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Spotlight on Pasta
By Miriam Marcus

It’s fairly well known and documented that the Chinese—not the Italians—invented noodles thousands of years ago. It is the Italians, however, who continually reinvent pasta and its satiating culinary qualities, providing chefs with an abundance of choices when deciding how to feature this timeless cuisine on their restaurant menus.
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Chef Keith Pooler of Harvest – Cambridge, MA
Braised Oxtail Cavatelli with Butternut Squash, Fancy Mushrooms and White Truffle Butter

Chef Francesco Schintu of Zeffirino at The Venetian – Las Vegas, NV
+ Chocolate Lasagna with Pesto
+ Rose Petal Ravioli with Ricotta and Shrimp

Chef Giancarla Bodoni of Escopazzo Ristorante Italiano – Miami Beach, FL
+ Pumpkin and Amaretto Ravioli

Chef Jason Travi of La Terza – Los Angeles, CA
+ Veal Osso Buco Agnolotti

Chef Adam Halberg of Via Matta – Boston, MA
+ Duck Tortelli with Squash and Rosemary
+ Trenette with Sweet Maine Shrimp and Oregano Pesto



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Basic pasta consists of flour, eggs, a pinch of salt and sometimes water. There are, however, countless varieties of noodles to choose from when creating a dish—so much more than American standards of macaroni, elbows and spaghetti. It is up to chefs to be creative, and to capture the palates of seasoned diners.

To ensure patrons’ satisfaction, pairing the sauce or filling to the size and shape of the pasta being served is crucial. has compiled recipes for some of the best pasta dishes its editors have tasted around the country. These chefs highlight the versatility of an ancient dietary staple.

Cavatelli is a typical pasta from southern Italy, shaped like small ripple-edged shells or bullets. Braised Oxtail Cavatelli with Butternut Squash, Fancy Mushrooms and White Truffle Butter from Chef Keith Pooler of Harvest in Cambridge, MA is total comfort food. When creating a dish, Chef Pooler first thinks of the ingredient he wants to accent, and designs the rest of the dish around accenting it. “I like cavatelli because it has more bite than gnocchi and other sheeted pastas.” One of Harvest’s signature dishes, the braised oxtail, has a richness that makes it a perfect winter meal characterized by a “stick to your ribs quality without being cloying.”

Chef Francesco Schintu of Zeffirino at The Venetian in Las Vegas has an unusual style when it comes to pasta. He adds cocoa powder, black truffle paste and Kahlua liquor to the dough before rolling out lasagna sheets for Chocolate Lasagna with Pesto. Rose petals and Marsala wine are incorporated into the dough for Chef Schintu’s Rose Petal Ravioli with Ricotta and Shrimp. Stuffed with watercress and mint, this dish adds an herbal element to a more traditional Italian shrimp-based sauce.

Chef Giancarla Bodoni of Escopazzo Ristorante Italiano in Miami Beach takes a homier approach to ravioli than Chef Schinto, blending classic and contemporary Italian flavors. Her ultra smooth Pumpkin and Amaretto Ravioli is accented by a fine vegetable brunoise and truffle-infused cream sauce. The paper thin ravioli pasta highlights the delicacy of its nutty filling.

Agnolotti, pronounced “anyeeolottee,” are small stuffed pasta sealed to form a half circle. Recently named Rising Star Chef, Jason Travi of La Terza in Los Angeles stuffs his Agnolotti with Veal Osso Buco. The braised veal is a heady stuffing for this “baby ravioli” and is enough to hold its own with an uncomplicated but delicious dressing of butter and fresh oregano.

Tortelli is a very traditional pasta in Modena, north of Tuscany where it is typically filled with pumpkin in a brown butter and sage sauce. For winter fare, Chef Adam Halberg of Via Matta in Boston made the dish heartier by stuffing this larger version of tortellini with braised duck and mascarpone cheese, complimented by larger bits of pulled duck meat in the rich sauce. In his Duck Tortelli with Squash and Rosemary, Chef Halberg incorporates squash into the sauce instead of in the pasta’s filling. Crisp parsley leaves balance the sweetness of this dish.

Chef Halberg spotlights his use of trenette pasta, pronounced “traynaytay,” with Sweet Maine Shrimp and Oregano Pesto. Trenette pasta is famous in Liguria, west of Tuscany. Similar to linguine pasta, trenette look like flat spaghetti, and are traditionally served with pesto. In this distinctly modern interpretation, Chef Halberg adds shrimp and milled tomatoes to the stock, and fresh herbs of oregano, parsley and mint to the pesto. He fondly recalls the first time Star Chef Michael Schlow, under whom he cooks at Via Matta, watched him make this dish. After declining a sample to taste, Chef Schlow explained, “I already know what it tastes like. I can smell it. It tastes like Italy.”


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  • Pasta and Wine
  • Los Angeles Rising Star Chef Jason Travi
  • Preparing Gnocchi
  • Forum: QuickMeals Pasta for One

  •    Published: March 2006
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