Flavored pastas offer an alternative to plain semolina flavor. The pasta becomes a different type of flavor component, a key flavor component upon which the other flavors are layered. Here, the flavor of shrimp plays off the Saffron Linguini.
|WHAT IT IS: Artisan “long form” pastas handmade in southern Ohio: angel hair, linguini, fettuccini, tagliarini and lasagna.
|WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Not made from semolina, (ground durum wheat) which is used for all Italian and many fine American pastas, but from a different wheat varietal. This enables the pasta to absorb more of the specialty flavorings in fabrication and provides a silky mouthfeel, while still cooking up al dente.
|WHY WE LOVE IT: With 25 different flavors in rotation at any time (from a repertoire of 50), you can have a different pasta experience almost every night of the month.
|PURCHASE AT: RossiPasta.com.
Noodling It Around
CAPSULE REPORT: You may have read that great pasta is made of semolina, ground durum wheat–consume anything else at your own risk. In fact, in Italy it’s against the law to make pasta from any other grain. We’ve had great semolina pastas; but what if, at the risk of being branded culinary heretics, we sought fine pastas that were not semolina? Rossi Pasta specializes in gently flavored pastas made of a softer red spring wheat that still can be cooked to al dente perfection.
The pastas, mostly linguini and fettuccini with a few other “long cuts,” are available in 25 flavors. While some, like Artichoke and Spinach Basil Garlic, can be found in other brands carried by specialty food stores, others like Black Olive and Vino Rosso (Red Wine) are more rare. For seasonal excitement, there’s Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini. The Asian Tagliarini are a must for Asian-fusion fans. Those who like it hot can have Very Chili Linguini, and for chili heads, the Fire Angel Hair is even hotter, at 90,000 Scoville Units. With this kind of excitement, traditional spaghetti and meatballs seem somewhat related, yet in another galaxy, far far away. Read the full review below.
Five-Star Pasta Books
|The Pasta Bible, by Jeni Wright. Simple, delicious and easy to prepare ahead of time, Wright gives you informative advice on how to whip up a pasta meal according to your own skills sets. Most of the ingredients required are fresh vegetables and cheeses, a sign of authentic Italian cuisine. Click here for more information or to purchase.
|| Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza, Pasta, and More, by Wolfgang Puck. Puck shares the secrets of his famous pizza and pasta recipes. The recipes are easy enough for a novice to follow, and the food photos are inspiring. All can be made with simple, inexpensive ingredients, yet the outcome tastes like it came from one of Puck’s fine restaurants. Click here for more information or to purchase.
||Williams-Sonoma: Complete Pasta Cookbook. This all-occasion book of pasta recipes offers an array of classic dishes and new concepts, whether you’re looking for a weekday meal or a party dish. Each recipe reflects Williams-Sonoma’s classic good taste, and is accompanied by a full-color photograph. Click here for more information or to purchase.
Noodling It Around: Rossi Artisan Pastas
Many people—Italians, certainly—like a chewy pasta. The very term al dente, “to the bite,” implies that the way to eat pasta is in a consistency that offers a little resistance. Overdone pasta is a mushy no-no. That’s why most fine pasta is made of semolina, ground durum wheat (it’s always referred to as grain, never flour, because it’s granular like sugar, not powdery like other milled wheat flours). This hardest of wheats is one that can be boiled to an al dente perfection every time. It has a tolerance such that slight overcooking still retains the chewiness, whereas pastas made from other flours become soft. At least, that’s what the official story says, and by Italian law, since 1967, dried pasta (known officially as pasta di semola di grano duro, or, pasta from hard wheat) must be made with 100% semolina and water. If egg is added to the dough, that’s O.K., but the product must be called egg pasta (pasta all’uovo).
Earlier this year we recommended some magnificent Italian pastas,
but there are other ways of looking at the genre. We’ve enjoyed non-semolina pastas just as much—including Revival Soy pastas
, which boiled up just as al dente
, and only those accustomed to eating Italian pastas nightly would know they weren’t wheat! Now, after weeks of tasting the flavored fettuccinis, linguinis and angel hair pastas of Rossi Pasta, an American artisan pasta maker that does not use durum, we have concluded that semolina isn’t the ultimo parole
(final word) in pasta. Each batch cooked up to an al dente
chewiness; and Rossi’s many flavors provided a creative canvas that turned “a plate of pasta” into “a gourmet creation” with the addition of chicken, seafood or vegetables.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Fettuccini can be served with
any red sauce, or done up Asian-style. Here, it is tossed
with cilantro, scallions, red bell peppers, sesame seeds,
olive oil, a bit of sesame oil and a squeeze of lime, and
served with sliced chicken breast.
For twenty-five years, Rossi Pasta has been making pasta with a much softer and less-refined flour from unbleached red spring wheat. Eggs are used to provide substance to the dough (the entire line is pasta all’uovo). The result is a most elegant texture with an almost silky mouthfeel. The pasta cuts a fine figure on the plate and on the fork, and it’s a favorite of many chefs at fine restaurants nationwide. In fact, the business has grown through the chef grapevine, and the 150-plus recipes on the company website are courtesy of the chefs who use the pasta. The red spring wheat carries flavors better than harder, semolina-based pastas. While flavored pastas are not assertively-flavored to begin with, Rossi flavors are more pronounced than the “so where’s the spinach?” flavors of other many other pastas, that are more color than flavor.
Another benefit of the softer wheat is speed of cooking. The linguini and fettuccini cook in 2 to 4 minutes and 3 to 5 minutes, respectively—far less than the typical 8 to 10 minutes or more required by semolina-based pastas. It may not sound like a big deal, but it’s a pleasure to have the pasta finished in four minutes. The angel hair pasta takes as few as 90 seconds to cook!
The pastas are handmade from the finest-quality, all-natural ingredients. The water is pure spring water, the eggs come from top suppliers. There is a commitment to the highest artisan standards. Last year a new flavor, wasabi pasta, didn’t work to the team’s satisfaction because the real wasabi root in the dough lost its fieriness when the pasta was boiled. The company didn’t even consider reformulating with the faux wasabi that is served in most Japanese restaurants, even though faux wasabi is made of natural ingredients—horseradish and mustard. Why not, when few people know the difference or have ever had real wasabi, and most people think faux wasabi is what wasabi should taste like? Because faux wasabi it isn’t real wasabi.* The flavor was subsequently discontinued.
*For the difference between the two, read our article on Real Wasabi.
Update your carbonara! This one uses Artichoke
Linguini with prosciutto, mushrooms and shaved
Handmade artisan pasta means that every batch begins with an old-fashioned, hand-cranked pasta machine—the kind you would use to make pasta at home. Each small batch is mixed, kneaded and rolled into long sheets, then cut into the different widths and hung to slow-dry. It is hand-harvested and packaged by a person, not by a machine.
The process allows the incorporation of fresh vegetables like morels in the wild mushroom pasta, pumpkin in the pumpkin pasta and other ingredients that would never make it through the usual extrusion die process in which most pastas are produced (even artisan pastas, which use bronze dies instead of teflon ones to provide a better texture). The result is an unusual artisan product. In addition to being a chef favorite, Rossi Pasta is sold by gourmet purveyors like Harry and David, Williams-Sonoma and Neiman Marcus, which has featured Rossi Pasta in their Christmas Catalog for five consecutive years.
There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The unbleached red spring wheat flour from which Ross Pasta is made is less refined and therefore contains more heart-healthy nutrients than most commercially-produced pastas.
In terms of guilt-free dining: pasta and olive oil are foundations of the Mediterranean diet, which comprises foods that are thought to be responsible for the proportionately lower incidence of heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases in Italy and neighboring countries. So, mangia!
Flavors and Cuts
Think of the exciting dinners you can put on the table in minutes, just by cooking up a plate of these pastas and tossing them with butter or olive oil. Add sauce plus chicken, seafood, sausage or kebabs and you’ve got a complete feast! The line comprises four “long cuts”:
- Angel Hair, or capelli d’angelo (cuh-PELL-lee DON-jello), is the thinnest cut of pasta. The long, fine, strands are round. It is best used with thinner, more delicate tomato-based and broth-based sauces (or simply toss with butter or olive oil). Neapolitans serve it with shrimp and vegetables; Ligurians like it with basil pesto; Venetians serve it with creamy asparagus sauce. The Chinese use it in mai fun. Use angel hair for light entrees and side dishes. Any additions—vegetables, seafood, poultry—should be finely chopped to match the delicacy of the strands. You can also break them in half and add them to soup or use them in salads and stir-frys. Because angel hair is so thin, it cooks in less than two minutes if durum, 90 seconds if softer wheat. (Shown, Fire Angel Hair.)
- Fettuccini (feh-too-CHEE-nee), which means “small ribbons” in Italian, is made from flat sheets of pasta cut into ribbon-shape strands (fettucce). It is one of the most popular pasta shapes. Wider than the other favorite flat shape, linguini, this basic noodle provides a better surface for catching sauce. It pairs best with cheese- and oil-based sauces; but cream sauces, tomato sauces, butter and olive oil are commonly served. One of the best-known pasta dishes, Fettuccini Alfredo, has a sauce prepared with cream, butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Fettuccini also can be broken in half and added to soups or salads. (Shown, Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini.)
- Linguini (lin-GWEE-nee), “little tongues,” a narrower version of fettuccini, originated in the Liguria region of southern Italy. It is a narrow, flat version of round spaghetti and is sometimes referred to as flat spaghetti. It is often paired with white or red clam sauce, butter and cheese or cream sauces; but it is so versatile that it works with almost any type of pasta sauce. Pesto al Genovese (basil, pine nuts, pecorino cheese, extra virgin olive oil and garlic) is often served with linguini, as is a sauce made of cream, peas and prosciutto. Linguini is also a good choice for salads and stir-frys. (Shown, Vino Rosso Linguini.)
- Tagliarini (tal-yeh-REE-nee), a flat, wide egg pasta similar to fettuccini, is a thinner version of tagliatelle, the classic egg pasta of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It is traditionally served with butter sauces but is versatile in modern recipes. (Shown, Asian Tagliarini.)
Rossi also makes lasagna sheets.
The company makes more than 50 flavors of pasta. The assortment is always changing as new flavors enter the line and some go on hiatus. About half of the flavors are in rotation at any time. The current selection includes:
- Fire (hot red
- Black Olive
- Italian Spice
- Leek & Garlic
- Very Chili
- Vino Rosso (made with Cabernet
- Whole Wheat
- Wild Mushroom (Morel)
- Lemon Pepper
- Parsley Garlic
- Roasted Red Bell
- Pumpkin Spice
- Spinach Basil Garlic
- Tomato Basil Garlic
- Spinach Basil Garlic
While most of the flavors speak for themselves, we’d like to speak for a few:
- Asian Tagliarini. Garlic, ginger onion and soy sauce unite, perhaps for the first time, in a fusion pasta.
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Perfect for chicken or beef stir-frys or cold noodle salads. Add any and all of the usual Asian ingredients: ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce. Toss with marinated cucumber and onion, garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro for a light vegetarian salad.
- Italian Spice Linguini. For people who enjoy their pasta with just a little butter or olive oil instead of sauce, try this flavor. There’s lots of oregano, with a back palate of rosemary, basil and fennel, that perk up the pasta in a charming way.
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: For a simple yet tasty dinner, toss with sweet butter or extra virgin olive oil, fresh-cracked pepper and freshly grated parmesan, pecorino or romano cheese.
Coconut Curry Chicken with Asian Tagliarini.
- CHEESE TIPS: We have our cheese grated at the store and then freeze it in an airtight container. It defrosts the moment we take a spoonful from the freezer and toss it on the pasta, and the flavor is great. If you like goat cheese, try tossing with Meyenberg Goat Butter—it has the subtle flavor of fresh goat cheese so it provides a layered, two-cheese effect with the aged grated cheese.
- Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini. Made with lots of pumpkin plus pumpkin pie spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves—this pasta smells subtly like pumpkin pie and will make memorable holiday meals. It reminds us of the wonderful unsweetened chocolate fettuccini, almost impossible to find here these days, that is served in northern Italy with game and rich ragùs.
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: With turkey, chicken, duck or game hen. Toss with brown butter and toasted pumpkin seeds. With scallops or sweet Italian sausages topped with Asiago cheese. Over a bed of steamed spinach, drizzled with sage butter. If you’re feeling especially festive, add toasted (or candied) pecans. Or, use the voluptuous sauce in the pumpkin pasta recipe below, Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini With Chicken And Spiced Orange Cream.
- Very Chili Linguini. If you like it hot—if you’re a Pasta Arrabbiata† lover—you’ll enjoy this pasta, served “arrabbiata,” with chicken, beef or seafood, or cold in a pasta salad. If you like it very, very hot, try the Fire Angel Hair—but be warned, it has 90,000 Scoville units of heat. (As a basis of comparison, regular Tabasco® sauce has about 5,000 Scoville units. The Fire Angel Hair approaches habañero and Scotch bonnet territory.)
You can crumble either Very Chili or Fire Angel Hair and use it uncooked as a crunchy garnish in a taco salad. The moisture of the salad will soften the dry pasta a bit, and it will be a riff on very hot, crunchy fried Chinese noodles.
†Arrabbiata is a classic tomato, basil and garlic sauce to which a hot chile is added—generally a Thai or serrano—finely chopped, including the seeds. The word means “angry” in Italian.
The most popular flavor is Spinach Basil Garlic Fettuccini, followed by Tomato Basil Garlic Fettuccini, Wild Mushroom Linguini and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Fettuccini. Whole Wheat Linguini saw the largest growth last year. But don’t let others choose for you: a large percentage of Rossi’s sales come from restaurants, and these flavors are indicative of what will sell best on restaurant menus. Follow the beat of your own culinary drum.
As befitting an artisan pasta company, Rossi has a line of pasta sauces, also made from from all-natural ingredients: Artichoke, Marinara, Mushroom, Portobello, Sun-Dried Tomato and Vodka. In addition to topping pasta, the sauces can be used, variously, for:
- Dipping bread and vegetables, mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders
- Parmigianas, meatballs and any dish requiring a good tomato sauce
We’ve tasted a lot of tomato sauces and don’t most worth mentioning. These are.
The Rossi Pasta website has many pasta recipes, as noted earlier, largely contributed by the professional chefs who use the pasta. But, they don’t require advanced cooking skills. The majority of the recipes are “universal,” applicable to any of the pasta varieties.
Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini With Chicken And Spiced Orange Cream
This recipe from Rossi Pasta was a hit at THE NIBBLE offices—absolutely out-of-this-world delicious, very special and very rich. The Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini adds more richness. The same preparation can be used with Rossi’s Classic (plain) Fettuccini.
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast
- Salt and freshly-ground pepper
- 5 tablespoons grated orange rind (from about 3 to 4 medium oranges), divided (1 tablespoon reserved for garnish)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 pound (about 2 links) sweet Italian
sausage, casing removed
Guanciale, pancetta or prosciutto can be
substituted if you have it
- 5 tablespoons chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec et al)
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
- 2 cups heavy cream
Fresh nutmeg makes a huge difference—it’s become
one of our favorite versatile spices. We use it to
enhance vegetables, pasta, eggs, desserts, hot
chocolate, coffee and of course, egg nog. You
can grate nutmeg with a regular plane grater or a
special nutmeg grinder (like a peppermill for nutmegs).
If you’ve ever tried to grate something small with a
plane grater, you’ll know why we love our no muss,
no fuss (and no injuries) nutmeg grinder.
Here’s our favorite nutmeg grater.
- 1 package (12 ounces) Rossi Pasta Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini
For Garnish (Optional)
- Twist of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon reserved grated orange rind
- Whole sage leaves
- Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large bowl, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add 2 tablespoons of the orange rind. Turn the chicken breasts in the mixture and lightly massage it into the meat to coat thoroughly. Let the chicken marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, leaving the orange rind intact, and grill or sauté the meat for about 5 minutes on each side (an instant-read thermometer should register 165°F when done). Cover the chicken and keep warm.
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the sausage, crumbling it with a fork or spatula, until it is well-browned. Slightly lower the heat and add the onion, shallot and garlic; sauté until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the orange liqueur, 2 tablespoons of grated orange rind, the cinnamon, nutmeg and sage. Whisk in the orange juice. Add to the sausage and onion mixture, raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 to 8 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Add the cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick and creamy. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.
- Meanwhile, cook the Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini according to package directions, about 4 to 5 minutes; drain well.
- To serve, evenly divide the fettuccini among 4 serving plates. Slice the chicken breasts on the diagonal and fan out the slices on top of the pasta. Evenly spoon the sauce over each serving. If desired, garnish each plate with some of the reserved orange rind, a twist of freshly grated nutmeg and whole fresh sage leaves.
Pair with a fruity wine, such as a beaujolais or pinot noir.
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The Final Twirl
The Rossi Pasta factory is located on the Ohio River Levee in downtown Marietta, Ohio, a graceful town of tree-lined brick streets, trolley tours and old-fashioned showboats located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers (the Ohio River separates the states of Ohio and West Virginia). If you’re in the neighborhood, do drop in for a factory tour.
FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves pasta (isn’t that everybody?).
PASTAS: Angel Hair, Fettuccini, Lasagna and
Tagliarini in 50 rotating flavors
SAUCES: Artichoke, Marina, Mushroom,
Portobello, Sun-Dried Tomato and Vodka
- Pasta, 12-Ounce Package
$5.25 To $5.65 For Flavored Pastas
$4.95 For Unflavored Pastas
$42.50 Per 10-Pound Box
- Pasta Sauces
$5.95 Per 15.5-Ounce Bottle
Savings On Multiples
- Pasta Gift Boxes
$18.95 To $39.95
- Gift Baskets & Sets
$22.95 To $129.95
Purchase online at RossiPasta.com
Prices and flavor availability are verified at
publication but are subject to change.
Shipping is additional.
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Above, the Festive Flavors Gift Box combines
pastas and sauces with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Below, the Seven Pasta Sampler treats the pasta
to a different flavor every night for a week!
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