Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pondering Pasta

Let’s talk “pasta”— a word I would designate as a food group if the proper authorities would let me.

As a gal recently recovering from wisdom-tooth extraction (as well all the necessary corresponding jokes about losing my intelligence), soft foods are a must.

Lucky for me, a bit of noodles and sauce work wonders for those with sore gums and a hungry tummy.

...Or for those with just the hungry tummies.

Pasta is versatile. It fulfills meat lovers, vegetarians, picky eaters, and foodies alike.

And with so many easy recipes and surprisingly healthful/delicious pre-made meals out there, pasta is also perfect for a girl getting back to a busy week after a dentally triggered hiatus.

As I ponder about the wonders of various Italian dishes, I’ll spare you the crazy philosophical musings that spring to mind (i.e., perhaps pasta is the perfect metaphor for life: We are merely a hodgepodge of noodles, all slightly different, yet fundamentally made of the same stuff. We’re rooted to one plate, immersed in every sweet, spicy, tangy, creamy sauce of life, trying to absorb a healthy balance of flavors while maintaining the integrity of our carby-interiors). 

Uh, right…heavy stuff.

Instead, I bring you The Food Life’s “Where to” list, pasta edition:

1.    Where to find the best pasta I’ve EVER eaten:


Yeah, I’m sure you saw that coming. But honestly, when you eat any type of pasta in Italy (or any type of FOOD in Italy, for that matter), you get one of those “Ah ha” moments Oprah always talks about: “Ah ha! THIS is what pasta is supposed to taste like.”

And as most travelers know, the best culinary experiences come from restaurants far from tourist hot spots. The first time I went to Italy, I visited a small coastal town called “Rimini,” and every restaurant offered top-notch plates of food.

From the handmade, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi, to the silky smooth and velvety linguine (insert any type of sauce, meat, seafood, cheese, and wine to pair with it), meals don’t get better than this.

2.    Where, in the U.S., to find the best pasta I’ve ever eaten:

Okay, so most of us won’t be heading to Europe anytime soon. Therefore, I suggest sampling:

The pennoni al ragu at Canaletto, a restaurant located in the Venetian hotel in no other than LAS VEGAS BABY!

The pennoni, imported from Italy, is surprising soft and light (no carbo-loading here). Yet, it perfectly holds up the traditional meat ragu, a sweet and tangy sauce of finely ground beef and a delicious blend of garlic and basil. They top it all off with some Grana Padano, a subtler cheese than your traditional Parmigiano, which adds a bit of nuttiness, while not overpowering the palate.

The bf and I have seriously considered driving the 5 hours to Vegas just to eat this.

For only $17.99 (a downright steal in a nice Vegas hotel restaurant), this dish is a must-have when you are in the area.
Photo credit:
3.    Best ready-made pasta I’ve eaten:

I admit it—while I absolutely love to cook, I barely have time to create anything but pre-made meals most weeknights.

I therefore indulge in Trader Joe’s (or, as it charmingly says on the bag, Trader Giotto’s) Rigatoni Alla Siciliana, penne pasta with an eggplant ragu sauce.

First, this pasta is legit. It’s imported by Italy and made from natural ingredients (RE: no funny chemical business on the label). It’s a great vegetarian option, and ready to eat in about 10 minutes.

And, most importantly, it tastes delicious! The large penne tubes are al dente; the sauce is filled with flavorful tomato and eggplant pieces. Its peppery, earthy taste is delightfully balanced by smooth, melted bits of mozzarella. 
All that’s really left to say is, "Buon appetito!"

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