Pasta and its myriad shapes and sizes were a mystery to me, until I did a little sleuthing. I discovered there are practical reasons for every length and shape of pasta. The prime consideration is what do you want your noodle to do? Do you need a sauce delivery device? Do you want it shy and retiring, lending a perfect al dente wallpaper to vegetables swimming in a thin broth? Or is the pasta you seek a showstopper, the star of the meal.
Whichever shape you choose is important; there is calculated intent behind each creation, because they are designed for optimum dining pleasure. Once you’ve selected the shape, there is the challenge of deciphering what all the names mean. One source names 93 pasta varieties, of which there are at least another two hundred names branching off from there. It’s because, in Italy, creating a meal is akin to creating a work of art, and eating art is the best way to celebrate life. Every Nona has her special pasta formation, or several, each to be enjoyed as it was meant to be, paired with the appropriate sauce.
That’s why Borsetti — little purses — are also known as Fiocchetii, depending on where you hail from. Both look the same, round dough circles bunched up into small bags; both hold minuscule amounts of cheese or ground meats. The point is, they’re both a little different, a bit quirky, in the pasta lineup. They add that cute “ahhhh” factor to any meal, because it is a pasta that is unlike any standard shape. It is not a tube, it is not ravioli.
I enjoy bringing Borsetti to the table for their uniqueness. They add a weighty undertone to a brodo, or broth, and they contribute a welcome unexpected quality to dinner at home. Here, try them with a light and easy sauce of broth, a splash of half and half, and anise-flavored tarragon.
2 (10 oz) packages Borsetti
Note: find Borsetti at your local grocery store in the refrigerated pasta section. Use by the date on the label, or freeze until you need them. Prepare fresh, or if frozen, let defrost on the counter for about an hour before cooking.
2 T grapeseed oil, plus oil for pasta and grilling chicken
1 cup zucchini ribbons, from one large zucchini
Prep Note: Using a potato peeler, strip green outer skin off zucchini. Peel strips off vegetable, until reaching seed core. Reserve core of zucchini for another use. Slice strips in half lengthwise.
1 1/2 cup frozen peas, slightly defrosted
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup half and half
3 T fresh tarragon leaves (or 1 T dried tarragon)
1 whole boneless chicken breast, grilled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
Note: brush chicken with oil. Grill over medium-high heat for first five minutes, then reduce to medium and turn breasts every five minutes until chicken juices run clear, about 20-30 minutes. Remove to clean plate and let rest for 10 minutes before dicing.
salt and pepper to taste
Bring water to boil in large pot for Borsetti. Add pasta and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to bowl. Pour out water from pot. Toss Borsetti gently with 1-2 T olive oil to prevent sticking.
Using same pot, warm oil until shimmering. Add zucchini ribbons and peas, stirring for 2 minutes. Add broth and wine, increasing heat so mixture is bubbling on low. Add half and half and tarragon. Stir to combine.
Return diced chicken to sauce, stirring gently to coat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve sauce over Borsetti in bowls. Serves 4.
When I asked Stephanie Davis, The Wine Heroine from Winacea, what wine would best accompany this light and tasty pasta dish, she felt that the recipe called for a refreshing white wine with zip and subtle herb-veggie notes. Stephanie recommends a dry Furmint from Hungary. A late-ripening grape varietal from the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region, Disznoko’s Dry Furmint has great texture and expression. It’s just the answer if you’re feeling adventurous with white wine!
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Award-winning Chick Lit author Emily Kemme writes about the quirks of human nature. Find musings, recipes, and satire on her blog, Feeding the Famished. Novels | Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage | In Search of Sushi Tora | Other works in progress