroll on to learn about the kale-almond pesto coating these lumache. Photos: Sara Cagle

When people ask me about the best thing I learned in Italian culinary school, I’m tempted to hit ’em with a showstopper — like the beef-tongue ravioli with carrot-ginger sauce or the seared scallops with a quintet of vegetable purées. Those were great, but if I’m being honest, the thing I’m most happy to have learned is much more practical for daily cooking: The sheer number of pasta sauces that are astoundingly delicious without meat or even cheese.

The secret? Combining ample extra-virgin olive oil and salt with one of five “bases,” which can be greens, nuts, greens and nuts…


Now’s the time to make it

A bowl of pasta with fresh and cooked tomatoes.
A bowl of pasta with fresh and cooked tomatoes.
Photos: Ed Schneider

The farmers market is still full of excellent summery produce and will be for a little while longer. This is good news because, starting in midsummer, many of our favorite meals rely on sweet, tart, savory ripe tomatoes. Slice a really good tomato, add some salt and wait for whoever tastes (or smells) it to ask, “Did you put MSG in here, or an anchovy? No? Really? Maybe sugar?”

When eating them in a pasta dish (one of their great purposes in life), we’re often torn between using them raw (as described years ago in a Washington Post story) and…


Precook your squid for just a few seconds

Closeup of a plate of linguini with small, curled squid tentacles.
Closeup of a plate of linguini with small, curled squid tentacles.
Photos: Edward Schneider

In her China Moon Cookbook, the late Barbara Tropp gives recipe after innovative recipe for bright dishes that seem no less fresh today than they were when the book was published in 1992. She also describes clever techniques that tend to lodge in the reader’s mind, such as her way of cooking squid.

It is a kitchen maxim that squid is best cooked either very briefly or for a very long time: In between, it can become tough or too chewy. …


Eating in the streets of Bari, Puglia, can be magical

Pasqua, wearing a blue-and-green floral dress, peers around thin white curtains next to pasta laid out to dry outside.
Pasqua, wearing a blue-and-green floral dress, peers around thin white curtains next to pasta laid out to dry outside.
Pasqua, a ‘pasta lady’ in Bari, Italy, takes a break from making orecchiette. Photos: Sara Cagle

“Mangia, mangia!” (“Eat, eat!”) said Porzia Petrone, the nearly 90-year-old Italian woman I’d met an hour earlier. We were eating lunch in her home in Bari Vecchia, the historic center of Bari in the Puglia region of southern Italy.

Porzia’s daughter, Rosa, busily refreshed my plate with tuna-and-tomato bruschetta and fried cod, my glass with red wine from a plastic jug, and, later, my bowl with homemade stracciatella gelato and juicy plums. I could barely keep up with the family’s conversation in the unfamiliar Barese dialect, let alone focus on the constant influx of food.

Meanwhile, the granddaughter modeled her…


But I’m learning

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta. Photo: What’s Gaby Cooking

Butternut squash was my daughter’s first food.

Grace was 4 months old when my family gathered in my mom’s kitchen to watch the little butterball on my lap try her first “solid.” Would she like it? Had I picked the right starter food? All the baby cookbooks gave butternut squash high marks on the first-food canvas, so I felt confident. Plus, I had grand plans for being a puree mom, so I hoped she was as excited by the prospect of solids as I was.

As the soft-tipped baby spoon came her way, she followed it with her big, brown…


Bittman Basics

Creamy, beautifully browned, and crunchy on top

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Here’s an all-American comfort food dish we’d like to snack on any time.

Most macaroni and cheese recipes start by making a cheese sauce; you can’t just toss melting cheese with pasta and expect it to become creamy and not stringy. This shortcut technique saves a step and creates a luxurious sauce as the noodles bake.

Shortcut Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • Salt
  • 2½ cups milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound rigatoni, elbow, or other cut pasta
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1½ cups)
  • Freshly ground black…


I couldn’t get my hands on 00 flour, but I still made marubini

Photos: Jason Wilson

Of course there is no 00 flour, you asshole.

That’s not what the guy who answered the phone at Whole Foods said to me. Actually, he was exceedingly polite. Too polite. Yes, he understood that 00 flour was a specific flour for making homemade pasta. Yes, during normal times — when, say, there was not a deadly pandemic — the store certainly always stocked 00 flour.

“It’s just that there’s a shortage of all flour right now, sir,” he said. “We don’t even have, you know, like, basic white all-purpose flour. The shelves are completely empty.” He apologized and I…

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Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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