Hi, I’m Ziggy. I love pasta! I had pasta last night, for lunch today, and I will have plenty of it in the next few weeks as I embark on another trip to mother Italia. I think about pasta more than.. you know… Sports! And before I leave you idle for a few weeks I figured to leave with a bang, a post about one of my favorite subjects. My favorite pastas in NYC in no particular order…
Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato. From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds. Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil. Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty. I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with just a stare
Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea – One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in
NYC America. Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic. The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits. A no brainer on this list
Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top) – Perhaps the best dish I’ve eaten this year. Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law. The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look. They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine. The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish. A classic in the making. Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.
Uni Tagliatelle at Cull & Pistol – Fresh squid-ink egg noodles tossed in uni sauce and topped with tomatoes, bread crumbs, squid and Santa Barbara uni. Marea’s uni pasta is perhaps the best I’ve had, but Marea is already on the list, and C&P’s version is pretty darn fantastic and quite different. The sweet uni reins supreme with that rich sauce, and the smoky squid and bread crumbs add more texture to this dark beauty. When a place makes only one pasta, its very often a good one. Balaboosta, The NoMad come to mind as well
Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta – Simple isnt it? Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting. Recipes are all over the internet. Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (hey Scott) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic. Its fresh, bright and every ingredient suddenly comes to life. Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil. Pure awesomeness.
Homemade Pappardelle With Sweet Sausage at Da Andrea – There are a lot of similar Pappardelle pastas in NYC with all sorts of tasty ragus (Bar Pitti makes a good one with either rabbit or wild boar), but none of them made so many locals happy for so long. Ok, its only been 14 years but still. A staple on the menu since they opened in another location (Hudson st). The purists may turn up their noses at the thought of “fake truffles” when they see Truffle Oil being used, but we dont have truffles or wallets growing in our backyards in NYC. Not yet! And besides, unlike many truffle oil dishes I’ve had in this town, this one got that aroma which convinces your brain that you are eating the real thing. And dont forget to order some Tigelle with Prosciutto, another Emilia Romagna specialty
Agnolotti at All’onda – This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually. But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others. Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”. They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata. XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac. This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and plenty of depth, to otherwise good but basic Agnolotti
Bonus mention: Sort of a bizarre marriage between the Agnolotti and the Cull & Pistol dish in a way is the splendid Bucatini with black garlic and Dungenese crab at Piora. I didnt taste enough of it to include it
Maialino – Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe! The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia). And when I was in Rome last year, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me. If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.
Stracci at Osteria Morini – From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu. Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms. I would be happy with just the mushrooms. It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town
Pasta with White Truffles At ?? – Ok for this one you need to do a little bitsy homework. Its white truffle season at the time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria. I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost. Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose. Me? I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival. Buon Appetito! Ciao, Ziggy