The story how I became a pastaholic has been told before. The more likely reason includes a French aunt who made me pasta for dinner when I was little to comfort me when my parents were away. The more charming story is that I was probably conceived in Venice so there was no way I could grow up with anything other than a deep-rooted obsession with pasta.
And yes, I love noodles too - read my ode to a noodle and where to find the best pad thai in Bangkok here - but there is nothing more comforting to me than proper pasta. Wheat, gluten and copious amounts of parmesan cheese included. I dare say I am one of the few who will actually put parmesan on seafood pasta and while I know this is an Italian no-go I don't really care. I love parmesan so much that I broke up with a boyfriend once over parmesan cheese or rather over his underappreciate of it so there!
I eat pasta when I am sad, when I am happy and when I feel anything in between. My favorite pasta dish is my dad's morel ravioli which was one of his staples when he and my mum were entertaining. They are a ridiculous amount of work but quite frankly there is nothing better than homemade ravioli and morels. And yes, I am spoiled like this. In fact, I love them so much that I usually get a packet for Christmas.
Whether fresh or store bought, I am a pasta snob and will rarely eat pasta when I go to a restaurant unless I am in Italy. I just know I can make better pasta at home unless you count the not so glorious occasion when I went mushroom hunting in Cape Town with my friends and the mushroom sauce I made first turned blue and then slimy. But usually, I am really good with pasta and have yet to kill someone with my sauce (I was told mushrooms turning blue is a sure sign of poison).
While I can remember a lot of memorable dishes I have eaten over the years on my travels (read about the best pizza in the world and its surprising location here), there are literally only a handful of memorable pasta dishes I have eaten. Actually, make that six thanks to my lunch today! So in case you are a sucker for a good pasta dish, travel around and like a recommendation or two this post is for you: I am sharing my personal 6 best pasta dishes from around the world.
The best Pasta Dishes in the World
1. Rigatoni Pitti at Bar Pitti - New York
Bar Pitti used to be one of my favorite restaurants while I lived in New York. A typical Italian with lots of charm and flavors to back it up. I was delighted when I returned to New York a few years ago and the place was still there and still going strong (too strong if you are not into queuing for a table because they don't accept reservations).
Their best dish is called Rigatoni Pitti which come with a creamy tomato sauce, peas, turkey or chicken mince, and a waiter on standby to grind fresh parmesan over your plate. As many times as you want!
While this is a relatively simple recipe to recreate I have unfortunately never come close to the original which makes this dish yet another excellent reason to visit New York.
Bar Pitti - 268 6th Ave, New York
2. Seafood Linguini at Skipper's - Alonissos, Greece
I get in trouble when I am invited to write about food in certain places because, to be honest, I am such a creature of habit. After trying the seafood linguini at Skipper's in Alonissos I knew I had to come back and eat it again immediately. With utter restraint, I didn't return for dinner but only for lunch the next day.
The linguini is creamy, tomato-y, and full of saffron flavors and the seafood is incredible: juicy prawns, tender octopus, and calamari. And yes, they give you parmesan if you ask nicely (not that the dish would need any improvement).
Don't forget to pair it with a glass of rosé or two and maybe skip breakfast so you can also have a slice of cheesecake with olive marmalade for dessert.
Skipper's - Patitiri Waterfront, Alonissos
3. Truffle Pasta at Greppia - Verona, Italy
Can we discuss my dad's spaghetti slurping skills? And also, how tiny is my portion?! I am not complaining about the amount of truffle but I think I was right ordering a second plate.
When I went to Verona with my dad a few years ago, he went for the opera and I went to eat my bodyweight in truffle pasta. The best one I had was at Greppia. It was perfection on a plate and had only one problem: it was a tiny portion (this being Italy where pasta is basically considered a starter). Simple solution - I just ordered a second plate and the waiter didn't even blink an eye when I jokingly said I wanted a third one. I guess I wouldn't have been the first, their pasta is just that good.
In case you are doubtful if truffles are your thing you should just give them a chance next time you are in Italy or a country where truffles can be found. Just don't make the mistake to think that truffle oil is an adequate representation of their flavor (it isn't and in fact, most truffle oil is quite vile).
Greppia - Vicolo Samaritana, 3, Verona
4. Ricotta Ravjul at Pebbles - Gozo, Malta
This is my latest addition to the list and my belly is still full and warm from the ricotta ravjul aka ravioli I just ate for lunch in Gozo. The so-called Maltese ravioli are filled with ricotta and served in a lovely fresh tomato sauce.
The dough is quite thick and the ravioli themselves are bigger than their Italian counterpart here but this is exactly how I like to make my ravioli (and I am not just saying that because I am too lazy to make small, delicate ones!). The combination is really simple but utterly delicious and just the perfect meal to eat by the sea when the sun is shining.
Pebbles, Marsalforn Beach promenade, Gozo
5. Gluten-free pasta at Bottega Italiana - Seminyak, Bali
While Bali is not short of great restaurants and eateries, finding a decent pasta (not a noodle) dish was always a bit tricky. Luckily there is Bottega Italiana now, which offers fresh pasta with a variety of sauces. All of them are quite good but they made it onto this list for their gluten-free pasta. Usually, gluten-free pasta tends to be ranging from 'cardboard-ish' to 'okay if we drown it in sauce and cheese' and I didn't even know that fresh gluten-free pasta was even a thing.
This one is not only distinctively un-cardboard-ish but also has all the great qualities of a fresh pasta. And best of all - you can have it with all the sauces on offer.
I dare say it is so good that even eaters like myself who are not gluten-intolerant may prefer it to their other kinds of pasta.
Bottega Italiana - Jl. Petitenget No.777, Seminyak
6. Sea Urchin Spaghetti - Cape Town
My last and favorite pasta dish of the world, unfortunately, is no more at least the restaurant where I first ate it isn't. But I want to tell you about it if only to inspire you to try something new next time you find yourself in a place with fresh seafood: sea urchin pasta also known as pasta con ricci.
I ate this dish a long time ago in Cape Town at an Italian place which name I can't even recall. But I will always remember their plate of perfectly cooked pasta with slushy sea urchin on top.
In case you haven't eaten sea urchin before - it looks and feels a bit like slimy caviar. Yeah, I know I am not making it sound very nice but trust me, the taste makes up for it because sea urchin tastes like ocean: salty, fresh, fishy, umami. It is hard to describe (and even harder to make it sound appealing) but if you try it you will know what I mean. It tastes like a day at the ocean makes you feel.
P.S. Sorry, but I have yet to find great vegan pasta recipes - any recommendation? Any recommendations in general? I am willing to travel for a great plate of pasta and far if necessary. Where have you eaten the best plate of pasta in your life?