Sometimes when confronted with the choice between two items that look equally tempting, I freeze up. How will I ever pick just one?
Must life always be either this or that?
I’ve decided when family or dear ones are near (as my Dad is now), either/or can just as easily be turned into both.
Ah, both — what a lovely ring to it.
I asked my Dad what he was craving for a homemade meal, and he said really good pasta. I mentioned a couple of my favorite kinds and he said they all sounded good.
Suddenly it felt like a good time to revisit an old friend on Hawthorne Street.
Pastaworks is a tiny gem of a place (conveniently attached to the Powell’s Books for Cooks) and while small, it’s well-curated and has pretty much everything you’d need to make a wonderful Italian meal at home. They’ve been on Hawthorne Blvd. since 1983, which means they’ve been making fresh pasta for over 30 years.
(For those living on the other side of the river, City Market on NW 21st Avenue has a second branch of this wonderful market.)
First and foremost, let’s talk fresh pasta, their specialty.
I know of no other place in town that has up to four kinds of fresh pasta available that you can either buy in whole sheets (lasagna lovers and ravioli makers rejoice!) or have cut to your desired thickness. It’s always very fresh — just like that from your favorite trattoria.
The friendly gal at the counter advised one and a half pounds of pasta for five people, or if I wanted to play it safe, two pounds.
I like it when playing it safe means extra pasta.
Two pounds, then.
Can you see how tender it looks? Look at the little bit of semolina that clings to the noodles.
More shopping to be had and aisles to peruse.
Pastaworks also carries a number of homemade ravioli that are insanely good. The kinds vary slightly with the seasons; I remember during the holidays having chestnut ravioli from here.
And for those who want the shortcut of a sauce to go with your ravioli di funghi, they have you covered here, too.
Alfredo, Bolognese, and more (please please tell me that gift basket is headed my way).
They also have a small selection of breads (their own, Pearl Bakery, Fressen and Little T among the roster), a small deli of cheeses and charcuterie, a mini-butcher shop and a tiny little produce section with intriguing inclusions.
Sea beans? I’ve only seen those at the PSU Farmers’ Market. They look like a cross between asparagus, haricot verts and something that you might see washed up on shore. But just look at how vibrant they are — I wonder if they’d hold their emerald gloss when roasted?
And get a load of these marvels.
(I am dreaming of these sauteed in butter, shallots and white wine and placed atop a pizza bianco; the idea of a blistering pizza with Taleggio, oregano and morels leaves me woozy with desire.)
More treasures to be had here. A sizable wine selection and an impressive array of oils, vinegars, all kinds of dried pastas, tuna in olive oil, spices, condiments and amazing salts.
I picked up this for a friend’s upcoming birthday. I had never seen it before and I think she’ll like it. Pal, just act surprised when you see it in person, okay?
Now back at home and ravenous from all that foraging, I started pulling together items for our dinner.
Because we were celebrating being together, there would be two pastas. Remember the new both rule?
For the first pasta dish, I improvised. I had just bought some spicy andouille sausages and fresh corn, and I thought that these together would make for an appealing combination (especially since my Dad loves spicy foods).
To start, I got a large pot of salted water on to boil. I then gave the sausages and corn a quick grill to give a hint of smokiness to the finished dish.
While this was on the grill, I sautéed some shallots and garlic and deglazed this with some wine and chicken stock. I chopped up the grilled sausage and cut the kernels off the cob, and added that back into the pot with the sauce. The pasta needed just a few minutes to cook, and then off to the pan with all the sausage, corn and chicken stock. I cooked all of this together for less than a minute.
All it needed was salt, pepper, Reggiano and a little bit of pesto. It was heavenly; pockets of spiciness from the sausage, havens of sweet corn throughout and the occasional blast of herb and cheese.
The second one is one I make regularly. It’s always a big hit — and one summer I brought it to a block party and the giant bowl of it was emptied within minutes of arrival.
The version I made is based on one from this book. I adore Tyler Florence and his recipes always work. Too bad he’s so hard on the eyes, though.
Where were we? Oh yes. Fettucine Carbonara.
Who wouldn’t love a pasta dish that involves bacon and copious amounts of Reggiano and garlic?
So there were two big bowls of pasta, garlic bread, and salad. It was a feast.
A long spirited game of Apples to Apples cleansed our palate for two late arrivals, Ben and Jerry.
Hanging out with my wonderful Dad, eating good food and playing games? It doesn’t get much better — especially when the tiniest bit of leftover pasta awaits for lunch.
- 1 pound fresh pasta
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips (I doubled that)
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 large eggs
- 1 Cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (I skipped this but it would have been great)
- Bring a big pot of lightly salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- Heat a 2-count of olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3 minutes, until crispy;you're looking to extract the pork fat. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for just under a minute to soften.
- Scrape everything into a big pasta bowl. Beat the eggs and Parmigiano in a mixing bowl, stirring well to break up any lumps.
- Now drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente--tender yet firm--2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pasta well, reserving ½ cup of the starchy cooking water.
- Add the hot, drained pasta to the bowl with the pancetta and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the pork fat. Pour the egg-cheese mixture onto the hot pasta, tossing quickly with a fork until the eggs thicken (this is done off the heat to prevent scrambling).
- Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, if you need to.
- Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Garnish with the chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.