Pasta gets fresh for Autumn
Date: 19-09-2017 published by Nick Baines
In today’s modern wasteland of carbohydrate dodging diets and the multi-million pound gluten-free market, opening restaurants dedicated to pasta might seem like a pretty brave move. However, that’s exactly what’s happening not only by new upstarts, but by seasoned city restaurateurs too.
Perhaps this is a backlash to all the restrictions imposed by Instagram-fuelled, but well-intentioned food choices and the many mutant strains of ‘clean eating’. Pasta is a British favourite, a store cupboard staple. Everyone from cash-strapped students, to your middle class, Waitrose shopping mum of Petunia chow down on this magical ingredient that can be summoned to satiate both family and dinner guests in a matter of minutes.
Our affection of this dried noodle runs deep, but it sometimes suffers in food service due to the ‘I can make pasta at home’ reasoning from the customer. The chefs and restaurateurs among you will no doubt appreciate how pasta dishes on the menu need to carry those extra layers, that level of quality that makes your pasta arrabiata stand out from those prepared at home. One of the best ways to go about this is investing time into making fresh pasta.
And that’s just what London chef Stevie Parle is doing this Autumn when he opens Pastaio, which comes hot on the heels of Borough Market’s Padella which runs a short, succinct menu of fresh pasta dishes which changes daily. The runaway success of Padella may also be linked to the fact that punters can see the fresh pasta being made through a large window onto the street giving potential customers that ‘theatre’ marketing peeps go on about so much.
But it’s on the plate that fresh pasta flexes its prowess. The way it folds, drapes and falls over tumbled sautéed matchsticks of courgette, how it layers against robust, slow cooked pork ragu, or encapsulates the natural sweetness of pureed squash. The silky texture you get from fresh pasta is ethereal, a world apart from dried pasta, but that’s not to say that dried pasta doesn’t have it’s place in the restaurant kitchen. Certain pasta types such as fusilli, penne, farfalle and rigatoni are prime examples of where dried pasta’s ruggedness is required.
A fresh egg-based pasta can still deliver a complex range of flavours and is the perfect canvas for simple dressings, sauces and shaved ingredients – I’m looking at you Alba truffle.
As the chilly autumn months set in, and restaurant menus move away from vibrant summer freshness, we begin to see a turn towards seafood, a little root veg and heavier, hearty meat based dishes. While we might not be ready to bust out the steak and ale pies just yet, fresh pasta has the potential to bridge that gap. The time for pasta to get a well-deserved upgrade is finally here and is happening despite the boom in gluten-free and ramshackle diet choice. And after all is said and done, at least a bowl of pasta isn’t going to leave you feeling hungry half an hour later.
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