Pasta Evangelists


LISTEN, when we kids were growing up we ate a mountain of pasta and it was chiefly either agli e oglio, or what we called just sugo but was really sugo finto or a tomato and meat sauce, without the, erm, meat.

Never heard the phrase cucina povera when I was a kid, but turns out that’s what we were brought up on. Deliciously.

The only luxury ingredient in any of it coming from the five-gallon cans of extra virgin olive oil which were always, always, lined up in the kitchen.

The best pasta? My mother (Giuseppina Salvatore) had a knock-out special occasion lasagne with an operatic bechamel obviously, but normally it would be her weekly right-kids ready-in-ten nippy, garlicky agli e olio.

Unless there was Day 2 refried spaghetti with sugo – crunchy, crispy, gooey, sticky deliciousness that on high days would occasionally have an egg scrambled through it, but even on low days was an utterly joyful thing.

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Now, my nonna, (Amalia Coia), used to make a sugo verace with actual meat, ninehole or something strange like that, and she did have a thing about anchovies, they went absolutely everywhere. And in Italy, occasionally, hand-made pasta, chitarra maybe, and Maria Coia our godmother (Patina to us), would make a super-short-crust macaroni-stuffed timbale that would have us kids clapping and cheering at the dinner table but… I don’t remember ever eating no seabass ravioli with sage butter.

Nor beef and black truffle raviolini or even pumpkin ravioli with wild rocket sauce. Ever. Proper someone-flour-the-potatoes gnocchi was as wild as it got. Though there was mascarpone. Lots of it, for the grown-ups. I actually used to think they drank it.

Not that they weren’t fabulous cooks. They all were, and once my mum’s sister Aunt Louisa made a lasagne that was maddeningly, intriguingly, unorthodoxly delicious, maybe cinnamon in it, that I have never, ever forgotten.

What I’m trying to say is pasta really doesn’t have to be Fancy Dan to be good. Though FD is what we have tonight: a steaming bowlful of malloreddus with a sausage ragu, being picked at curiously, that seabass raviolil sounding as if no fish could win a taste tussle against fresh pasta but somehow it does, sweetly.

Mrs Mackenna has not only ordered tonight’s tea but has prepared it with what she will later describe as every bloody pan in the house. After we get the painful question out of the way of how-much-was-it we then move on to the other issue with cross country post-lockdown restaurant food: where is the rest of it?

If, like us, your restaurant meals have starting arriving in weighty boxes with ice packs, and styrofoam packaging you will also be used to the missing ingredient syndrome.

Tonight, Matthew, we only have two portions of what’s called nonna carmella’s tiramisu, a fluffy, light, coffee sponge and cream concoction that’s nothing if not pleasant.

The rest will arrive in a similarly elaborate box after one phone call, two heartfelt apologies and three days have elapsed.

Is the pasta good? Yes, it’s fine.

That mallorredus is a hot, filling, rich and pretty satisfying bowlful of tiny shells from Sardinia, apparently. The various man-size ravioli are enjoyed by everyone on the basis the pasta itself is lightly made, the fillings sweet when they should be, the pumpkin and rocket sauce especially.

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There’s a whoosh, too, from the truffle and a stewy lusciousness from the beef packed in with it.

Let’s just say it all travels pretty well.

Is it expensive? Probably not that much more expensive that, say, buying some fabulous ravioli scapolese from a pasticceria in Venafro as we do when in Italy. It’s not as good as handmade over-the-counter pasta in Italy, obviously, but then we’re not in Italy.

We’re in the UK where they include free cans of fancy cocktails with every order. Clever that.

Pasta Evangelists

230 York Way, London

Order on the web

Menu: Pasta but not quite as we usually know it. Aubergine and sun dried tomato triangoli; Venetian duck ragu with paccheri, lots of ravioli. Artisan pasta meals delivered. 4/5

Service: Classy and expensive packaging, slick instructions, missed a couple of desserts but expressed them up a few days later and threw in a few more of those free cocktails with our first order. 3/5

Price: Single portions from under £9; doubles £17 and that seabass was £11. Desserts are not large at £11 servings for two but do come in nice glass dishes if that floats your boat. 4/5

Atmosphere: Tense at times as we had four different pastas requiring many pots and pans and different oven timings. Less dishes + more harmony. 3/5

Food: Is it restaurant quality pasta? Unless your restaurant is hand-making it itself then that is a yes. The seabass pasta ravioli was light and pleasant, the malloreddus simple and satisfying. Menu changes regularly. Something different. 7/10