Norma Vargas-Matus is not exactly what you would expect from a pasta maker. She's a "Mexicana" from the beautiful town of Acapulco who grew up working at her family's bakery located in the hip Condesa district of Mexico City. Today, this latin lovely finds herself in a cooking mini-adventure as she hosts holiday cooking segments for Despierta America while churning out both pasta and pastry for Laurenzo's Italian Market in North Miami.
There are similarities in pasta and pastry, and Norma shines in both. The love is in the linguini. As Norma tells me, "start with flour and eggs and add other ingredients one by one until you have the perfect combination for both your mouth and your eyes. I want my customers to have an exquisite flavor experience when they taste one of my creations". And these creations are uniquely Norma.
With a skilled hand and discerning eye she blends, rolls and stuffs creations like asiago gnocchi, spinach ravioli, porcini ziti and squid ink lasagna. But it's her signature red pastas that catch my eye. There are three different shades of red; vibrant, orange/red, and a pale salmon color. All are tomato based and "the color of the tomato I choose determines the color of the pasta". Also, adding an egg yolk, the whole egg or roasting the tomatoes all affect the intensity of the color. Who knew this could be achieved without those funky little bottles of food coloring we see at Publix?
So beautiful are her creations that Sandra Lee, of Food Network stardom, incorporates her pastas as a decor when she does Italian cooking segments. Norma beams with pride as she tell me of that faithful day when the celebrity chef, in town for the Sobe Food and Wine Festival, came in to try her pastas.
With some many choices the decision on what to choose for dinner becomes quite an ordeal. Should we try pear ravioli with a creamy walnut sauce or the squid ink lasagna with an abundance of shellfish? "For a fresh pasta novice I recommend you try the classic" she tells me. Egg pappardelle with a truffle tomato sauce. Now that's my kind of "beginners" dish! Norma lovingly assembles a box with a few bundles of the oversized pappardelle, some cured black olives and a decadent truffle tomato paste for the sauce. The recipe is simple and my mouth is salivating at the mere idea.
At home the cream is added, the pasta is cooked to a perfect al dente in 4 minutes and once tossed it's devoured at the counter with a smoky Bordeaux, Chateau Pindefleurs, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. "Hijole! que rico!"
Norma's Perfect Parpadelle
3 bundles of fresh parpadelle
1 - 6 oz can of Urbani Truffles' tomatoes and truffle paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cured black olives
1 bunch basi
fresh grated parmesan cheese for top
Gently heat the heavy cream with the tomato/truffle paste in a large shallow pan, stirring constantly. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a large pot for the pasta wtih add a tablespoon of olive oil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for 4 minutes.
Drain pasta and add to the cream sauce, stir in olives and basil and sprinkle with parmesan on top.
Laurenzo's Italian Specialty
16385 West Dixie Hwy, North Miami Miami