Well, this seems to be the winter to remember! A historic December snow storm left a whopping 17 inches here in Easton and this weekend, Superbowl weekend no less, we got blasted again! I measured about 18 or 19 inches of total snowfall here in Easton. This makes last weekend’s storm seem like a drop in the bucket. Personally, I don’t mind the snow, but as a business owner I hate it. The bad weather has resulted in worse than usual sales during our slow season. It’s beginning to feel like it only ever snows on the weekend! I have to tighten our ordering and scheduling to compensate for the decreased cash flow. So please forgive me if we are out of your favorite obscure pasta shape. It will return in due time, just like warm weather and sunny days.
February 7, 2010
December 15, 2009
This past spring CHOW.com published an article aimed at showing readers how to pair pasta shapes with sauces. The Washington Post did the same thing with a big diagram. The bottom line in the CHOW article is that “delicate noodles are for delicate sauces while heartier noodles are for heartier sauces.” Then CHOW says “it’s not always that simple”, so let’s take a closer look.
Every one agrees that there are no hard and fast rules about what sauce goes with what pasta shape. I think that personal taste should always come first when making food choices. However, in the world of pasta there are some guidelines that are just too old to mess with. For example, it is always fettucine alfredo, and parmesan does not belong on fish pasta. There are good reasons behind these two traditions; fettucine was used by the chef who invented that dish. The flavor of cheese can overpower seafood. Then there are some ‘rules’ that have no logical explanation–why should you make tomato sauce with a wooden spoon? Because that is just the way it is done. And by the way, don’t add the salt until the end. I’m just saying.
Let’s get the other ‘MUSTS’ out of the way; spaghetti goes with bolognese sauce, bucatini is the pasta for al’amatriciana, pesto matches trofie and linguine goes with vongole. Those combinations have regional histories, an important factor to consider when matching sauce to pasta. Only Ligurians eat trofie. Basil pesto is from Liguria. So, I recommend you trust the Ligurian tradition of pairing a little twisty pasta with pesto. Trofie can be hard to find; fusilli, gigli, rotini, or gemelli are fine substitutions. And really, if you like linguine then make linguine, but know that in Liguria they prefer trofie. Another super-regional pasta shape is orecchiette, it is only eaten in Puglia. The same goes for malloreddus from Sardinia. The Setaro pasta brand from outside Naples doesn’t make either of those shapes. They just don’t eat them.
Pesto, like butter and sage, oil and garlic are thin sauces, these are very flexible because they cling to any shape. Pasta with a hole in it, like rigatoni, would be superfluous for a thin sauce. Pasta with a hole in it is more suited to thicker cheese sauces and sauces with small diced vegetables or meat because the pasta can catch those pieces.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but thin sauces with peas or a small amount of chunks like prosciutto and peas, shrimp and peas, or al’amatriciana are best with long pastas. It is easier to eat the little pieces of peas or whatever if you fork them after twisting up the pasta. That is the idea, anyway.
Wide, flat pasta is good with thicker meat ragus because the braised, raggedy pieces cling to the face of the pasta. By the same token, thick cheesy sauces do a nice job coating the pasta surface. Wide flat pastas include pappardelle, tagliatelle, and fettucine. To me, the thicker the sauce is, the wider the pasta should be. But again, some people like to have maccheroni or rotini with this type of sauce. I think it is some kind of “mac and cheese” habit but I prefer maccheroni only when the sauce is really chunky or if the whole thing is baked. [Again, some things can’t be explained! Where did mac and cheese come from??]
Very short pasta like tubetti, ditali, stelle, riso, orzo or acini di pepe are good for soups (thick or thin) and pasta salads. The main reason for this is that the little pieces can easily fit into your spoon. So if you are making soup and you only have spaghetti, break it into bite-sized pieces.
Generally, I believe that when a recipe calls for a certain shape of pasta you should think more broadly about it. Is it short, long or tiny? What do I like/have on hand? Unless you are making one of those specific dishes, deciding what shape goes with what sauce doesn’t matter too much. I think that the Italians enjoy playing with their pasta and you should too. After all, they make pasta in the shape of butterflies, shells, pens, hats, ears, stars, little mouths, radiators, and hair!! So play with your food too, it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it. Just don’t serve it to any Italians. [Remember when Anthony Bourdain served Jamie Oliver’s spaghetti carbonara with meatballs to the Italians? They said it was disgusting! Go to the 2:00 minute mark.]
January 14, 2009
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Everyday we have something new, or so it seems. Today I want to annouce the beginning of our prepared foods program! A local chef has prepared a variety of Italian meals for you all to enjoy! The menu changes every week and will always include an entree (with meat), a pasta option (or two), a soup and a fresh pasta sauce.
This week we have:
Sweet Italian Sausage and Sauteed Fennel over Parmesan Polenta
Quattro Formaggi Stuffed Shells with Tomato Sauce
Gnocchi with Creamy Pesto Sauce
Gnocchi with Alfredo Sauce
Vegetable Minestrone with Conchigliette
also available are:
Fresh Tomato Sauce
Look for the ready to go foods in our self-serve refrigerator– they are delicious! And microwavable!
January 2, 2009
This week I am featured on the Gustiamo blog! I had a nice conversation with Beatrice earlier this week about everything from my great-grandparents to private labeling. You can read the announcement here.
I was also featured in the Sunday business section of the Star-Democrat, Easton’s local paper. Here is the link, but you must register with the website to read the whole article for right now. We are working on posting it to our website.
December 18, 2008
No, today wasn’t the big day, I was too busy yesterday to write a blog post! We opened our doors on Tuesday and today we began selling deli items. The delay on the weighed stuff was due to the fact that programming the scales and coordinating them with the POS computer was even harder than it sounds. Last night I finally got one scale to work but the “back-up” scale is not formatting correctly. I think. Even though I transferred the same information to both scales, one understood and one did not. That’s why it’s good to have a back-up.
It took all weekend to stock the shelves and enter each item into the POS system. DJ, the assistant manager, my mom and dad, Hiram, and I were here Saturday, all day Sunday, and Monday afternoon until very late. By Tuesday morning everything was put away and people began wandering in. The store next to us was having a sale so it gave us a lot of exposure and foot traffic. Everyone seemed excited by the store and many had already known we were here. Others asked when we had opened, thinking that they haven’t been in the Talbot Town shopping center lately, and we were proud to answer that we had only been open for a few hours!
I am still waiting on the light for our bread case, the wiring is there but the light hasn’t been installed. It hasn’t stopped us from using it! We have bread! I love this bread cabinet, the shelves allow the crumbs to fall down to the bottom of the cabinet for easy cleaning and the dowels are unvarnished so hot pans or bread can be directly placed on the shelves! When we were designing the store I asked for a dry case to be made, I wanted to model it after the one at Marlow & Sons.
Here is theirs, it’s a little different:
Now please come visit us, we are open for business and we are taking suggestions.
November 7, 2008
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Last week I went to New York to pick up our first order of food for the store! I received some great things and here are some pictures to whet your appetite:
(and here is a classic Ligurian snack made with farina di ceci)
a very green, grassy Tuscan olive oil from a famous vineyard
whole farro, an ancient grain and staple for the Roman legions
stracci toscani pasta (tuscan rags)