Whether it officially came from China or Italy, there is one thing that absolutely everyone can agree on: Pasta is delicious, in all of its various forms. I have yet to meet a single person who flat out did not like pasta, any sort of pasta, or couldn’t be won over with a few persuasive dinners. Should such a person actually exist out there who refuses to be swayed, I simply don’t want to know them. Satisfyingly toothsome, uncomplicated, laughably easy to prepare, and an ideal blank canvas for every sauce, vegetable, and protein conceivable; what’s not to like? Even the cheapest, mass-produced noodles are happily incorporated into richly sauced dishes without protest. As I stirred $.80/pound pastina into a vat of minestrone one evening, I thus had to ask myself, Is there any merit in seeking out a higher standard in pasta production?
The answer is resolutely “Yes!” Although Pasta Lensi took the pain out of the experiment by providing two bags for trial, I know for sure that this will change my pasta purchasing habits. Touted as “authentic Italian pasta,” Pasta Lensi comes in 16 shapes, some familiar and some novel, each made of simply durum wheat semolina and water. In a food so simple, you can really taste the purity of the ingredients, and these noodles truly allow the golden, slightly toasted and vaguely nutty flavor of wheat to shine though. Instead of being just a bland base, these unique noodles actually have flavor- Imagine that! And like any real food stuffs, these even have expiration dates printed on the bags, which I have never seen on the usual blue boxes that land in my shopping cart.
As soon as I lay eyes on the Gigli, I knew it was destined to support a hearty, full-bodied stew of a dish. Considering the open bottle of red wine in the fridge, it didn’t take long for me glom on to the idea of a mushroom and seitan bourguignon. That incredibly rich, decadent stew is worthy of a post in itself, but for now, I was fixed on how the pasta would hold up. Needless to say, there needn’t have been any doubt in my mind, as the unique shape was perfectly suited to hold that sauce and complement the “meat” of the matter. A seriously satisfying bite, the varied thickness added interest and texture like I hadn’t expected, lending a pleasant density and heft overall.
It wasn’t long before the Trottole made it’s aspirations clear, and I could hear it crying out for a creamy white sauce, much like the traditional spirals in macaroni and cheese. Keeping it simpler and less cheesy, I went for a quick herbed bechamel sauce with broccoli, which was happily held between the springy twists. Who needs cheese, real of faux, when you can make such a luscious sauce out of merely soymilk? For something so potentially pedestrian, it was truly the pasta here that elevated the dish to something worth of dinner party status.
Though fancy shapes may not always be in the budget, it is clear that higher quality basics will always be worth the price, and Pasta Lensi will be at the top of my “splurge” list.