The first time Evan Funke laid eyes on this dish, he wasn’t a fan. It was the herb sprigs and mélange of leaves floating in the buttery sauce that initially turned him off. Now, though, the flavorful recipe is one of his favorites.
This is no small prize, given that Funke’s upcoming cookbook, American Sfoglino, details 15 different pasta shapes and the numerous sauces that accompany them. His journey to pasta-making master (anyone who’s eaten at his Los Angeles restaurant, Felix Trattoria, can verify this title) began with a stint learning the craft at La Vecchia Scuola in Bologna, under the tutelage of Maestra Alessandra; this recipe for balanzoni with butter, herbs, and spices (aromi misti in Italian), and many of the others in his book, is a gift from her.
“This dish was served to me on an extremely cold night in Bologna, after making multiple kilos of tortellino for the Maestro Alessandro’s (Alessandra’s brother) favorite soccer club, Juventus,” remembers Funke. “She used to keep a jar of this spice mixture on the top shelf in her shoebox kitchen.” We can’t think of anything better after a long day than a bowl of carbs either.
For the chef, it’s now a meal intrinsically linked with the past. “If it’s nostalgia I’m seeking, selfishly, I’m making this for myself and the people I love,” he says. The cheese-filled spinach pasta is the ultimate fall comfort food (find the full recipe for the homemade dough in his cookbook, or sub in your favorite noodle)—and lucky for those of us who didn’t train in an Italian cooking school, Funke shared the how-to, below.
Balanzoni With Butter, Herbs, and Spices
- 16 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 sprig marjoram
- 1 fresh bay leaf, torn; or 1 dried bay leaf, whole
- 4 fresh sage leaves, torn
- 10 fresh mint leaves, torn
- 4 fresh basil leaves, torn
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Kosher salt
- Scant tsp fennel pollen (optional)
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (for serving)
- 1 recipe for balanzoni or your favorite pasta (a cheese-filled tortellini would be closest)
- In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, melt butter until frothy and golden. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, and sage; cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
- Add the mint, basil, fennel pollen (if using), and nutmeg, and swirl for 5 to 10 seconds to combine. Set the sauce aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Season the water with salt. When the salt dissolves, add the balanzoni and cook until tender, 2 ½ to 3 minutes.
- Return the sauce to medium heat.
- Using a spider strainer, transfer the pasta to the sauce, gently shaking off as much water as possible. Immediately begin swirling the pasta to coat.
- Serve immediately with the Parmigiano Reggiano sprinkled on top.
American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta comes out September 24; preorder it today. In the meantime, stock up on your pasta night essentials:
See more recipes to try this fall:
Half Baked Harvest’s Tieghan Gerard Makes This One-Pot Recipe on Repeat
This Is the Only Cheese Spread You Should Be Serving This Season
This Store-Bought Ingredient Makes My Recipes Fancier Every Time