25 amazing pasta dishes from food service chefs who are envisioning the shape of pasta to come
By Tara Fitzpatrick
As food service chefs experiment with every pasta shape from agnolotti to ziti, plus unexpected new sauces to match, the results are deliciously different. When jumping down the pasta-shape rabbit hole, culinarians will find lots of fascinating facts.
For example, penne, which translates to “quill pen,” is so popular because it holds sauces well and is durable under intense foodservice conditions. Farfalle means “butterfly” in Italian, and the pinch in the middle of the “bow tie” gives it extra firmness in the center and it’s perfect for pasta salads
“I like penne because it goes well with chunky tomatoes, vegetables and other mix-ins,” says CulinArt Executive Chef Kevin Kenny, East Side Dining at Stony Brook University, where the dining team has lots of fun with pasta, in dishes like spaghetti carbonara with peas, mushrooms, Parmesan cream and turkey bacon with the traditional egg swirled in. Meanwhile on the west side of the Stony Brook campus, Stony Brook’s CulinArt Executive Chef Rob Loria has a penchant for gnocchi, pasta’s cousin that’s technically a dumpling. “It has a fun, non-traditional shape and texture with a potato base and gives us the opportunity to the get the flavor out,” he says, combining gnocchi with crumbled Beyond Meat for a meatless Bolognese with herbed ricotta.
Check out these and many more pasta dishes that make the most of the shapes, sauces and creative add-ins, all together.
- Short-rib spaghetti: With fried Brussels sprout leaves, butternut squash, tender, fall-apart short ribs and foraged Hen of the Woods mushrooms, this dish by Boston College Executive Chef Brad Shannon has us wondering, “is it too early to start looking forward to fall?”
- Making gnocchi at BC: “While they are technically dumplings, I love making gnocchi,” Shannon says. “The best thing about gnocchi is that it does well with almost all applications, pan sauces to Bolognese.”
- Parsley garganelli: “However,” Shannon continues, “my favorite shape is garganelli…great for picking up sauces in its tubes. They’re fun to make and they dry really well for future use.” Shannon also likes garganelli for their ability to take on flavors, like the housemade parsley garganelli shown here.
- Black pepper garganelli: Shannon likes to use the parsley version and these black pepper garganelli in hot applications, “and it’s amazing as a pasta salad,” he says.
- Gemelli with red sauce: Also at Boston College, here’s a modern classic: gemelli and meatballs. Gemelli means “twins” in Italian, because it’s two strips of pasta entwined.
- Tri-color ravioli: One more from Boston College, this pasta-on-the-go adds a fresh baked roll for an added treat.
- Roasted veggie pasta salad: San Diego Unified School District uses whole-grain pasta across a variety of flavor profiles, from spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce to lo mein with teriyaki and wheat-flour ramen noodles. This roasted veggie pasta salad is made with whole-grain rotini pasta, veggies and finished with olive oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and cilantro.
- Farmhouse pasta salad: Another take on summery pasta salad from Morrison Healthcare’s Chef Sahina Dizon.
- Caprese bucatini with burrata: American Dining Creations (ADC) Corporate Chef-West Region Jonathan Pye likes bucatini or longer pastas for “any oil- or pesto-based sauces,” he says. “Great for tossing in the sauce.”
- Bucatini with hazelnut-carrot top pesto: Bucatini’s cool hollow shape made it so popular that there was a shortage last year. Barilla Chef Yury Krasilovsky created this dish, which used often-overlooked parts of the carrot: the tops make a pesto and the carrot skins are charred for texture.
- Four-cheese ravioli: ADC’s Chef Pye is also a big fan of ravioli in any shape and especially likes to pair it with tomato- or cream-based sauces, “as they don’t need to be tossed; they can lay on the sauce or you can spoon the sauce over,” Pye says.
- White truffle-porcini ravioli: Pye gets super fancy with this ravioli dish, the woodsy, earthy flavors of truffle and mushroom harmonizing with the luscious pasta and one of spring’s official veggies, asparagus, tucked into the dish.
- Mini penne: “I love using mini penne rigate, which is small tubes, with our homemade marinara sauce,” says Marin Country Day School’s Chef Jason Hull. “The sauce gets into the tubes to ensure saucy yumminess with each and every bite, perfect for our youngest school nutrition eaters.”
- Trio of pasta: At Stony Brook University, these pasta dishes dazzle in different ways. Clockwise from the top: whole-wheat penne pasta with roasted garlic, grape tomatoes, pancetta in an olive oil broth garnished with toasted baguettes; potato gnocchi with meatless Bolognese with herbed ricotta; and spaghetti carbonara with peas, mushrooms, eggs, Parmesan cream and turkey bacon, garnished with toasted Parmesan crisp.
- Gemelli pasta with zoodles and basil-pumpkin seed pesto: At Villanova University’s recent Farm to Fork Dinner, combining the healthy zoodle craze with the twisty shape of gemelli allowed them to work as a flavor delivery team. “The shape of the gemelli allows the zucchini zoodles to wrap around the pasta and hold onto the pumpkin seed pesto to deliver a complete bite of all the flavors and textures of the dish,” says Villanova Resident Dining Halls Executive Chef Chris Wiseley.
- Penne with sundried tomato pesto: Another from Villanova’s Farm to Fork Dinner, this dish is “a great vessel for the sundried tomato pesto because of the cylinder shape,” Wiseley says. “The penne fill up with the delicious sundried tomato pesto, delivering a flavor-packed bite.”
- New stuffed shells: Coming this fall to Gwinnett Co. Public Schools (GCPS), this vegetarian creamy roasted veggie alfredo shells is fresh out of the test kitchen.
- Vegetarian black bean and corn enchilada shells: Another recipe set for this fall at GCPS, these stuffed shells take on a Southwest flavor profile.
- Farfalle bowls: The FLIK Hospitality Group donated bowls for farfalle with fresh peas and ragu to frontline workers during the height of the pandemic last year.
- Pappardelle: FLIK Hospitality chefs love pappardelle’s broad, flat shape as the perfect vehicle for hearty sauces like Bolognese and cream sauces, and it’s a snap to add fresh tomatoes for a splash of brightness.
- Butternut Squash Spaghetti, Cauliflower Alfredo: Created by FLIK Hospitality Group’s wellness team, this dish is a great of example of lightening up pasta: squash noodles with cauliflower “cream” sauce and grilled chicken. Reminiscent of alfredo, but significantly healthier.
- Cannelloni: Another from FLIK, this cannelloni is the perfect tube shape for the silky ricotta inside.
- Lemon shrimp, squash and lentil pasta: Part of Sodexo’s Mindful collection, this pasta dish incorporates lentil pasta’s nutritional boost into a bright dish with chayote squash, fresh parsley and a blend of global spices in a creamy sauce.
- Spring campanelle with greens and pistachio gremolata: Fun fact: Campanelle means “bellflower” and this cut of pasta is great for fanning out on the plate in a light-but-saucy dish. Chef Nate Weir created this light, bright green pasta recipe for Barilla to celebrate springtime. The ingredients all do just that: lemon-cream sauce with pureed peas and zippy gremolata.
- Collard green pesto: Chefs are experimenting with pesto in some truly new ways. Chef Mareya Ibrahim created this recipe for Barilla, and it comes together with just a few ingredients.
This article first appeared in Food Management on April 19, 2021.
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