I love pasta! It’s one of the few things I love eating out as much as I love cooking at home. And the same rules apply: don’t overcook it (dried pasta should be al dente and fresh should be tender with a little ‘bite’), serve it fresh (never pre-cooked) and keep the sauce simple (3 or 4 Ingredients). Particular shapes work best with specific sauces, so avoid anywhere that offers a mix-and-match selection of shapes and sauces. Short pasta, such as penne, traps the chunks of textured sauces like meaty ragùs, while long pasta is best with something like a simple smooth tomato sauce; and fresh pasta works best with mild creamy sauces while dried pasta stands up to punchier flavours. Here are five pasta dishes I can’t resist.
Cacio e Pepe (Buffalo Dining Club)
This is the quintessential simple pasta dish (to add anything more would be a crime): hot spaghetti, black pepper and parsley, tossed in the hollow of a wheel of Pecorino cheese. It picks up all that cheesy flavour – and I love the theatre of it!
Spaghetti Burrata & Colatura di Alici (Maybe Frank)
This cool pizzeria and bar, tucked away off Bourke Street, also has a short pasta menu. I love their punchy spaghetti with creamy burrata, colatura di alici (anchovy fish sauce modelled on Ancient Roman garum), confit tomatoes and fried breadcrumbs. Not pretty – but irresistibly good!
Truffled Egg Fettuccine (Buon Ricordo)
No list of Sydney pasta dishes can be complete without Armando Percuoco’s creamy fettuccine topped with a fried truffle-scented egg and deftly tossed together tableside, with freshly grated parmesan, by a white-coated waiter. Yes it’s rich … but you won’t regret it!
Black Handkerchief Pasta with Seafood & Chilli (Lucio’s Italian Restaurant)
Lucio’s fresh pasta is the finest and smoothest I know, and always has great bite. The fazzoletti neri ai frutti di mare, jet-black strips of pasta tossed with chunks of prawn and cuttlefish (they leave the mussels out for me) with a touch of garlic, chilli and chervil, is one of my benchmark pasta dishes!
Strozzapreti with Kale & Enoki (ACME)
CLOSED – see Kiln
Mitch Orr learnt from some of the best, including Giovanni Pilu, but having learnt the rules, he now knows how to break them with integrity. I love just about all the pasta dishes at ACME, but the strozzapretti with kale dust and flecks of enoki mushroom almost has me licking the plate.
And if you’d rather try your hand cooking pasta at home, have a look at my recipes for Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncini ~ Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovies & Chilli ~ Gnocchi alla Sorrentina ~ Tagliatelle with Pesto ~ Pasta e Fagioli ~ Rigatoni Puttanesca ~ Fettucine Bolognese ~ Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe ~ Classic Carbonara.