Variations on a Theme: Pasta
An apprenticeship in Bologna fueled Chris Willis’s dedication to pasta—particularly extruded styles. Using a proprietary flour blend that includes wheat berries from Arizona’s Hayden Mills, the chef creates shapes such as shell-like lumache (1), ideal for capturing hearty Bolognese. The sugo gets a funky-spicy lift from the Korean condiment gochujang. “The sauce was ripe for tweaking,” he says.
928 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-945-1761, pammyscambridge.com.
Michael Pagliarini is so passionate about his craft that once a day, the chef takes to custom wooden pasta-making tables to roll out sheets made with a blend of imported semolina and locally grown wheat from Northfield’s Four Star Farms. On Benedetto’s current menu: handkerchief-like fazzoletti (2) enlivened with seasonal foraged mushrooms, the minty herb nepitella, and creamy burrata cheese.
One Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-5050, benedettocambridge.com.
Why limit yourself to a single filling when you can have two? Chef Douglass Williams set out to master the doppio—or double—ravioli after reading about the technique in a book by Italian food authority Giuliano Bugialli. Bathed in brown butter, this version (3) juxtaposes a meaty prosciutto-ricotta mixture on one side with a vegetarian charred-cauliflower “Bolognese” on the other.
782 Tremont St., Boston, 617-936-3490, midaboston.com.
Ciao Pizza & Pasta
Chef Marvin Posada’s gnocchetti (4) may resemble potato dumplings in shape and name, but don’t be deceived. He makes these hollow shells—served in a Parmesan cream sauce—from just flour, water, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. They’re served with shards of fork-tender short ribs, quickly roasted in the restaurant’s 850-degree wood-fired pizza oven, then braised in red wine for four hours.
59 Williams St., Chelsea, 617-286-9346, ciaopizzaandpasta.com.
The noodle pros behind Somerville shop Dave’s Fresh Pasta and this new full-service spinoff in Medford take a minimalist approach to saucing. “We want you to really taste the flavor of the pasta,” says chef Jason Martin. Curiously, the unexpected splash of saison beer in his otherwise classic cacio e pepe (5)—a creamy blend of butter, black pepper, and pecorino Romano—only enhances the fresh spaghetti.
572 Boston Ave., Medford, 781-219-3871, semolinakitchen.com.