Who doesn’t love pasta? It has got to be one of the most popular and versatile foods on the planet. I know it’s my favorite! Every ethnic culture I can think of has its own spin on how to prepare and enjoy it. Just for fun, I did a quick Google search for pasta recipes and came up with over twelve million listings. That, dear readers, makes for a helluva lot of pasta dishes! And best of all, most pasta dishes can go from stovetop to tabletop in under an hour.
But, all pasta is not created equal. We all know that the success of any recipe depends on the quality of ingredients used. The kind of pasta product you use can make or break a dish. You can find a few decent brands in the supermarket, and honestly, I often buy them. However, when I really want to make something special and have a few extra bucks in my pocket, I head over to my Italian specialty market and splurge on the fancy imported stuff. It truly does make a difference.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sample an excellent brand of imported Italian pasta that I’ve been hearing a lot about – Garofalo Signature Pasta . The company was kind enough to send me a few different kinds to try. Garofalo has been making pasta for over 200 years, and produces the Signature line from their headquarters in Gragnano, Italy, near the ruins of Pompeii. Gragnano is considered to be the birthplace of pasta. The company combines the art of traditional Neapolitan pasta making with modern technology to create their top quality pasta products. The pastas are made from the finest semolina wheat available, and are created using traditional bronze dies to ensure that the integrity of each cut’s texture is preserved. They offer numerous varieties of short and long cuts, both textured and smooth, so there is something for everyone.
I prepared my pasta with a few very simple, basic sauces, specifically so that the pasta itself would have a chance to shine – and it definitely did. I found that Garofalo pasta is simply one of the best I’ve ever eaten! When cooked al dente, the pasta is firm and slightly toothsome, yet tender. It had none of the “gumminess” that one often finds with other brands. Even sauceless, this pasta had a wonderful flavor.
While there isn’t anyplace here on the Gulf Coast that carries the Garofalo brand of pasta, there are many retailers that carry it around the U.S., including Costco. For a list of where you can buy it, click over to the Garofalo site  and see if it ‘s available in your area. I’ve already asked my local Italian market to stock it and hopefully, they will soon.
Below, I’ve shown the ways that I enjoyed my pasta and given you a few recipes for the sauces I used. I’ve also given you my recipe for a fast and easy pasta salad that is not only delicious, but extremely versatile. I made it vegetarian this time, but I often add different proteins like tuna, grilled shrimp or chicken and even beans to make it a complete meal.
If none of these recipes float your boat, I have lots more that might. Check out the rest of SGCC’s pasta recipes  to find the perfect one for you. Enjoy!
2 cups fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
4 medium sized garlic cloves, finely minced
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste
Put basil and garlic in bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add Parmesan and pine nuts and pulse a few more times. Scrape mixture into a bowl and whisk in olive oil. Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Stir and serve over the pasta of your choice.
Makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta.
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Use canned San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe if you can find them. My local supermarket has recently begun carrying them, so check yours. It makes a difference. Also, make sure you add the salt at the beginning of the cooking process. Salt draws out moisture and will help the sauce thicken and the flavors intensify. This recipe makes enough sauce for one pound of pasta.
1 28 oz. can good quality plum tomatoes, chopped with their juices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste
1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a medium saucepan.
2. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow but steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float freely from the tomato.
3. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and add additional salt as needed.
4. Remove the onion and serve.
Easy Italian-Style Farfalle Salad
I use a good quality bottled salad dressing for this salad. Three of my favorites are Newman’s Own Greek Vinaigrette Dressing , Newman’s Own Parmesan & Roasted Garlic Dressing  and Farmer Boy’s House Recipe Greek Salad Dressing . They are all excellent and I can find each at my local supermarket.
1 pound farfalle pasta
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup frozen sweet peas
1 1/4 cups Italian or Greek salad dressing of your choice.
1 red bell pepper, sliced in thin 1-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced in thin 1-inch strips
3 or 4 scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
Grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. During the last minute of cooking, add the broccoli and frozen peas to blanch. Drain and put in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the salad dressing on the hot pasta and vegetables and toss. This allows the dressing to really permeate the pasta and gives it a lot of extra flavor. Put the pasta mixture in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. When chilled, remove from the fridge and add the peppers, scallions, basil, parsley and mint. Add the remaining 1 cup of salad dressing and toss well. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top if desired.
Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side.