Call it a sort of culinary synchronicity. It seems that many recently opened Atlanta restaurants are featuring house-made pasta in a bigger way these days.
Writing the First Look feature for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution every week, I’ve certainly noticed the trend among a spate of newer, often rustic-leaning, Italian places.
At Allora, in Twelve Hotel Midtown at Atlantic Station, executive chef Chris Maher explores classic Italian dishes, often augmented with contemporary techniques and seasonal ingredients.
“My big focus is on the pastas,” Maher says. “You’ll see a lot of infused flavors in the pasta doughs and some different things. One of the dishes we did is a Cacio e Pepe, which is a classic, and very simple.”
At Bar Americano in Buckhead, executive chef Adam Waller comes to pasta with a deep background in Italian cuisine, having previously worked in the kitchens at Sotto Sotto, STG Trattoria, and Bocado.
“Here, we’re going for a neighborhood feel, with classic Italian-American food,” Waller says. “So you’ll see meatballs, and pretty straightforward ravioli, rigatoni and cannelloni.”
Nearby in Buckhead, St. Cecilia has been around a lot longer. And executive chef Craig Richards, who also serves as vice president of culinary operations for Ford Fry Restaurants, has taken a deep dive into Italian cooking by traveling around Italy and working in kitchens there.
Richards’ take on Cacio e Pepe, made with tagliolini, pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano and coarse pepper, is mainstay of the menu.
And filled pastas, like ravolini with burrata, smoked trout roe and crispy prosciutto, and agnolotti with red wine braised beef short rib and Parmigiano crema, are beloved by regulars.
“At the restaurant, we have two people who just make agnolotti every day,” Richards says. “We sell a lot seafood and other things, but some nights it’s just all pasta.
“Being over the pasta program from the beginning, it was about developing a dough that’s fresh and resilient and can travel throughout the kitchen, and basically hold up during service, really.”
With that in mind, I asked Richards if he could help home cooks get with this house-made pasta thing.
He obliged by offering a simple recipe for fresh egg pasta dough, along with two pasta dishes to make with it.
“The dough is super simple and classic,” Richards says. “At work, we talk a lot about hydration ratios in pasta. This one comes out a little wetter than you’d think, which works out really well once you start rolling it out. There’s a good amount of egg to flour. And it just makes it softer.
“Wood boards work great for texture and kneading and rolling out the dough. But it’s a feel thing. Basically, you want it just past the point of sticking to your hand. And you need to rest it for 30 minutes to let the gluten settle down a little bit.”
Richards’ first recipe to make with the dough is an artichoke and ricotta ravioli, flavored with lemon, Pecorino Romano, Parmigano Reggiano and mint, and paired with a simple butter sauce that allows the pasta to shine through.
“I think the lemon is really important to bring out the artichoke. The ricotta adds the fat. The Pecorino Romano brings out a bit of that sheep’s milk funk. The Parmigano Reggiano has that milky rich flavor.
“We don’t think about the sauce that much,” Richards says. “ We think about the fillings and the shape and how you want it to feel in your mouth. The sauce just kind of follows suit. Our sauces always start with pasta water and butter and go from there.”
Richards’ other fresh take is the St. Cecilia Cacio e Pepe, a minimalist “cheese and pepper” pasta that calls for few ingredients but delivers big, rich flavor.
“The great thing about this dish is the simplicity. It’s the sum of the parts. Toasting the black peppercorns gives you floral flavors. You get the fat from the butter and cheese. It’s just a classic Roman pasta. And it’s so easy to make.”
These recipes from executive chef Craig Richards of St. Cecilia in Atlanta teach home cooks how to make a basic fresh egg pasta dough and turn it into two favorite dishes from the restaurant’s kitchen.
St. Cecilia Kitchen Pasta Dough
This surprisingly easy fresh-egg pasta recipe can be used and re-used in any number of dishes, from tagliatelle to ravioli. For best results, use 00 flour, the freshest eggs you can find, and extra virgin olive oil.
St. Cecilia Kitchen Artichoke Ravioli
This artichoke and ricotta ravioli is delicately flavored with lemon, Pecorino Romano, Parmigano-Reggiano and mint, paired with a simple butter sauce that allows the pasta to shine through.
St. Cecilia Kitchen Cacio e Pepe
This “cheese and pepper” pasta is a minimalist dream dish that calls for a small number of ingredients but delivers a big, rich flavor and silky mouth feel.