Ron Suhanosky, Colleen Marnell-Suhanosky
with Susan Simon
Sfoglia, Italian for an uncut sheet of pasta, is an apt name for the Nantucket and New York City restaurants of chefs Ron and Collen Suhanosky.
With their Renaissance-inspired menus featuring sweet and savory flavored sauces enrobing egg-rich pastas, the acclaimed restaurants have earned their place in the hearts and stomachs of their clientele.
Even former NY Times food critic, Frank Bruni, whose reviews were renowned for their pungency, was mellowed by a meal at Sfoglia NYC.
A dish of pasta this fantastic, its sauce of cream and vin santo applied with restraint and leavened cunningly by shredded carrot, convinces a person that whatever path led him to it should be embraced more often. In this case the impulse to enjoy an unhurried midday meal had taken me there. That, and the very lucky decision to enjoy that meal at Sfoglia.
Now after a decade and more of mastering their craft, the Suhanoskys have developed a cookbook. With 111 recipes - including the Fusilli, Guanciale, Carrots, Vin Santo and Cream that Bruni admired in his 2007 review - PASTA sfoglia gives guidance to the home cook.
Master recipes for fresh egg pasta, gnocchi, crespelle (thin Italian crepes), and brodo (a hybrid cross between stock and broth) are the foundation of this beautifully staged cookbook. Included also are recipes for ingredients Sfoglia pasta dishes rely upon: Limoncello, a lemon infused liqueur made in nearly every seaside Italy village, preserved lemons, and goat's milk cheese.
The two-page section detailing how to roll and cut pasta for various shapes is as precise as can be, but suffers from a lack of illustration. I would have liked to see the process through the lens of food photographer Ben Fink, whose gorgeously styled photographs tell the unwritten story throughout this cookbook.
A shared passion for the Italian cooking of their youths is evident in PASTA sfoglia. One of the sublime pleasures of this cookbook is reading the personal notes, the intimate experiences, of the couple's food journey. The reader gets a glimpse of big family dinners and working stages in Italian kitchens as well as insights about a centuries old cuisine and way of eating that is as much an art as it is a lifestyle.
Each recipe is prefaced by a short passage, which is one part inspiration and technique, one part memoir, that provides readers with the hidden nature of how the recipe evolved. In the recipe, Ricotta, Prunes, Walnuts, Fazzoletti, and Valpolicella Sauce, the couple tells us the filling for these plump fazzoletti - literally handkerchiefs - were the Valpolicella wine-soaked prunes dipped in chocolate they ate while traveling in Verona.
Organized in six sections - master recipes, fresh pasta, dry pasta, filled pasta, gnocchi and grains, which the Suhanoskys consider as "cousins of the more traditional pastas" - the cookbook builds on the basics. Ron Suhanosky, who says he dreams about pasta, simplifies the process of making fresh pasta by using a food processor to blend the dough and an electric pasta maker to roll out the sheets of dough. "Fresh pasta is something special, but something not just for special occasions'," he writes in urging home cooks Niente paura or Have no fear.
The authors provide an extensive and detailed list of resources for necessary specialty products as well.
What makes this cookbook indispensable is its wide range of pastas and sauces as well as its insider tips for creating memorable meals. The book takes the terror out of making fresh pasta and details inventive ways of using ingredients in sauces, which for the time-pressed may be combined with either store-bought fresh or dry pastas.
Condensed from PASTA sfoglia
Serves 4 – 6
FUSILLI, GUANCIALE, CARROTS, VIN SANTO, CREAM
original idea was to make a carrot salad with guanciale. Then I thought
about pasta – just because pasta is always the first thing I want to
eat. This recipe is kind of a spin off of carbonara because of the
crispy guanciale and creamy sauce.
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
1/2 pound diced guanciale (see resources)
3 medium-large carrots, peeled and finely shredded, yield approximately 2 cups
1/2 cup vin santo or Malvasia
1 pound good quality fusilli
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the grape seed oil and
guanciale to a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the
guanciale has rendered it fat,is deep gold and crispy, 6 – 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Pour off all but 1/4 cup of the fat.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook until they have wilted, 2 – 3 minutes. Add the vin santo and reduce to 1/4 cup.
Add the fusilli to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.
Add the heavy cream to the skillet and reduce by half, about 10-12 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup pasta water to the sauce. Use a wire mesh skimmer to remove
the pasta 2 minutes before cooking is complete and place it directly
into the skillet. Toss to thoroughly coat the pasta and cook for the
remaining 2 minutes.
Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.