Spoon Up Sensational Shells with Miso Butter and Scallions

An easy pasta recipe that's ever so creamy -- yet has no cream in it.
An easy pasta recipe that’s ever so creamy — yet has no cream in it.

Not that I need any excuse ever to eat more pasta, but “Anything’s Pastable” sure has me jonesing for it voraciously.

That’s because the new cookbook (William Morrow), of which I received a review copy, is full of creative and craveable pasta dishes, the kind that don’t take all day to put together but are so full of flavor that you’d swear that they did.

The book is by Dan Pashman, a two-time James Beard and Webby Award-winning creator and host of “The Sporkful” podcast, and the host of the Cooking Channel’s “You’re Eating It Wrong.”

This is a man so obsessed with pasta that he actually spent three years to create a brand-new shape, cascatelli, which he swears excels in the most crucial aspects of “forkability,” “sauceability,” and “toothsinkability.”

Named for the Italian word for “waterfalls,” its initial run of 3,700 boxes sold out in less than 2 hours. Not only that, it was named one of the “Best Inventions of 2021” by Time magazine. It’s now a runaway hit, sold online and at retailers that include Whole Foods.

As you can tell, Pashman takes pasta seriously — but also with more than a grain of salt. From the get-go, he makes clear you will not find in this book: a recipe to make fresh pasta from scratch, a 3-hour recipe for tomato sauce, pictures of Tuscany, angel hair pasta, wagon wheel pasta, and any recipe he would not be “extremely excited to make again and eat again.”

What you will find are craveable creations such as “Mac ‘N’ Dal” (yes, Indian lentils jazzing up mac and cheese), “Chili Crisp Tahini Pasta with Fried Shallots,” “Cajun Crawfish Carbonara with Cascatelli,” and “Crispy Gnocchi Salad with Preserved Lemon-Tomato Dressing.”

I do love a good miso pasta because the Japanese fermented soybean paste adds a jolt of saltiness, gentle creaminess, and deep umami flavor, not to mention a backbone of gentle fermentedness. Not only that, a tub in the fridge keeps for a very long time.

In fact, this pasta dish is made with only a handful or so of ingredients, most of them staples that you probably already have on hand all the time.

Emulsifying the sauce on the stovetop.
Emulsifying the sauce on the stovetop.

The sauce is simply a whole lot of sliced scallions cooked in butter and toasted sesame oil, flavored with miso, thickened with pasta cooking water, then emulsified with cold butter, patiently added a tablespoon at a time until creamy and glossy looking.

The sauce gets mixed with cooked pasta shells, then a heap of grated Parmesan. A sprinkle of raw green onions and toasted sesame seeds is the final flourish.

Patagonia Provisions' new organic pasta that's made with only two ingredients.
Patagonia Provisions’ new organic pasta that’s made with only two ingredients.

For the pasta, I used a sample of the new Patagonia Provisions Regenerative Organic Certified Pastas. Made by the food and beverage division of the outdoor clothing and equipment company, these pastas are made from only two ingredients: regenerative organic certified durum wheat flour and regenerative certified Kernza, a wheat-like perennial crop that doesn’t require replanting like traditional grains and thus, helps enrich the soil.

The first thing you notice is the color of the dried pasta — a much darker beige. The second is the flavor — nutty and toasty tasting with a real heartiness.

The 100 percent whole grain pasta has 8g protein, 1.5g total fat, 39g total carbs (7g dietary fiber), 24 mg calcium, 2mg iron, and 246mg potassium per 2/3 cup serving.

Serve with grilled bread or a salad.
Serve with grilled bread or a salad.

You’ll also notice that the boxes are made from 100 percent recycled fiber. In fact, unlike other pasta packages, there is no clear window to view the dried pasta inside, which of course, helps cut down on the excess use of plastic.

Available in shells, fusilli, and penne, the 12-ounce boxes retail for about $6.49 at Whole Foods.

This pasta dish is so creamy — despite no cream. It is emboldened with miso with the lovely nuttiness of sesame. It’s pretty darn cheesy, too.

Use your noodle — and enjoy a bowl tonight.

Tuck into this, and be very happy.
Tuck into this, and be very happy.

Shells with Miso Butter and Scallions

(Serves 4 to 6)

2 tablespoons kosher salt

12 ounces to 1 pound small or medium pasta shells

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

12 scallions, thinly sliced, dark green parts separated

1/4 cup white or yellow miso

1 cup (4 ounces) finely grated Parmesan

Roasted sesame seeds, for serving (see tip)

Bring 4 quarts of water and the salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the low end of the package instructions. Reserve 2 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Immediately return the pasta to the pot, cover, and set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter and the sesame oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook, stirring until the edges just begin to color, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the white and light green parts of the scallions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the scallions have softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water, all but 1/3 cup of the dark green parts of the scallions, and the miso and stir until the miso dissolves, about 30 seconds. Whisking constantly, add the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting for each tablespoon to melt before adding the next.

Pour the miso butter mixture into the pot with the pasta, scraping out the skillet. Place the pot over medium heat, add another 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and stir vigorously until the sauce is glossy and clings to the pasta, 2 to 4 minutes. (If the sauce seems too thick, add more pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time until it’s the consistency of heavy cream and pools slightly at the bottom of the pot. If it looks too thin, continue stirring over the heat until the sauce clings to and coats the pasta.) Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the Parmesan until fully incorporated.

Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl or individual bowls, sprinkle generously with sesame seeds and the reserved scallion greens, and serve.

Sesame Seeds Tip: Most sesame seeds at the grocery store are raw, but you can find packaged roasted sesame seeds at your local Asian market or H Mart, or online. Or you can toast raw sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until golden, shaking the pan often and watching carefully to make sure they don’t burn, 2 to 4 minutes.

Adapted from “Anything’s Pastable” by Dan Pashman

More Miso Pasta Recipes to Enjoy: Creamy Miso Pasta with Shrimp

And: Japanese-Style Tuna Noodle Salad

And: Miso Brown Butter and Crispy Sage Pasta

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