Normally I'm all about innovation and deep digging and hardcore testing here at The Food Lab. But this time I'm starting with a dish so iconic, so incredible, so damn-near-flawless in its original form that the best I can possibly hope to do is tweak it just a bit to suit my very particular personal tastes. I'm talking about the ricotta gnudi at The Spotted Pig, April Bloomfield's West Village gastropub. Thin, thin pasta surrounds a core of creamy, explosive sheep's milk ricotta all served in a brown butter and sage sauce. And the good news is that my favorite dish isn't even that hard to make.
Pastas And Grains
Lo mai gai, the dim sum classic of steamed lotus leaves stuffed with sticky rice and all sorts of delicious goodies, are irresistible from the moment you unwrap one fresh from the steamer and a chorus of aromas hits your nose. The biggest task is gathering all the ingredients, like the lotus leaves and glutinous rice, as well as Chinese sausage, cured pork belly, and salted egg yolks. Once you've got them rounded up, though, it's a relatively easy and extremely delicious at-home dish.
These fried chive cakes are insanely chewy inside with a crisp, golden shell. Flavored with garlicky Chinese chives, they're a snack that, once you've tried them, you won't be able to live without.
We're not going to lie: Potato gnocchi can be a little tricky and require some practice to get right. But if you know a few basic rules, it's really not that hard to make ones that are light and tender, not leaden and gummy. This recipe walks you through those steps, starting with choosing a gnocchi-friendly potato and cooking it the right way; then we leave it up to you whether to add egg yolk or not (yolks make a dough that's easier to work with, but also firmer); and finally we add just enough flour to make a cohesive dough while being careful not to overwork it to the point of gumminess. The result are lovely little gnocchi in a sage-butter sauce that will prove that good gnocchi aren't out of reach.
I love gnocchi. At least, I love the gnocchi in my mind. Light, pillowy, flavor-packed, they're the perfect vessel for a good red sauce. The big problem? Potato gnocchi take a long time and are far from foolproof. Say hello to their quick, easy, and delicious ricotta-based cousins.
Long before ships brought native crops from the Americas to Europe, Italy was a land without red sauce, corn polenta, or potato gnocchi. But even without the potato, gnocchi still existed, such as in the form of the classic gnocchi alla Romana, this custardy oven-baked version made with semolina, egg, cheese, and butter. You could say these are the OG: the original gnocchi.
Spinach and artichoke dip isn't just for chips anymore! Stuff the snack-food favorite into delicate pierogi dough to make a meal out of it.
Pan-fried buns are a common snack in Taiwan. Similar to pan-fried dumplings, they're crisped until golden on the bottom, yet steamed through so that the filling cooks along with the noodlelike dough.
Picture this: gorgeous oversized ravioli filled with a ring of creamy ricotta surrounding a perfectly intact, perfectly runny yolk. They're rich, delicious, and freaking beautiful.
Arroz caldo is a hearty Filipino congee made with chicken and rice and seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce and topped with crunchy fried garlic. The result is a quick, comforting bowl that's a perfect wintertime meal (and rivals chicken soup for its ability to sooth those suffering from a cold).
This is the bowl of vegetarian ramen I've been working towards ever since I first ventured into the vegetable-based foothills of Mount Ramen two years ago. It has a rich, creamy broth that's layered with flavor and thick enough to coat the noodles as they're slurped from the bowl, plus little pools of glistening, flavorful fat, and four different toppings that deliver on texture and flavor. This is hands-down the best bowl of ramen I've ever made. And it can all be yours, with a little bit of heavy-duty climbing, that is.
Sichuan Shirataki Sesame Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Sichuan Peppercorn, Chili Oil, and Peanuts (Vegan)
Slick shirataki noodles are perfect for cold noodle salads where their slippery texture helps keep each strand separate while simultaneously picking up plenty of flavor from a sauce of Sichuan peppercorn and chili-infused oil, black vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, and peanuts.
Classic homemade ricotta ravioli gets some tang from Parmesan cheese, a tart squeeze of lemon juice, and a subtle hit of nutmeg. All it needs is a splash of olive oil and it's ready to serve.
A sweet and funky butternut squash and blue cheese-stuffed homemade ravioli, served in a brown butter sauce with frizzled sage.
Deeply flavored roasted zucchini and tomatoes are the star of the dish; pasta just plays a supporting role. Slow-cooking garlic and rosemary infuses olive oil with flavor that fills the entire bowl, while a dusting of our dehydrated olive and miso shake gives it over-the-top savory flavor.
Turning a bean purée into a pasta sauce may sound strange, but just think of it as a variation on the classic Italian soup pasta e fagioli, just with a lot more pasta and only enough "soup" to coat the noodles. It's delicious, and it just happens to be vegan (though we won't snitch if you decide to add grated parm to it).
Homemade tortellini are delicate, flavorful showstoppers that also lend themselves well to cooking with a partner or group of friends. This version is filled with a savory purée of sautéed mushrooms, shallots, and Parmesan cheese.
If you were to pick a president and el tigre numero uno of the ragù world, it'd be ragù Napoletano, a meaty stew with big chunks of beef, pork, and sausages simmered until fall-apart tender in a rich tomato sauce flavored with wine, onions, garlic, basil, and plenty of good Southern Italian olive oil. It's the precursor to Italian-American Sunday gravy: just add some meatballs, serve it with spaghetti, and you're there. It's also the perfect dish for a lazy Sunday with family or friends at home.
Tender Italian-American meatballs made with beef and pork and flavored with garlic, buttermilk, and Parmesan cheese in a meaty, slow-cooked sauce. Your slow-cooker takes care of the tomato sauce, reducing it into a rich, meaty gravy.
We all know about lasagna Bolognese, the Northern Italian casserole made with fresh pasta layered with cheese sauce and a slow-cooked meat sauce enriched with cream. But what if I told you that there was another lasagna out there every bit as decadent, involved, rib-sticking, and delicious? I introduce to you Lasagna Napoletana, a lasagna that comes stuffed with an insanely meaty and savory red sauce, small tender-crisp meatballs, slices of sausage, and not one, not two, not even three, but four types of cheese. Are you ready to have your gut busted and your mind blown? Let's go.