Food & Drink People travel from all over the world to eat this one pasta dish
The Simple Way To Cook Pasta Faster
No waiting for water to boil. No draining necessary. Ready in minutes.Unsurprisingly, it was under these dire conditions that I chose to transgress one of the cardinal rules of cooking—one that even amateur cooks know: I threw pasta… into water… that wasn’t boiling.
Orvieto's Trattoria La Mezza Luna doesn't have a website, or even a Facebook page. Its hours aren't posted on the door and the small sign out front is covered by an overgrown vine. Its underground, vaulted dining room seats about 40 people when it's packed to the gills, which is all the time. Owner Averino isn't particularly charming or chatty; in fact most of the time he gives the impression he'd rather be somewhere else - and that he'd rather you were somewhere else.
So why clamor for a table here? For a heaping plate of what may well be the best damn pasta in all of Italy.
How To Make Perfect Baked Pasta, Every Time
It’s all about the saucy, perfectly cooked noodles and golden, bubbly cheese. (Hungry yet?)Boil your pasta properly
Averino's spaghetti alla carbonara deserves every etto of its mythic status: al dente noodles in a cholesterol-peaking sauce of pork cheek, parmesan cheese and black pepper, glossed with a freshly beaten egg. Once you've tasted it, you'll understand why Averino has been turning away unlucky would-be diners for decades, and why people make a special trip to Orvieto just to eat here.
La Mezza Luna may not be trying hard, but its reputation has preceded it for more than 40 years. Online reviewers, writing in both Italian and English, may dis the service but they'll never knock the carbonara:
"The best carbonara I've eaten in my life…"
"The carbonara calls to me from 40 years ago, when I had dinner here while in the military. And after 40 years, it is spectacular in the same way."
A Creamy, Spicy Pasta Dish to Warm Your Soul
A Creamy, Spicy Pasta Dish to Warm Your SoulThe story of how this recipe came about almost reads like a rom-com plot (emphasis on almost). One day, my then-boyfriend was over for dinner, and I combined all the leftover ingredients in the fridge to make this pasta. I always have poached chicken on hand, since I make my chicken stock that way, and I happened to have a good stock of fresh herbs. Cue some Aleppo pepper (my favorite way to add heat to any recipe) and a touch of cream and bam—best date-night meal I’d ever made.
"Carbonara becomes poetry in this place."
"Carbonara from God"
"There don't exist places in the world that make carbonara like La Mezza Luna. We come from Florence to eat it. But if you expect waiters who make a fuss over you like little puppies, you've come to the wrong place."
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Cheesy Asparagus Gratin
This family-friendly side dish is a delicious new take on potatoes au gratin. Yes, it’s still cheesy comfort food, but the fresh asparagus means it won’t leave you in a food coma. If you’ve ever made homemade macaroni and cheese, this technique will be familiar: you’ll make a bechamel sauce and top it with buttery breadcrumbs. In fact, you could double the sauce, toss it with pasta, stick it in the freezer and have mac and cheese ready to go whenever you need a quick dinner. For this dish, look for thick asparagus spears (not the pencil-thin ones) which will hold up better when served. Yields: 8 servings Ingredients 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, divided, plus more for baking dish 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more for blanching water 2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, divided 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1½ cups whole milk 3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about ¾ cup) 3 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated (about ¾ cup) 1 cup Panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) Directions Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in highest position. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high. Add half of the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes (depending on thickness of spears). Remove with tongs, letting excess water drip off, and transfer to prepared dish. Repeat with remaining asparagus; toss with 1 teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper.
Averino can be a tad…indifferent. His frosty exterior thaws quickly when he starts to talk about his restaurant and that famous dish. Still, it would be a stretch to say he ever approaches warm and fuzzy. Asked why people keep coming back for his carbonara? "Because it's good." Seems he's not one for small talk, either.
Born and raised in Orvieto, he and his wife opened La Mezza Luna in 1976, after he'd spent two years cooking in restaurants in Rome, learning to make traditional Roman pasta dishes. One of the most typical, spaghetti carabonara - is served in restaurants high- and low-class all over Rome, but devotees swear that no one makes it like Mezza Luna.
Averino's recipe for carbonara is a classic one, with no secret ingredients. Spaghetti, guanciale (pork cheek), beaten egg, black pepper and parmesan cheese. That's it. The only salt is in the pasta water. The tricky part about carbonara, of course, is to add the egg at just the right moment - it needs to coat the pasta but not turn into scrambled egg. (A carbonara with bits of cooked egg in it is a failed carbonara.) And the dish still has to be served hot.
This 25-Cent, One-Ingredient Sauce Is Just What You Need to Rescue Leftover Pasta
You know what’s easier than any fancy concoctions? Frying an egg. These are the five French “mother sauces.” Béchamel boasts a luxurious, creamy texture, and creating it involves an attentive eye, a whisk, and a roux (a flour-butter mixture). Hollandaise can, thank goodness, be made in a blender, but it has a tendency to break.
So what's just the right moment, per Averino? "That's the secret. It's in the hand." They've been mixing it the same way since the beginning, sourcing their ingredients from the same purveyors, and never changing the recipe. He even let me back in the small, spotlessly clean kitchen to see the carbonara being made. I watched the cook work quickly and deftly to add the ingredients, one at a time, to a steaming bowl of pasta. In my kitchen, the result would be pasta with bacon, scrambled eggs and cheese. Yet in this simple trattoria, the result was magic.
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And word is out on the magic. The restaurant doesn't start serving until 12:30 but by 11 am, every table has a riservata card perched on it. Dinner is the same - Mezza Luna books up at least a day or so in advance, and a last-minute table is virtually unheard of, even in low season. Diners are a mix of locals and tourists, as well as those Italians who come in from different parts of the country.
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Prices haven't changed in at least 10 years - at €8 per portion, Mezza Luna's carbonara isn't just among the best in Italy, it's also a great deal.
Averino works the dining room, bringing heaping bowls of carbonara to patrons, half of whom are waiting to scarf theirs down before getting back to work, the other half waiting to Instagram theirs before digging in.
There are at least two dozen other items on the menu - it's also a great place for other regional pasta dishes and grilled meats. But really, it's all about the carbonara. It's ridiculously good, without pretense or nuance or garnish. This is simple, honest food where you taste each ingredient and feel obligated to eat well past the point of being full, just because it's so damn good and it would be a sin to leave any behind.
By the time we wrap up our lunch the place is full, the barrel-vaulted dining room warm and loud. Averino seems disinterested and after more than 40 years of slinging plates of pasta, maybe that's understandable. Surely he can retire if he wants, and leave the business in the hands of his son. "I'm already retired. But this is still fun for me." Just don't expect him to smile when he says that.
Also see: Our favourite pasta recipes (Provided by bon Appetit)
Via Ripa Serancia, 5, Orvieto, Italy
I Tried the Viral Red Wine Spaghetti Recipe, and Here's What Happened .
I Tried the Viral Red Wine Spaghetti Recipe, and Here's What HappenedSince both cooking spaghetti in tomato sauce and Martha Stewart's one-pot pasta hack turned out to be total failures, I had to see if the same was true for Food and Wine's spaghetti cooked in red wine. Spoiler alert: it was the opposite. Thousands of people, like me, were intrigued by the publication's recipe video that went viral on Facebook, so I had high hopes that the pasta would taste as delicious as it looked. The verdict is in, and all I can say is this fast and easy dish will no doubt be added to my regular dinner rotation.
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