The menu changes daily at Allswell, but there's almost always a pasta on the menu. Many of them are vegetarian, and all of them are delicious. One of my favorites is the sweet potato agnolotti: plump little pockets of pasta filled with a creamy sweet potato purée.
Babbo may have seasonal specials, but there's a pasta dish that's on the menu year-round: garganelli with funghi trifolati. It's a deceptively simple dish: fresh pasta tubes are tossed with earthy mushrooms, butter, parsley, and black pepper. The sum in this case is definitely more than its parts, making for a rich and satisfying plate of simple pasta done well.
One of the specialties at Brucie is the tagliatelle with burrata, Brussels sprouts, and tomato butter. The burrata is rich and creamy, and the Brussels sprouts are charred, making a great contrast for each other, while the tomato butter is so good you'll want to eat it with a spoon like soup.
Lidia Bastianich cultivates an image of rustic Italian grandmother on her show, but her restaurant Felidia has a more sophisticated air. One of the regular pasta dishes that showcases this is known simply as Cacio e Pere (a play on the more familiar cacio e pepe). These are plump ravioli stuffed with pear and pecorino cheese. Only slightly sweet, the pears make a nice match for the cheese and the black pepper.
The ortolana pasta at Max SoHa is the dish that made me change my mind about whole wheat pasta. The pasta is cooked to just as good an al dente texture as any refined flour version, and topped with flavorful seasonal veggies.
Scarpetta is probably best known for its $24 spaghetti with tomato sauce, but they have a whole vegetarian menu featuring great pastas. They include items like this tagliatelle with truffle zabaglione and seasonal vegetables. The rich and frothy zabaglione is added table-side.
Mezzogiorno has a handful of pastas, but my favorite is the fazzoletti al rosmarino con cannellini. Fazzoletti are little "handkerchiefs" of pasta, and in this case they are flavored with rosemary and a little bit of tomato, then topped with cannellini beans. The rough cut of the pasta and the use of beans for protein hints at the history of pasta itself, a frugal way to make cheap ingredients go further in a meal.
Although Perbacco gets a lot of press for culinary experiments like their creme brulee of parmigiano, their simple pastas are where they really shine. One such example is the pizzoccheri, short twists buckwheat pasta paired with cabbage, potato, and cheese.
Po has been going strong for years, and the white bean ravioli is fantastic. The dense and creamy interior is a treat, and the brown butter and balsamic sauce is just as intriguing. I’m used to the acidity of lemon or wine, but balsamic vinegar makes for a great sauce.