In most circles, “dry” isn’t a welcome culinary descriptor. But for Chef Alon Shaya of Domenica in New Orleans, dry dough is the key to perfect al dente pasta. “People tend to add a lot of liquid or water to their pasta dough, which makes it soft and mushy,” he says. To ensure a minimal amount of liquid makes it into his final product, Shaya combines two techniques—harvesting chlorophyll and vacuum-packing the dough—to bind and flavor his Parsley Stracci.
Shaya spent a year in Emilia-Romagna, absorbing the culinary lessons necessary for opening Domenica, his high-style Italian restaurant and partnership with Chef John Besh. Thankfully for New Orleans (where Italian food is often second rate), Shaya came back home having mastered pizza, salumi, and pasta.
Chef Alon Shaya blends parsley and water.
For his Parsley Stracci, Shaya combines an Old World oxtail ragu with undeniably Southern fried chicken livers. But the two uber rich meat additions cry out for more than standard pasta to balance the flavor and add visual pop. For Shaya, parsley chlorophyll offers an ideal solution. Based on a technique he learned from an Italian chef, Shaya harvests parsley chlorophyll by blending parsley and water, straining out parsley juice, and heating the juice in water until the chlorophyll separates. Providing all the verdant green flavor of parsley, with only a fraction of the moisture, chlorophyll transforms Shaya's Stracci into bright, herbaceous pasta without compromising the moisture levels in the dough.
Chef Alon Shaya holds up a finished sheet of parsley pasta.
Shaya also learned the Italian secret that dry, crumbling pasta dough would bind under pressure, eliminating the need for extra liquid or egg. And while nonas might dump their dough into a Ziplock and sit on it to squeeze out the air, Shaya takes it to the next level, using a modern kitchen staple: the vacuum packer. “[Vacuum-packing] forces the remaining liquid into the flour,” says Shaya. His pasta goes into the packer looking a lot like streusel dough, and after an anaerobic two-hour rest in a tight vacuum bag—“it’s important to use the highest possible vacuum setting”—it emerges smooth and ready for the pasta machine.
Blending old school and modern techniques (not to mention Old and New World ingredients), Shaya elevates otherwise humble pasta (stracci translates to rags) to al dente perfection.
1. Blend the parsley and a splash of water until puréed.
2. Strain the purée through a fine chinois, pushing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
3. Pour the resulting liquid into a large pot of barely simmering water. Do not bring the water to a boil, or the chlorophyll with lose its bright green color.
4. After a few minutes, as the chlorophyll rises to the top of the pot, remove the chlorophyll with a ladle and drain over cheesecloth.
1. Combine the flour, chlorophyll, water, and eggs in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
2. Mix on low speed, just until the chlorophyll is distributed throughout the dough. Mix 10 minutes more. The dough should be crumbly, not smooth.
4. Pour the dough into a vacuum bag. With a vacuum packer, compress and suck out the air on the highest setting.
5. Rest the dough for 1 to 2 hours.
6. With a pasta machine, roll the dough out into thin sheets.
7. Freeze the pasta for an hour, and break it into 4-inch by 4-inch pieces.