A Peg City pasta guide: Because sweatpant season is upon us
Break out that red and white checkered tablecloth and that empty chianti bottle candle holder because we just broke out the Thesaurus for the word toothy.
That’s right, it’s a pasta list! Our third instalment for “the November month of carbs so we can eat our feelings – via takeout – during Code Red.”
This one was super fun to research, particularly because we knew it could all be done at home in the comfort of our sweatpants.
If you have the means during this tough time please get your takeout order ready, because here are 10 of our favourite pasta dishes/places in the city, so many of which are making the dough in-house – just like nonna!
Harth Mozza and Wine Bar - Hand-rolled pasta is all about mixing local ingredients with traditional techniques, and you really can taste the effort. Try the agnolotti, which delicately wraps up creamy local squash that pairs perfectly with the tangy walnuts on top. The flavour lingers from start to finish as it’s generously coated in pesto bianco giving it more than a little zest. These plates are perfect for sharing (only within your household, of course) so you’ll want to double up on these dishes.
Cafe Carlo - If you’re familiar with any of Cafe Carlo’s pastas, chances are it’s the Fett Chile you’ve tried (then tried again and again because it’s just that good). The house-made chile cream sauce has just the right amount of spice to complement the chicken, chorizo, cashews and roasted red peppers for a fettuccine you won’t find anywhere else in the city. Cafe Carlo also makes their gnocchi (tossed in a pesto cream sauce or braised beef ragu) and ravioli (filled with butternut squash, ricotta and brown butter-hazlenut sauce) by hand. Their baked seafood penne is another incredibly creamy, filling and delicious dish. Really, you can’t go wrong with any plate from this long-standing Lilac St. eatery.
Oxbow - The team at Oxbow knows carbs—if you’ve ever dressed in 80s ski garb for one of their festive wine nights or sat down for a cozy, shared meal with friends in their ambient dining space, you already know this. Aside from tasty snacks like schnitzel sandwiches, big pretzels and their insanely popular triple-cooked fries, the crew makes some of the best handmade pastas for takeout too. Try the cavatelli with braised white beans, charred broccoli rabe, basil oil and lots of parmesan (which can also be made vegan); or the agnolotti stuffed with duck, rabbit & pork in a sugo d'arrosto sauce and finished with parmigiano and chive. Enjoy either alongside a fresh, funky bottle of natural wine and an Underberg to chase it all down (if you know, you know).
Gusto (both North and the original Pizzeria) – The carbonara here is a work of art, even in a takeout box. The flavour profile moves from rich and creamy to smoky then just a touch sweet and spicy. The dish comes with six massive liberally seasoned grilled prawns, while underneath is studded with pork belly cubes and roasted garlic. It’s near moan-inducing.
Passero – If you want to get excited about pasta, just hit up the Passero Insta account. Here, you’ll see what the team’s weekly new fresh pasta is, from gorgeous stuffed numbers like plump agnolotti and tortellini with seasonal fillings, or rustic tagliatelle, gnocchi and farfalle. Always on the menu is the Scott Bagshaw classic Spanish mac n cheese (campanelle pasta, chorizo, manchego, smoked paprika) an ode to the original Daddy Mac of Winnipeg mac and cheeses from Deseo. It’s one of the best mac n’ cheeses we've ever had and is also available at Enoteca, which currently features this black truffle and celery root lasagna that looks like it can take you places.
Mitchell Block – Chef/owner Sean McKay is always making fresh pasta at The Mitchell Block to much acclaim. Our jam has always been the sweet potato agnolotti, which is simply dressed in sage brown butter and a dollop of house-made ricotta. It’s all kinds of creamy, with plenty of tanginess, while the texture of the pasta is always toothy. The mac n cheese is currently on the takeout menu, but if/when it returns, look for it too; they infuse the dough with sriracha while the Bothwell old cheddar sauce is like a luxury good. (Note: Mitchell Block is currently closed due to the most recent restrictions, so be sure to follow them on social for immediate updates).
Kevin's – Speaking of mac n’ cheese, Kevin’s is currently flaunting seven varieties for takeout, all of which are made with local Nature’s Farm elbows (more on them below). The Canadian, baked with cheddar with hits of maple all topped off with Old Dutch chips is our fav, while you can read all about the various other kinds in our classically headlined article, We Need to Talk About Kevin’s.
Nicolino’s – Nine of the 11 pastas at Nicolino’s current menu are handmade in-house. This place has been doing it for three decades with minimal fuss – you get your pasta; you get your sauce; you enjoy. While there’s plenty of red sauce to go around, our go-to is the wild mushroom fettuccini with prawns and green peas, which is extra creamy via some whipped romano and plenty of parm.
deer+almond – A few fresh housemade pastas have become staples on deer + almond menus over the years, while during the pandemic they’ve frequently been selling the fresh noodles in 100g portions with a few sauce options to boot. Right now, you can get handmade cavatelli simply dressed in red sauce with basil and ricotta, along with gnocchi served with lamb meatballs.
Pasquales – Rounding out the list is the classic – Pasquale’s, who have been cranking out dough since 1977. If you are craving a huge stack of lasagna or a classic ricotta cannelloni, this is your spot.
Want to cook your own meal using the best local noodles? These folks have you covered.
Made by Paste – Chef Renée Girard, who last year was singled out by The Globe and Mail as one “the country’s next top chefs,” now has a boutique food company that specializes in – you guessed it – fresh pasta. As you can see on her Insta, she’s cranking out and pinching all sorts of gorgeous numbers, from caramelles to tortellinis to ravioli, along with noodles you don’t see too often here like bigoli. All the pastas come with cooking instructions too and she also sells sauces.
Nature's Farm – Our go-to when it comes to locally made pasta. Nature’s Farm started off as the best egg producer in all the land (that’s us saying this, because German owner Hermann Grauer really rocks and surely so many of the above pastas also use his eggs) before entering into the pasta game. They now sell so many types using an incredible array of wheats, with plenty of gluten-free pastas available too. You can find their pastas all over the city.
DeLuca's – Both locations have arguably the best selection of dried pasta in the city, with local brands like Nature’s Farm and primo Italian brands like Rummo sharing shelf space, with plenty of gluten-free varieties too. On top of that, they also sell numerous fresh handmade pastas too, with varieties and flours changing daily.
De Nardi – Another Italian market brimming with both items from Italy and local selections too, De Nardi also always features numerous fresh pastas that are made in store, along with a vast array of dried pastas. When the restaurant is open, we’re all about that housemade cannelloni – so simple, but so good.
Mottola Grocery - As we mentioned when they first opened this year, Mottola Grocery has it all and is so well curated. In the pasta world, you can expect the best local brands (hi Nature's Farm) along with Italy's best too (Rummo rigatoni for life). Plus, they have a vast array of truffle products, should you be looking to get real earthy, while the sauces -- oh my! Mottola Grocery is part of Academy Hospitality, meaning that all the good sauces that go into the dishes at both Gustos (along with Merchant Kitchen) are available for purchase here too, along with plenty of ready made and heat-at-home pastas too.
Mitchell Block – Mitchell Block pastas so hard that they are on this list twice. You can pick up their dried pasta at a few shops and farmers’ markets around the city. Last week we made a package of radiatore and it was sublime. So much texture while the pasta cooks super fast considering it is coming from dry (folks, it’s just that fresh).