Gary asks: Is it completely taboo to mix different kinds of pastas? Cook spaghetti with linguini and that sort of thing? I generally make 3/4 of a box at a time and eventually I’m left with a little of a lot, which I never use.
Tony’s take: Good question, Gary. Not sure there is a right answer here, but I say mix and match; not only because I loathe throwing anything away (especially pasta), but also because the Italians have already kind of figured out this scenario. Maltagliati is the generic term for mis-shapen or uneven pieces of pasta. Traditionally, maltagliati consisted of the leftover scraps from homemade pasta, though all sorts of flat (or broken-up) pieces will fit the preparation. The favored pairing for mismatched pastas are hearty Italian sauces or soups in which the noodles lack of symmetry happily gets lost in the fray (think pasta e fagioli). I say break up your varied dried noodles or smaller shapes, stir them into the warming recipe below, and you won’t be disappointed.
– Size and sauce: It’s impossible to cook different shapes of pasta uniformly in the same pot at the same time. The goal then is to bridge the differences. Start by breaking the noodles into approximately the same size. To test this recipe, I used a handful (approximately 4 oz. each) of spaghetti, tagliatelle, and fusilli, breaking the long noodles in half so they were about the same size as the fusilli. If any of the noodles have a significantly longer cook time (ie: spaghetti vs. angel hair), you can drop them in the water a minute or two ahead of time. Then, it’s on to saucing.
– Building on pasta e fagioli: Pairing the pasta with a brothy sauce allows you to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce, so it picks up flavor as all of the noodles coast to tenderness (it’s ok if some overcook a bit). This sauce is like a saucier version of a minestrone. The beans and sausage are good and hardy, but that puts the focus more on them and less on the variability of the pasta.
THE RECIPE (Serves 6)
1. Sear the sausage: Heat a heavy-based pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat for 1 ½ minutes. Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and, once it’s shimmering hot, 1 lb. Italian sausage (about 4 links, cut into 1-inch pieces). Cook, undisturbed, until the sausage browns and easily releases from the pot, about 3 min. Flip and cook, until the sausage browns on the other side, about 2 more min. Transfer to large plate using a slotted spoon.
2. Braise the vegetables and greens: Reduce the heat to medium, add another 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 garlic clove (minced) and 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds so they sizzle steadily and becomes fragrant. Add 1 red onion (finely diced), 1 large carrot (1/2-inch dice), and 2 ribs celery (1/2-inch dice) and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften and brown in places, about 6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white wine (or red wine) and cook, stirring to incorporate any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, until the liquid almost completely cooks off, 1 to 2 min. Add one 14-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (break up the tomatoes with your fingers), one 14-oz. can cannellini beans (rinsed well), 3/4 cup chicken broth (or water) and 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stir in the reserved sausage, 3 cups kale (washed thinly sliced) and cook, stirring, until the vegetables become completely tender and the sausage cooks through, about 15 minutes. Season generously with S+P to taste.
3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in a generous sprinkling of kosher salt, add 3/4 lb. pasta (any mix of noodles broken into 1- to 2-inch pieces), and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta becomes tender but is still a little toothy, about 10 minutes. Drain well.
4. Simmer the pasta and beans together: Add the drained pasta to the sauce, set over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring until the pasta becomes uniformly tender (it’s ok if some pieces get soft), about 2 or 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmigiano and some more black pepper and serve.