While it may seem like I eat out at restaurants every night of the week, the truth is far from that. Most nights of the week I cook and eat dinner at home, but as much as I love to cook from scratch, there are plenty nights when the thought of coming home from work and slicing, dicing, sautéing and baking is the last thing I want to do. However there are not many options for pre-made food, takeaway or delivery that are made with quality produce, not packed full of chemicals, fat and salt and that actually taste good. That is why I am so happy to have found Pasta Classica, and now I am kicking myself that it took me so long! If you follow me on Twitter you will know that their delicious pasta has been very popular on my table lately.
Run by the Tonin family, the heritage goes back to Vittoria and Fidelio (Elio) Tonin who opened the original Smith Street restaurant, Mamma Vittoria, where their son Robert worked. Robert went on to open Pasta Classica with his wife Anna Maria, and now his son and daughters also work in the business. While the focus is still on traditional flavour combinations, son Daniel is the imagination behind some more contemporary flavours (Squid ink gnocchi filled with lobster, prawns & scallops anyone? Sounds delicious!).
A walk past the shop window will give you a double-take with all the colours and shapes of pasta on show, drawing you in. Deciding what to buy is the hardest part: goat’s cheese with lemon zest; confit chicken, mushroom and roasted garlic angelotti; or confit duck & roasted baby beetroot tortelloni? Or you can buy them all and freeze them like I do for when you just want to sit back on the couch with a glass of wine and not worry about slaving in the kitchen; I have a rotolo (think a pasta version of a roulade) filled with mushroom, fresh parsley, mozzarella & black WA truffle waiting for just such a night.
One of the highlights has been taking a lot of the effort out of a Friday night dinner party, with Pasta Classica taking care of the main (ravioli filled with pumpkin, leek, gruyere and a kick of chilli), so I could focus on whipping up some antipasti and salads (and chatting and having a wine or three). This is the kind of pasta that is so good you do not need any fussy sauces to go with it, a simple brown butter sauce with a squeeze of lemon or a chopped tomato at the end is all you need (see down the bottom of this page for a quick recipe for brown butter sauce).
The biggest rule I live by is that I want to buy and eat food made by passionate, amazing people, whether it is at a restaurant, farmer’s market or a shop. If it is not made with love then why bother. The Tonin family are some of the most passionate and friendly people you will ever meet (on my first visit to the shop I ended up having antipasti and espresso and chatting to Robert and Daniel), and you will find yourself being a loyal regular before you know it. So next time you are feeling like a quick, easy and delicious meal then swing by Smith Street and pick up a selection of pasta.
Brown Butter Sauce
The secret to this is to use proper butter, so forget about those supermarket brands, and get yourself some Myrtleford or Pepe Saya butter (trust me, you will never go back to supermarket butter).
Also, only start this just as you are about to serve the pasta, have the pasta either draining or almost ready to drain.
1. Put the butter in a saucepan.
You will find a stainless steel-coloured pan will be best, as a black pan will make it impossible to see the butter change colour.
2. On a medium heat, use a whisk to move the butter around as it melts.
You can always pull the pan off the heat if it is getting a bit hot.
Over a couple of minutes the butter will melt, foam up a bit and then settle down again.
Around now you will probably want to turn the heat down to low.
3. Keep whisking gently and keep your eye on the little specks (the milk solids) floating in the liquid to start turning brown.
You are looking for them to turn a nice dark brown colour, but not to go black or for the pan to start smelling burnt (if it is burnt then just throw it out and start again).
4. When they are dark brown, then you are done.
Just take it off the heat and spoon over your pasta.
Or at this stage you could add a bit of flavour:
- Squeeze of fresh lemon (it might spit a little, so keep your hands away)
- Some fresh sage leaves that will crisp up
- Fresh tomato (skinned, cored and diced up)
- Some capers