Pasta That Does A Body — And Planet — Good
Pasta has gotten such an unjust bum rap of late.
Too many carbs. Full of gluten. Way too caloric.
Yet few foods are as craveable, comforting, and lusty.
So, go ahead and indulge, especially when it comes to Semolina Artisanal Pasta Upcycled Strozzapreti, a dried pasta that purports to be good not only for your body, but the planet.
That’s because this pasta was made in partnership with ReGrained, the innovative Bay Area company upcycles or reuses spent grain from beer-making and turns it into nutritious new products such as energy bars and snack crisps. ReGrained’s resulting SuperGrain+ — made of barley, wheat, and rye — has more than three times the fiber of wheat flour, and twice the protein of oats.
Leah Ferrazzani of the Semolina Artisanal Pasta company in Pasadena, whose pasta products are beloved by Southern California chefs, took that SuperGrain+ and combined it with her usual semolina to create strozzapreti, the striking elongated, twisted noodle shape. But it took a few fits and tries to get it just right.
“We had to find the right ratio of semolina to SuperGrain+, and extrusion speed, to help maintain texture and shape, and to keep a balanced flavor,” Ferrazzani told me in an email. “The resulting pasta packs a punch — the flavor of the SuperGrain+ isn’t subtle — but it’s something truly unique and special.”
Indeed it is, as I found when I was sent a sample box to try out.
The shape of the pasta is so fun, with its twists perfect for catching whatever sauce used. This is a hearty pasta, owing to its high fiber content. So, don’t be surprised if you end up full before finishing your usual amount of pasta. I so appreciate well-made dried pasta that actually possesses flavor all on its own, and this one certainly does. Even just eaten plain, it is nutty, malty and earthy.
That means it can stand up to sauces both subtle and bold. Ferrazzani loves it tossed with ‘nduja, the spicy Calabrian spreadable pork sausage that she lets melt with a little pasta water and seasons with lemon zest before tossing with the strozzapreti.
I decided to give it a go with “Five-Ingredient Creamy Miso Pasta,” a perfect weeknight recipe from Alexa Weibel in the New York Times.
Think of it as a Japanese-influenced version of Italian cacio e pepe, in which the usual butter, grated Parmesan and pasta cooking water is supplemented with either white or red miso to create a creamy, buttery sauce that hugs each noodle. Instead of cracked pepper, it gets finished with furikake or toasted nori. While the pasta can be enjoyed just like that, I took one of Wiebel’s suggestions and added sauteed shrimp to make it more substantial. Hence, why I changed the name of the dish slightly to reflect that there are now more than five ingredients in it.
Of course, red miso is stronger tasting, and will add a bigger dose of saltiness and fermented funkiness bordering on an Asian black bean-like character. Wanting to let the distinctive taste of the pasta shine through, I opted for white miso, which is much milder.
The taste of the noodles carries through, even coated with the creamy, lightly cheesy sauce, with the nuttiness of the Parmesan marrying well with that of the pasta. The nori and furikake add a subtle taste of the sea, which goes beautifully with the shrimp.
All in all, it makes for a most restorative dish, and a potent reminder of why we all love pasta so much.
Creamy Miso Pasta with Shrimp
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon canola oil
16 ounces spaghetti, linguine, bucatini or strozzapreti
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons white (or red) miso
4 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (1 packed cup)
Kizami nori, furikake or thinly sliced seaweed snacks, for garnish (optional)
Season shrimp with kosher salt. Heat a saute pan on medium-high heat with canola oil. Add shrimp, let sit undisturbed for 1 minute, then flip over and continue cooking another minute or so until barely cooked through. Remove shrimp to a plate and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups pasta water, then drain the pasta.
Add the butter, miso and 1 1/4 cups pasta water to the pot and whisk over medium heat until miso breaks down and liquid is uniform, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pasta and Parmesan and cook, stirring vigorously with tongs until cheese is melted and sauce emulsifies. (The key word here is “vigorously.” To achieve a silky smooth pasta instead of a gloppy one, put your cacio e pepe skills to work.) Lastly, stir in the reserved shrimp.
Divide among shallow bowls and sprinkle with nori or furikake, if using.
Adapted from Alexa Weibel in the New York Times