The largest marketplace of all things doing with Italian edibles in the U.S., the 63,000-square-foot Eataly in Chicago is a mecca for food lovers, a vast space crowded with a variety of venues including unique specialty restaurants, stalls selling meat, cheese, breads, sweets and fish (though really stall is too plebian a term—these are sparkling and enticing places where you can get lost for seemingly hours looking at all the delectable offerings), rows of olive oils and wines and even a Nutella Bar (be still my beating heart). One of more than 40 worldwide concepts, Eataly Chicago, owned by Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali, not only offers a plethora of ingredients, classes and events but also an expanse of cookbooks including the second in their Eataly series, All About Pasta: A Complete Guide with Recipes (Rizzoli 2018; $25).
With the guiding philosophy of “the more you know, the more you enjoy,” this book immerses readers into a world of pasta from the easily recognizable—spaghetti and linguine—to the rarely found and more esoteric—maltagliati (translation: badly cut), mallopredus (pasta dough with saffron) and tajarin—thin egg pasta strands also known as taglierini. Of course, you’re never going to learn all the different types of pasta because even the experts don’t know since no one has successfully completed a survey of all the pasta shapes in the world. There are simply too many different shapes and multiple names for each.
But there are ways of differentiating one from another and how to use them in creating delicious meals which the book shares. Take long and short pastas. As a basic rule, long dried semolina pasta pairs with oil-based sauces, smooth tomato sauces and seafood. Tube-shaped semolina pasta, known as la pasta tubolare, with its hollow centers, is perfect for capturing the ingredients used in the sauce.
Le pastine or small pasta is most often cooked in either broth or chunky soups. Other pasta types include le perle del Mediterraneo–semolina pastas made by rubbing hard wheat flour with water until small balls form, cereali antichi is made with heirloom or ancient grains, while croxetti ot corzetti is the name for two different types of pasta that are pressed or stamped rather than rolled out.
We told you was complicated and it gets even more so as the book explores the different types of flours used for making pasta, the different sauces and il tocco finale—the finishing touch which can be such flavorful ingredients as cheese, basil, spicy chili oil or just a handful of minced flat leaf parsley to add a bright herbaceous flavored to almost any dish.
The wonders of this book, with its immense amount of information as well as recipes, is that you can go deep or you can just choose the information you want. Either way, you’ll end up knowing a lot more about pasta—”a world fashioned out of flour and water.”
The following recipes are courtesy of Eataly.
Vesuvio al Ragu di Salsiccia e Scarola
Vesuvio Pasta with Sausage Ragu and Escarole
12 ounces sweet sausage
1 tablespoon red wine
One cup tomato puree
½ cup chicken or beef stock
3 cup shredded escarole
Find sea salt to taste
Coarse sea salt for pasta cooking water
1 pound Vesuvius pasta or other short pasta preferably with a complex shape
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Grated Romano, pecorino or parmesan cheese for serving
Remove the cost sausage casings and crumble the meat into a bowl. Sprinkle the wine over the meat and massage the wine into the meat by hand until it is soft and elastic, about two minutes about two minutes.
Place the meat in the cold skillet with high sides. Placed the skillet over low heat and slowly cook the meat until it’s no longer raw looking., about two minutes. Do not brown the meat.
At the tomato puree and stir to combine. Increase the heat until the tomato puree is simmering gently.
Pour in the stock, stir once, and decrease the heat until the ragu is at a very gentle simmer, with a bubble just occasionally breaking the surface. Simmer uncovered without stirring for two hours. The meat should poach in the liquid and turn very soft.
When the sauce is cooked, carefully spoon off and discard any liquid remaining on the top. Stir in the escarole and cook until just wilted, about two minutes. Season to taste with sea salt. Remove from heat.
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the water is boiling salted add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Smear a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of the warm pasta serving bowl. Then transfer it immediately to the serving bowl. Top with remaining sauce and toss vigorously to combine. Drizzle on the olive oil and toss again. Serve immediately with grated cheese on the side.
Spaghettoni al Tonno (Pasta with Tuna)
Yield: 4 servings
1 pound spaghettoni (or bucatini)
1 (7-ounce) jar Italian tuna preserved in olive oil, drained
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed & drained
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 yellow onion, minced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 Calabrese chili pepper in olive oil, drained & minced
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
Coarse sea salt, to taste
Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and chili pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and the garlic are golden. Flake the tuna into the pan, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the capers and the lemon zest, and remove from the heat.
Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining olive oil, and toast in a toaster oven or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until crisp.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the sea salt and spaghettoni. Cook, stirring frequently with a long-handled fork, until the spaghettoni is al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
Transfer the pasta to the pan with the tuna. Toss vigorously over medium heat until combined, about 2 minutes. If the pasta looks dry, add a small amount of the cooking water, and toss until it looks moist.
Garnish with the toasted breadcrumbs, and serve immediately. For another taste of Calabria, repeat tomorrow.