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Pasta Comeback


Perbacco’s agnolotti filled with roasted veal and savoy cabbage
Photograph by John Benson
 
I fancy myself immune to food trends, but lately I’ve had to admit that the low-carb mania of a few years back has insidiously snuck its way into the deeper, more permanent layers of our collective psyche, including mine. There was a time when I ate pasta for dinner nearly seven days a week. With crusty bread. After eating a muffin for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch! I mean, who does that anymore? No one I know.

But this past week I’ve been reviving my pasta habit because I am trying to work my way through a ton of frozen meat sauce my mom left me at Thanksgiving, hopefully before she returns next month and makes more. This sauce of hers cooks all day and has hot sausage, homemade meatballs and huge chunks of pork shoulder in it, all of which combine to make it the richest, heartiest ambrosia you ever did pour on your penne. And it’s made me realize this simple truth: There is no food that compares to pasta for sustenance, taste and sensual pleasure—not sushi, not truffles, not Kobe beef or French fries or the most intricately spiced Asian or Indian food. Nothing compares to biting into an al dente noodle coated in an endless variety of meat and vegetables and dusted with Italian cheese.

My favorite handmade pastas in SF right now are the ones chef Staffan Terje is making at Perbacco (230 California St., 415-955-0663), toothsome piles of perfect dough married with simply but revelatory combinations: agnolotti filled roasted veal and savoy cabbage, drizzled with the veal’s pan juices; fat pappardelle noodles with chanterelles and a sauce made of braised short ribs; thin tagliatelle topped with a “five-hour pork sugo,” which translates in many circles as “sauce from heaven.”

Atkins is rolling over in his grave, and I couldn’t be happier.