This post could also be titled, How I got suckered into buying a $10 bag of pasta, again. Have you tried the pastas from Sfoglini? The company puts the dough through brass dies and extrudes fun shapes with textured surfaces that sauces love to cling to. When I splurge on this pasta, I like to use it as part of a dish rather than as the main component. That way, a bag of it lasts longer and a dish is often healthier (with more veggies and protein than pasta) to boot.
I most recently bought the Sfoglini Malloreddus, which look a lot like cavatelli but contain a bit of saffron. The shell shape and slight saffron flavor had me thinking seafood, so I added a few handfuls to some steamed mussels made fragrant with fresh, mild red chile; basil and tarragon. I also threw in some corn because, you know, it’s still summer, even though it’s September.
Wine pairing here is a bit tricky. The sweet corn tends to make dry wines taste pretty awful. The solution: A wine with a little bit of sweetness and a lot of acidity to go with the mussels. I like a slightly off-dry Riesling; something marked feinherb or kabinett from Germany is a good bet. Just make sure it doesn’t say trocken, which means dry. If that’s all just too confusing, get this wine. All you need to know: It’s a Riesling from New York and it’s delicious.
Oh, and a brief aside: I’m still not sure why it’s hard to find fresh red chiles in New York. Perhaps it’s because most people only use the red ones when they’re dried. If I come across Holland chiles (above), which are often sold at the most random places, I grab them; they tend to keep in the refrigerator for about a month and add such a vibrant, fruity flavor to dishes when served raw as a garnish or cooked very briefly.
- 2 ears of corn, husked
- 4 ounces small shell-type pasta (I love the Malloreddus pasta from Sfoglini!) or oreccheitte
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- One fresh red chile, such as Holland or Fresco, quartered, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, washed well and thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 pounds mussels
- Small handful of basil leaves, torn
- Small handful of tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
- Using a serrated knife, remove the corn kernels from the cobs, cutting them into a large bowl. Using the dull side of the knife, scrape as much of the juices as you can from the cob into the bowl.
- In a medium pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente and drain.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the sliced chile and cook until softened but still bright red, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chile to a bowl.
- Add the butter to the pot and let it melt. Add the leek and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until the raw alcohol smell dissipates, about 2 minutes. Add the mussels, cover the pot and cook until they open, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, add the pasta and corn and toss.
- Quickly spoon the mussels and cooking liquid into bowls, top with the red chiles and herbs and serve.