The judges applauded the rusticity of this gooey lasagna, packed with cheese and sausage. The style is called free-form because the pasta can be arranged in different ways—for instance, folded over the filling—instead of traditionally layered.
Scott Conant liked the bitterness of the broccoli rabe in this earthy pesto, made with garlic, toasted walnuts and grated salty pecorino cheese. The pesto would also work well on a wider noodle, he added, like the ribbon-shaped trenette, which is the classic shape for pesto.
"The sauce fits the pasta," said judge Marc Vetri in praise of this tender veal ragù flavored with white wine, capers, thyme and rosemary, then tossed with the little ear-shaped orecchiette. "The meat, the capers—they hang on to the pasta when you lift up your fork."
The tomato sauce here—with big pieces of flaked swordfish and slivers of jalapeño—gets nicely absorbed by the penne. And, judge Michael Schlow adds, "There's a good proportion of tomatoes and fish to pasta, and it all comes together so well."