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Andrew Carmellini is the executive chef for A Voce restaurant in New York CIty. In 2000, Carmellini was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. He also won[…]

There’s just something about the mouth feel, Carmellini says.

Question: Why is pasta so good? 

Andrew Carmellini: You know, I think that, you know, there’s a certain mouth feel there, and I think there’s also, you know, the right bowl of pasta takes you back to, you know, being a kid a little bit maybe also because kids love pasta, and it’s-- I don’t know. I mean, that’s just off the top of my head why, you know, people love pasta. Even in this like, you know, with people worried about carbs and, you know, we still sell so much pasta and people enjoy it so much. And it’s really, there’s been a, I mean, pasta in this country has come so far in the last 15 years. I mean, if it’s a small place in Brooklyn or some young guy in Denver that’s like doing Italian food and using like great dried pasta from southern Italy or, you know, making fresh egg-based pasta dishes in all different kind of shapes. I mean, ten years ago you didn’t see calamarata [ph?] on menus, and you didn’t see, you know, trophia [ph?] on menus, you know, these kinds of like very regional pasta shapes, but you do now. And that’s great because, you know, there’s some other, you know, thank God there’s some other variation besides spaghetti and meatballs and linguine and calm sauce, not that I’m knocking them, but, you know, let’s try something different.

Question: Why are the shapes important?

Andrew Carmellini: You know, the shapes, again, I really think about regional kind of aspects of where the shapes come from. You know, Trofia, for example, if you’re not familiar with them, is flour and egg, I mean, a flour and water dough that you kind of just roll in your hand like that and they’re like dense little twisted piece of dough. Usually, you know, it comes from LaGuardia, and you’ll see that with pesto and potatoes and maybe some small green beans. So if I’m going to use that, I’m thinking about that. You know, calamarata are made around Naples so I’m thinking about Naples. That’s really how I kind of think about things. You know, certain shapes capture sauces in a certain way, or there’s a particular preparation that just, I don’t know, it just goes better. You know, when we’re doing a spaghetti with clam dish that had-- we wanted to do kind of a clams Casino thing, you know, the kind of Continental classic of a clam and some peppers, sometimes some pork with some bread crumbs on it, and we said, let’s do a pasta la clams. So we had some roasted stewed peppers, we had some bacon, put a splash of cream in there, lots of fresh clam juice, steamed clams and some bread crumbs, really simple. We were doing the spaghetti and one of my sous-chefs is like, we should be using linguine, I mean, it’s linguine and clam sauce, not spaghetti and clam sauce. And it just, it just tasted better with linguine, just the way the mouth feel, it was like this smooth kind of mouth feel, and it was really not that much of a difference. There is and there isn’t a difference, I mean, spaghetti usually has a more rough edge with the dough and linguine has a very like luscious kind of like mouth feel to it, and that was the way to go.

Recorded: 4/17/08