As far as I’m concerned, every day should be Pasta Day! Pasta, and Italian food in general, has been my comfort food for as long as I can remember. Like many Italian Americans, every weekend, birthday, and holiday meant chicken cutlets, baked ziti, and my Grandma’s meatballs and sauce simmering on the stove all day. (And yes, it’s sauce — not gravy — in my fam!)
My grandma’s pasta fazool was one of the first recipes I learned to cook at age 8. So it didn’t surprise anyone when I decided to change careers from engineering to attend culinary school. It also came as no surprise to people in my life when I launched my Women’s Food & Wine travel business in Italy, with tours to Florence, Tuscany, and Sicily. Visiting Italy multiple times a year to host my foodie tours, has only deepened my love for pasta.
In honor of National Pasta Day, October 17, here are three of my favorite, pasta dishes. Check out the link below for the recipes. Not feeling like hanging out by the stove? I’ve also included my two favorite places to go for your pasta fix, in Hoboken and Jersey City. Buon Appetito!
One Pan Cacio e Pepe for Two
This classic Roman pasta dish has a cult following for a reason! It uses just three ingredients; pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pepper. This combination creates a creamy, luscious, and amazingly flavorful cheese sauce that beautifully coats thick-cut bucatini. My easy, speedy, one-pan version cleverly uses the starch from the pasta cooking water to create thick and luxurious results.
Grandma’s Pasta Fazool
My grandma’s “Pasta Fazool” was my number one favorite comfort food dish when I was a little girl! Fun fact: fazool really fagioli, which is Italian for beans. On menus, you might see it listed either way. This dish is served all throughout Italy with either cannellini or Ceci beans, aka chickpeas. You can make this thick, one-pot, pasta-based soup in under 30 minutes. It’s a family-friendly crowd pleaser!
Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce
This beloved meat sauce is from Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, also often considered Italy’s food capital. My version features tender ground lamb simmered in a flavorful red wine-tomato sauce with Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Serve this hearty sauce over thick-cut pappardelle or tortellini.
Grab these three pasta recipes and more of Julie’s Italian favorites in her free mini book La Dolce Vita at Home, linked here.
Not in the mood to cook? Here are my two favorite local pasta spots. Both are BYO (bonus!) so grab your favorite bottle of red or white before you go.
Julie’s Hoboken Favorite
Family run since 1994, we’ve celebrated just about every family milestone with Pete, Sal, and their family at “Cafe Mich.” My daughters even devoured the perennial favorite penne vodka, aka “Pete’s pasta” as toddlers, in their high chairs.
Give Cafe Michelina a try when you want to satisfy your red sauce cravings, for a big group dinner with heaping plates of pasta and fried calamari, or just to pick up takeout on a weeknight. No matter your reason, get ready for a meal that will take you straight to your favorite Italian grandma’s House, served up by the nicest family around. The newer menu favorite of stuffed rigatoni with chicken and vodka sauce is a must try — as are all the specials.
Julie’s Jersey City Favorite
Corto opened in 2018 in the ever-changing, buzzing area of Jersey City affectionately known as “The Heights” and quickly received acclaim from Bon Appetit, Thrilllist, Eater, The Infatuation and so many more. It immediately became a go-to for me and my professional wine group for their incredible handmade pasta, charcuterie and creativity in their seasonal menus. This vintage-vibed, cozy spot only has a few menu mainstays including their fan favorite Rigatoni with bianco di napoli tomato, pancetta, calabrian chili, basil, mint, and Pecorino Romano below plus a not-to-be-missed “Angry Chicken”. You really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu including a current fall Ravioli with kabocha squash, ricotta, local mushroom, guanciale, brown butter, and sage.
Chef Julie Hartigan of JulieHartigan.com is a Jersey City-based professional chef and food media personality who hosts Women’s Food & Wine Tours to Italy. Grab her free mini book, La Dolce Vita at Home to try her pasta recipes. Or join her for a dreamy food-and-wine tasting tour to Italy. Check out Julie’s latest tours here!
Follow Julie’s foodie adventures at home and abroad on Instagram @juliehartigan.