On a chilly afternoon in Toronto I find myself swirling a glass of Shiraz in Chef Charlotte Langley’s kitchen as she gently rolls gnocchi off the back of a fork. She chirps on her love for pasta, “I have this bolognese recipe that is my soft spot and I crave it regularly. Each bite proves the sauce is equally as important as the noodle. The spaghettini I use is a perfect vessel for the sauce as every bite has an ideal ratio of noodle to sauce, which is made up of beef, veal, parmesan and pecorino.”
We gathered that day for a feast to share our love for slippery noodles while flipping through an innovative new cookbook, Pasta Reinvented (DK Publishing, 2018). The pasta and noodle cookbook focusses on healthy alternatives to wheat-based pasta – often gluten free – offering recipes for making pasta doughs from scratch, as well as savoury sauces.
Flipping through the 192 page book quickly makes one realize there is a lot more to discover in the world of pasta than the traditional dried wheat-based varieties found on your neighbourhood grocery shelf. The noodle recipes inside Pasta Reinvented range from Italian inspired to awesome offerings from Asia (who doesn’t want to learn how to make their own heartwarming bowl of pho at home?) The recipes for these nutrient-packed alternative pastas are made from a variety of grains, beans, and nuts.
Truth be told, I’m not a gluten free eater, and was cautiously curious about what results would transpire after cooking through a few of the books recipes. I quickly learned that reinvented pasta recipes allow you to prepare dishes that highlight – not hide – the flavours of a chickpea pasta, almond flour pappardelle, or shirataki noodles. While those living with celiac will love the book, I learned it’s also a great resource for those looking to add nutrition at dinner as well as enjoy new flavours and textures with each bite. Our sweet potato gnocchi were plump and sweet, while the stringy chickpea spaghetti offered a nice nuttiness to the classic Cacio e Pepe.
Charlotte Langley stands out as a reinvention all on her own. The Toronto-based chef worked in the kitchen at Cafe Belong and Catch before deciding to reimagine her role in Canada’s food industry. Soon after walking away from traditional bricks and mortar restaurants she launched Scout Canning, which allowed her to work from home, wholesale her products to restaurants across the city and showcase her catering skills at events.
As her business continued to grow, she managed larger corporate events, and soon found herself acting as a liaison between chefs and agencies looking to host events with top culinary talent. She also launched Bibs & Bubbs, an intimate oyster and champagne bar which she hosts in a non-traditional restaurant (her backyard). This month she’s busy as ever acting as the Chef and Culinary Curator of the Restaurants Canada Show which she describes as “acting like an art curator to come up with a concept which allows me to form long lasting relationships with chefs, commodity groups and farmers.”
Spooning through a bowl of Chickpea Cacio e Pepe, Charlotte flips through Pasta Reinvented, “the book offers great processes throughout, lots of interesting techniques, and showcases the culture of noodles from each region of the world. It’s a seriously progressive recipe offering.”
Her advice to newbie pasta makers, “if it’s the first time you’re making pasta from scratch you’ll need to play with the dough to get comfortable with it. Spend time with each of these recipes as you need to know the classics first before experimenting. Take a basic dough, and work that dough until you know it really well, so that when you use the same technique on a non traditional dough you can recognize the texture and viscosity you’re looking for.”
There’s something liberating, dare I say exciting, about reinventing a classic – whether it’s your career or a dish in the kitchen!