From my dear friend Alessandra in Des Moines who has to date made the best gnocchi with morels of my young life, to the smoking hot Italian gentleman that courted me for a couple of months here in the District who concocted the best Puglian-style pesto orecchiette with green beans and potatoes that I still daydream about these four years later (the pasta, that is), I can't get over how ridiculously delicious the pasta is that comes from talented Italian hands. Alas, I have no native Italian blood in these veins, which may explain why my ravioli always come out a little too tough. But boy can I appreciate a well-made noodle. Luckily, I will be heading to Tuscany this summer for a couple of weeks for my friend Jen's wedding, so I'll get to eat lots of good pasta while I raise yet another glass of Montepulciano to the health of the newlyweds. But there's a good chance I may be eating more of the good stuff before then, even....
Mille grazie to my friend and colleague, Robin, who clued me in to the best handmade pasta I have had in some time, which she'd brought along as an appetizer for a dinner party last night: Copper Pot's delicate braised oxtail tortellini and maple-roasted pumpkin ravioli that I drizzled with thyme-infused butter and a pinch of salt... ohhhh, a girl could get used to this. So after the massaged kale salad, and the curried butternut squash soup, and the goat stew and the apple pie, we determined that there was too much food, and guess who got sent home with the remaining half dozen packages of fresh pasta made from scratch. Go on, guess. (Between those and the giant bag of compost I lashed on with bungee cords, Ollie and I must've been quite a sight to behold biking home.)
It's going to be a veritable Pastapalooza* here today at the apartment, I thought this morning as I warmed up a little bowl of braised rabbit cappellacci for breakfast. Delicious. (Sorry, Thumper.) Before heading off to teach this afternoon, my friend Jeff joined me for an extravagant lunch -- I mean, this stuff is TOO GOOD not to share -- that was a mix of duck confit ravioli and more of the divine pumpkin ravioli, this time served with some butter and dried basil and a few grinds of black pepper. With a splash of soup and a small salad, I was sated well into midafternoon. (Hmmm? What's that? Why, yes, that was lunch. I'm a food educator, sometimes my midday meals get a little bit elaborate.)
My god, who knew food could be this light and flavorful but still satisfying after 8 or 10 pieces? And though I suspect the actual making of the pasta and its filling was rather labor intensive, the cooking of it was a snap. Getting the water to a boil was the longest step. Maybe I can suggest a new slogan for the small, local company: "Slow Food in 3 minutes or less."** Eh? Eh? (Come on, you can't even make a bowl of Ramen noodles that quickly and let me tell you, this stuff is about 3 universes beyond Ramen.)
I had a chance to meet Stefano (again, thanks to Robin) and chat with the genius behind Copper Pot about his inventive preserves, about recommended sauce and pasta pairings, and about how under-appreciated oxtail is in American cuisine. (Well, it's true.) Within about two minutes, I knew I'd met a kindred spirit. That was even before I learned that he sourced his ingredients quite literally from other farm stands at the market. Yeah, I think that wasn't until about 10 minutes into the conversation. "Ah, yes, the cheese, she is from Keswick," Stefano smiled, "and the duck, he comes from the farmer next to me at the 14th Street market last Saturday." What was that he said about sweet potato gnocchi? "Ah, I make pasta different each week. It depends on what there is is season for me to work with." Good lord, I wonder as I gaze at the two remaining packages on the top shelf of my fridge, does this man need an assistant? I must have more of that pasta....
*Thanks to John, who was not only the inspiration (and the gracious host) for last night's dinner party, but who also coined the title of this blogpost.
**Speaking of Slow Food, if you're around DC this weekend, you should come to an event that I'm organizing: a free talk with Indian cookbook author Nani Power, followed by a potluck. There are still spaces left, so RSVP today. I suspect there won't be much in the way of fresh pasta at this gathering, but since it's a Slow Food DC event, you can bet folks will be bringing their culinary A-game to the potluck. Should you need recipe ideas, try one of these. Or flip through a copy of my all-time favorite curry reference.