Winter evenings offer easy possibilities to entertain at home, so why go out when you can stay in and invite friends over? No need to plan or cook from scratch when fresh local purveyors and prepared pastas can provide much of a mid-week meal.

Ravioli boils in mere minutes, and a root vegetable variety such as sweet potato with bacon is addictively good when simply dressed with compound butter. Or maybe a thick-cut fettuccini is more up your alley. Mushroom-laden strands topped with fresh marinara or creamy alfredo present a savory plate when nutty Pecorino Romano cheese joins the party.

The perfect accompaniment for winter pasta is a crusty loaf, so think Stecca. The unkneaded baguette, topped with shimmering rock salt, offers an ideal chew to sop up sauce. For a nod towards the indulgent, offer herbed butter and accouterments like marinated olives, and let guests find their own noshable combination. Wine should stay solidly in the Italian lane with beautiful farm-produced reds readily available at local wine shops.

Candlelight and a mix of natural materials on the table—wood, dried herbs, cork, china, and pottery, hand-loomed textiles—add easy warmth to good conversation with the best of friends. Use what’s sheltering in your sideboards and pantries with boho abandon, disregarding era or tradition. What’s been handed down, handmade and beloved —all of it belongs together and will impress guests with its tapestried bravado.


A Bottle of Red

What could be simpler than pairing wine with pasta? Ed Buffington, co-owner of The Community Tap and all-around oenophile, says there’s an abundance of food friendly Italian reds worth sipping this winter season.

  • GD Vajra Rosso- Buffington calls this blend of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera an incredible value and from a famed Barolo producer.
  • Tenuta Sant’ Antonio ‘Scaia’-  Made from the Corvina grape Buffington says this bold wine (complete with a glass cork) pairs ideally with Bolognese.
  • Piazza del Catello Rosso Toscana- A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and Merlot creates a perfect trattoria wine according to Buffington complementing pasta dishes without being fussy.

 

Semi-Homemade, Fully Delicious

Chris and Brett Barest bought Naked Pasta just six months ago with the blessing of founders Julie Jenkins and Ed Creighton. A fixture at Greenville’s Saturday Market, Naked Pasta has delivered delicious options for eager consumers ready to scoop up ravioli, cut pastas, sauces, and even new additions like fresh salsas.

But even when the market hibernates in the off winter months, the business of pasta—winter’s ideal comfort food—continues, which is great for those who desire home-cooked flavor, but only have kitchen time for semi-homemade service.

Chris, a self-professed passionate cook, never wanted to run a restaurant but dreamed of feeding people (her earliest memory: watching Julia Child with her great-grandmother and feeling transfixed).

So she jumped at her chance to get into a commercial kitchen and stretch her already impressive culinary acumen. She makes seven to 10 types of pasta each Thursday and Friday during the off-season including multiple types of ravioli (beet/goat cheese/mint is her current obsession), lasagna both traditional and gluten-free, long-cut noodles flavored with seasonal vegetables like garlic, leek, pea shoots, or spinach as well as multiple sauces, compound butters, and now stews.

Chris believes that once you go fresh, you’ll never go back to dried pasta because of its abundant flavor, toothsome bite, and ability to hold onto sauce. She reached out to friends and farmers almost immediately to source as many local ingredients as possible for her finished goods. Today Reedy River Farms supplies nearly all of her produce, Greenbrier Farms is her go-to for sausage, and Gibson Farms for beef. Deb Potter brings her eggs when available from Merciful Heart Farms and Gigi Nally of Energi mixes her gluten-free flour. So a dinner made with Naked Pasta not only supports local business, it supporters local farmers, too!


Sweet Potato Ravioli with Bourbon Pecan Compound Butter
(Serves 4-6)

2 Packages of Naked Pasta Sweet Potato Bacon Ravioli
Bourbon Pecan Compound Butter
Chopped herbs (Italian flat leaf parsley or sage)
Grated Pecorino Romano

Method:
Fill a large pot ¾ full with cold water. Salt the water and cover to bring up to a rapid boil. Add frozen ravioli one at a time, stirring now and again. Boil for 4-5 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon.

Add several scoops of compound butter to a tray of cooked ravioli and fold carefully to sauce. Top with 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs and freshly grated cheese.

Bourbon Pecan Compound Butter:

½ roll Happy Cow Butter
½ roll Happy Cow Salted Butter
1 c. chopped pecans
1½ c. bourbon

Method:
Melt butter over a medium flame. Clarify the butter by bringing it to a boil and letting it foam out. Take the pan off the heat and add the bourbon to the pan. Chop pecans in a food processor and add them to the mixture.

Winter Kale Pasta with Mushroom Fettuccini
(Serves 4-6)

3-4 bundles of Naked Pasta Mushroom Fettuccini
½ lb. sage sausage
1 can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. shredded kale
1 c. chicken stock
½ c. dry white wine
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. dried thyme
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Red pepper flake, to taste

Method:
Brown sausage over a medium flame until it is cooked through and crumbly. Add chicken stock and white wine. Bring to a boil and lower flame to a consistent simmer. Add beans and kale and one teaspoon of salt, stirring to incorporate. Lower flame to a very low simmer, cover and cook for 12-15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the fettuccini bundles one at a time using a wood spoon to separate the strands in the water. Cook for just 3-4 minutes. Strain the pasta and add it to the sausage bean mixture with a ladle of the starchy pasta water. Add the thyme and fold to incorporate.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and red chili flake.

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