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.
'pasta' on Serious Eats
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.
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.
There's a version of pasta e fagioli for just about every region, province and household in Italy, from brothy ones packed with vegetables to creamy ones made only with beans and pasta. This one belongs to that latter group, and the secret to its greatness is all in the beans themselves.
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.
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.
This deeply savory, slightly tangy, and aromatic condiment can be folded into or sprinkled onto your food for a big hit of flavor. It's 100% vegan and designed to take the place of Parmesan in a pasta dish, but it's also great sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, roasted meats, grilled fish, burgers, or pizza. Anywhere you want extra 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.
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.
Slow-cooked until meltingly tender, pork shoulder is braised in fragrant mix of sautéed fennel and onions, crushed tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, and white wine. Once your slow cooker has 10 hours to work its magic, the pulled meat tops pasta, and the sauce is spooned on top. Add final shower of Parmesan, and you're golden.
Beef stroganoff is a dish of quick-cooked beef in a creamy sauce made flavored with mushrooms, onions, paprika, and sour cream. In our upgraded version, the beef is cooked as a whole steak to maintain a more tender, medium-rare center, while the sauce is carefully layered and constructed to optimize its rich, comforting, savory flavor.
A light, springy, delicate fresh pasta, this recipe is as well-suited to slicing into noodles as it is to making stuffed pastas, which require thin, pliable sheets of dough.
When it comes to meat sauces, ragù Bolognese is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. To arrive at this version, I started with Barbara Lynch's great recipe, adding a few tweaks here and there to enhance meatiness and texture (hello pancetta, gelatin, and fish sauce!), and employing a unique oven-based cooking technique that develops rich browned flavors all while maintaining the tender, silky texture that the best sauces have. This is the kind of sauce that will leave you and your loved ones weak in the knees.
Leftover lasagna is never as good as when it's fresh out of the oven. So what's the best way to reheat it? Slice it into slabs and fry them on their side for extra-crispy edges and gooey, cheesy centers.
I find the process of making lasagna extremely relaxing. I love working on the sauces and fillings and carefully assembling them all in a casserole dish before baking. Today we're going to look one of the classics. Creamy, cheesy, spinach lasagna flavored with a hint of nutmeg and a combination of white sauce and fresh ricotta. And while I'll often opt for the ease and convenience of no-boil lasagna noodles, today we're going to go all-in with store-bought fresh pasta.
Recently, I posted about a kale gratin made with an obscene three cups of heavy cream. Well, gratin, this mac 'n' cheese from Marcus Samuelsson's new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty, will see you those three cups of cream and raise you coconut milk, bacon, crème fraîche, a stick of butter, and pasta. Oh, and over a pound of cheese.