Pasta + Noodles
Pernil, a Puerto Rican–style roast pork shoulder, is flavored with garlic, oregano, and sazón—a seasoning blend that includes coriander and annatto. At their Durham, North Carolina, restaurant Boricua Soul, Serena and Toriano Fredericks serve this garlicky pernil on top of a rich and creamy mac and cheese. Rubbing the seasoned garlic paste into the pork and letting it rest allows the flavors to penetrate deeply into the thick roast.
This ragù stands apart from most with the addition of fennel seeds, ground allspice, and habanero hot sauce. Like most great braises, it tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge, making it a great do-ahead dish for entertaining. Be sure to look for meaty short ribs; they can sometimes be skimpy, consisting of mostly bones. The ragù is topped with gremolata for a bright, fresh finish. Traditional gremolata is made with parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, but here the lemon is swapped out with orange zest, a nice match for the fennel and habanero in the ragù.
The recipe for this fresh, golden-hued pasta dough includes instructions for making it using three different methods: by hand, with a food processor, or by using a stand mixer. The dough uses a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks. The yolks add fat, which helps create a smooth dough, while giving the dough a lovely yellow hue. The whites in the whole eggs add both moisture and protein for a stronger, more elastic dough. Because different seasons and climates affect the moisture levels of the flour used in the dough, you may need a touch more or less water. If you live in a hot humid place, the dough will stay more moist and may need a little less water. But if you live in the desert (or it's winter and the heater is cranking), the dough will be drier, requiring more water. Keep this in mind as you make the dough, adding more water or flour as needed to reach the right consistency.
While some vodka sauce recipes lean on the creamy side, this version is more tomato-forward, loaded with bits of broken-down tomatoes and onion. The tomatoes are cooked for nearly an hour before the cream is added, concentrating their deep umami flavor. Vodka enhances the flavor of the tomatoes, and crushed red pepper adds just a hint of heat to balance out the richness of the sauce. Reserve some of the cooking water from the pasta to help achieve the perfect consistency in this sauce.
If you've never made pasta before, pasta expert Meryl Feinstein recommends starting with pici, a thick, hand-rolled spaghetti from Siena that looks like a plump udon noodle. Pici is made with all-purpose flour, water, and olive oil, and it doesn't require any special equipment, making it especially approachable for beginners. Feinstein likes to coat the dough in olive oil before rolling it out because pasta dough dries out quickly. "The more time you take to roll out the pieces, the more the surface will dry out and start to crack. I never like people to feel rushed, and olive oil is a little bit of insurance; it keeps the dough silky and smooth."Pair the handmade pasta with a simple, jammy sauce of sheet pan–roasted canned tomatoes and garlic.
More Pasta + Noodles
Italian chef Ricardo Camanini built an award-winning reputation on this incredibly delicious spaghettoni recipe topped with butter and a surprising ingredient: brewer's yeast. The dish has such simple, luscious, and—thanks to brewer's yeast—funky, umami appeal that legendary French chef Alain Ducasse declared it the best dish ever. At Lido 84, his restaurant on Lake Garda in Northern Italy, Camanini oven-dries fresh cakes of yeast for hours, but the store-bought powdered version works just as well. Tossing the spaghettoni with the butter constantly at the end of cooking emulsifies the sauce. You'll want inactive brewer's yeast for this recipe. The version from Twinlab has a delicious, funky, umami flavor.
Mezzelune (which means "half-moons" in Italian) is a crescent-shaped stuffed pasta similar to ravioli. They're a relatively simple shape to try that requires little equipment to make at home. Meryl Feinstein of Pasta Social Club fills hers with rosemary and smoked mozzarella. A little semolina flour will give the pasta dough more structure and bite, but feel free to omit it and use the same weight of "00" flour or all-purpose flour. If you can't find smoked mozzarella, another smoked cheese like gouda will work in a pinch. The accompanying thick, rich slow-cooked tomato-and-onion sauce is loosely inspired by a Bolognese classic called il friggione. You'll often find il friggione served with meat, as a side dish, and as an antipasto—but of course it works well with pasta, too.