Weird pasta: A field guide to America’s unlikely innovations
Let’s take a moment to be thankful for one of our nation’s other great culinary traditions, said Craig Cavallo in Saveur. We’re arguably the second-best place in the world to eat pasta, having absorbed Italy’s traditions and improvised new ones. Below, four priceless regional specialties.
Toasted ravioliSt. Louis • Legend has it that deepfried ravioli was invented one night in the 1940s when a drunken chef at a red-sauce joint, now called Mama’s on the Hill, mistook bubbling grease for boiling water, then fished out the ravioli and served them. Some say baseball great Joe Garagiola was sitting at the bar and when he endorsed the kitchen’s happy accident, it spread quickly through the neighborhood, then across the nation.
Crawfish MonicaNew Orleans • The Big Easy serves pasta with a gumbo-influenced tomato “gravy” year round, but during JazzFest in March, a more distinctive innovation shows up around town: rotini sauced with crawfish tails, butter, cream, and Creole seasoning. Created in the mid-1980s by chef Pierre Hilzim—whose company still supplies pasta sauces to local restaurants—the dish is named for Hilzim’s wife.
Cincinnati chiliCincinnati • Back in the 1920s, two Macedonian immigrant brothers who ran a hot dog stand concocted a beef-and-tomato stew with Middle Eastern spices. When Italian customers asked to have it served over spaghetti, Cincinnati chili was born—and is still being served at Empress Chili by Tom and John Kiradjieff’s heirs.
Chicken riggiesUtica, N.Y. • A Clinton, N.Y., chef invented this iconic local dish of chicken and rigatoni in a spicy tomato cream sauce. But it was an understudy who put it on a menu after moving to the Chesterfield in Utica. “The rest is small-town history.”