If you would to print out our guide, please click on the above image, which will pull up on a separate, printable version for printing. Otherwise, keep scrolling to see the individual shapes in more detail!
A few quick notes on reading the guide:
The “i” icon (leftmost) represents the translated root name, or origin name of the pasta shape
The Italy icon (center) represents which area of the country the shape of pasta originated in
The strainer icon (rightmost) suggests which sauces go best with the shape
At Marea, the celebrated New York Italian restaurant, every course is special, including dessert. The showstopping final plates are the work of Pastry Chef Francis Joven and his team. Chef Joven’s spin on classic American and Italian flavors are one of the reasons Marea is perennially one of the best restaurants in New York, earning two Michelin Stars in 2017.
Murray’s is lucky enough to have Chef Joven provide us with not one, but two Great Taste recipes, so we wanted to sit down for a moment with the chef to talk dessert inspiration, his advice for anyone ordering dessert at a restaurant, team camaraderie, and more.
What motivated you to become a pastry chef at this level? Have you always enjoyed baking, or did something click later in life?
I actually became a pastry chef by accident. At one of my first kitchen jobs in LA (the now closed Ortolan), I was a commis and they needed help in pastry. I was lucky to have an incredible pastry chef in Ron Mendoza who really got me into “haute patisserie”. He gave me my first fancy cookbook (paco torreblanca, amazing book) and showed me that in pastry food had more freedom. You can play more with color and texture. He also helped me get my next job at Sona (also closed now) where I really learned how to function in a fine dining kitchen.
You worked at Chef Paul Liebrandt’s Corton, which was known for being a high pressure and very creative kitchen, what influence did this have on your approach to pastry and your approach to leading a team?
Working at Corton was another formative time in my culinary career. I worked under Chef Bob Truitt (another AMAZING chef) where I took away two things that I try to pass down to my staff:
1) Food should be delicious and bring you joy. Everything you make should be worth eating over and over.
2) Work/life balance. Both sides should influence and add value to each other. My work is personal and I like to share it with my staff and with people outside of the restaurant. I like to encourage my staff to approach it the same way. Be themselves. It’ll translate in the food in a positive way.
When you come up with a dessert, what is your process and what flavors do you start with?
Inspiration comes from anywhere. I have a list ideas floating (that may never materialize) that really come out of nowhere. A fall dessert “cornucopia” because of that scene in the Hunger Games. A “mont blanc” that resembles the actual mountain peak in Europe to scale.
I have no formula but specifically at Marea I try to make sure all the desserts are familiar and balanced. But also being in New York, you’ll see a lot of American influence.
The team you have with your sous chefs Michelle (Catarata) and Kat (Escobar) is very close, and the whole pastry team at Marea seems to really love working together. You all work in such a fast paced, highly successful kitchen, how do you keep things fun and maintain your great team dynamic?
One thing I make clear with my staff is that everyone is responsible for every item that comes off our station regardless of which shift you’re in. Everyone is treated as an equal. It definitely promotes teamwork when they’re forced to communicate and are accountable for one another.
I encourage everyone to find their own ways to be more efficient, faster, etc. I also encourage my staff to contribute to the menu. Whether it’s a new bon bon or ice cream flavor, or family meal, all I ask is they make something that excites them. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain but we do it together. The lone wolf dies but the pack survives.
You’re from California, and you’ve got a lot of West Coast folks, and others who have moved to NYC, on your team; what is it about the food and restaurant scene in NYC that attracted you all?
NY has it all. We have easy access to variety in not only the type of cuisine, but the decor/ambiance/crowd that comes with every neighborhood. Everyone in this city is an eater. 8 million food stories.
With these desserts that you’ve created in collaboration with Murray’s Cheese, what were you looking to show folks that want to make a special dessert at home? How did the ingredients available to you allow you to express your creativity?
I wanted to show that you can take any base recipe and adjust the ingredients to fit the flavor profile you’re after. The panna cotta, for instance, is a nice medium for the other flavors: cherry, almond, mandarin. Those three can easily be replaced with three other Murray’s ingredients to create an entirely different dessert.
You’ve recently gotten engaged (Congratulations!) and your fiancée doesn’t work in the restaurant industry; what’s something that you made for her when you were dating to try and impress her?
I made her a bday cake our first year dating. Simple chocolate with ganache and mousse. I actually asked one of my cooks to write happy birthday on a chocolate plaque for me! I trust my writing but it had to be on point!
What’s one thing you’d like diners to know about ordering dessert at a restaurant, and for folks who have never dined at Marea, what would you like them to know about your dessert program specifically (other than ‘save room for dessert’)?
Take a chance and trust the chef. I feel there are too many people out there who completely dismiss this course because they’re not a “dessert person”. I personally don’t have a sweet tooth but I make it a point to at least try one or two desserts at the end of a meal. You might miss out on something revelatory.
If you liked what you saw and heard from Francis, follow him on Instagram @bakesohard, and for more Marea pastry goodness and a look behind the scenes in the pastry kitchen, follow his sous chefs Michelle @meeshystreats and Kat’s @chefkatterson.
Depending on who you ask, the word pecorino may conjure up a hilltop town in Tuscany, the bustle of a Roman caffè, or the sun-drenched beaches of Sardinia. This deceptively simple sheep’s milk cheese is made throughout Italy and takes on the character of wherever it is made.
Pecorino (simply: a sheep’s milk cheese) was the cheese of choice for the Roman Empire, and techniques to produce it were spread wherever the Romans went. This became the springboard for the great diversity of cheese styles that developed throughout Europe over the course of the next centuries. While many of these new styles of cheesemaking made their way back to the Italian peninsula, several techniques remained uniquely Italian. It is impossible to think of Italian cheese and not have the pasta filata (lit: stretched paste) cheeses like mozzarella and caciocavallo come to mind. However, while mozzarella is a classic, there are other uniquely Italian cheeses born from a lesser-known Italian cheese tradition — the art of aging cheese.
Affinato is the Italian art of maturing cheese. Italian aged cheeses often take the form of classic cheese styles found throughout Europe, such as the grand washed rind cheese taleggio or the creamy, bloomy rinded robiolas. There is, however, one form of affinato that distinctively expresses the Italian character more than any other. This technique has no single name, but shows up time and time again in Italian cheese making: the art of using cheese as a pedestal to showcase the local agricultural specialties of a region. Whether infusing, wrapping, rubbing, or soaking a cheese, the list of ingredients found throughout the country knows no bounds. But the three most classic additions to the aging process are wine, truffles and chestnut leaves.
It’s hard to mention the culinary world of Italy and not talk about its wine. As with cheesemaking, the Romans spread viticulture throughout Europe, and today, Italy is the world’s largest exporter of wine. It would only make sense, then, that wine would make its way into the cheese aging process.
Many Italian cheeses are rubbed in grape must (the grape skins left over from the wine making process). This take on affinato lends a subtle fruity note to the finished cheese. For a more robust infusion of wine, other cheeses are soaked for several days as part of their maturation. In the case of ubriaco* (literally meaning plastered or drunken) cheese, the ripe fruit flavors meld beautifully with richness of Italian cheese [*note: Ubriaco is not currently available online]. In northern Italy, a collective of small farms produces a savory take on this tradition in the form of weinkase lagrein, the cheese soaked in lagrein wine. Garlic and black peppercorns are added to the wine during soaking, resulting in an herbaceous cheese that stands its ground next to any Italian cured meat.
Nobody does truffles better than the Italians. These aromatic little balls of umami can be found from the rolling hills of Molise to the alpine valleys of Piedmont. During spring and summer black truffles (tartufo nero) can be found grated and minced into mouth watering cream sauces. While in winter the prized white truffle (tartufo bianco) is often thinly sliced over plates of cooked scamorza, mozzarella or caciocavallo. When it comes to maturing cheese, the Italians have invented countless ways to incorporate the intoxicating flavor of truffles. As it nears the height of its aging, the marbled moltinero al tartufo is infused with black truffles – lending it the appearance of a classical statue and a wonderful, earthy flavor. The more modest sottocenere has a paste dappled in truffle flakes and a rind coated in ash. The result is a more subtle cheese that finishes on a harmonious note of musk and smoke.
There is something irresistible about a small round of cheese wrapped in leaves. It looks amazing on a cheese plate, and creates a mystery around what can be found inside. However, this form of affinato serves a very practical purpose as well, as it keeps the cheese from drying out as it ages. Yet, every once in a while, a leaf is used that also imparts a taste of the place where it was made.
Nothing highlights this more than a pecorino wrapped in a walnut leaf. This simple pairing has numerous expressions with cheese textures ranging from springy and smooth to firm and flaky. A distinguished example is pecorino foglie di noce from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The young pecorino wheel is wrapped in green, walnut leaves and placed in an individual crock. Like childhood sweethearts who grow old together, the cheese and leaf age in tandem over several months. The result is a robust, earthy cheese with a slight, crumbly texture.
This is just a sampling of the ingenuity and culinary richness of Italian cheese traditions. Stop into a Murray’s store or check back in with us online, as we celebrate all things Italian throughout the month of September.
There are so many great, knowledgeable people who work at Murray’s that we wanted to highlight some of them and ask some cheese-centric questions!
This month, meet Nick Tranchina, the Executive Vice President of Murray’s Cheese. Yes, Nick is now the Big Cheese at Murray’s, but he started many years ago as a volunteer in our classrooms, and worked his way up through our Bleecker counter and many other jobs. That means he’s got a lot of cheese knowledge, and a lot of Murray’s knowledge too. Read on to read about Nick’s childhood obsession with cheese that became a full time job, what his favorite cheese at the moment is, and more.
Where are you originally from? Did you grow up eating and enjoying cheese?
I was born in Manhattan, but moved to the suburbs as a little kid. Cheese was one of my main forms of sustenance growing up. I ate cheese sandwiches (bread/cheese/lettuce) for lunch most days, much to the confusion of my peers. I started with cottage cheese sandwiches, and then as I got older I began experimenting with whatever I could get my hands on. My father and I did the food shopping every week, so I was able to select different cheeses to try on a pretty constant basis – various Asiagos, goudas, triple cremes, mozzarella, etc.
How did you get into cheese, and what brought you to Murray’s?
Like I said, I grew up infatuated with cheese. While in grad school, I found out that you could take cheese classes for free at Murray’s if you volunteered to help clean up afterwards. Seemed like a no-brainer to me. I started doing that a few times a week, and was eventually offered a job on the counter at our Bleecker store. Murray’s has grown a lot since then. I’ve been lucky enough to work a bunch of different jobs here.
What is your favorite cheese at the moment and why?
Well, we’re in the middle of tomato season, so this is the time of year when I need to eat burrata a few times a week. In a month we’ll be hitting our apple season stride, and I’ll transition to clothbound cheddar. Fresh apples, peanut butter, and Quicke’s Cheddar is my go-to fall snack.
We are celebrating all things Italian this month. What is your favorite Italian cheese?
This is a difficult question to answer. The only cheese I always (always) have in my fridge is Parmigiano Reggiano. It ends up in a lot of things I cook, and is also a great snack. When it’s freshly cut from a just opened wheel, it’s the best cheese in the world.
How do you use Murray’s Italian products at home? Do you have a favorite use for them?
I eat pasta at least every other day. Probably more. The Rustichella D’Abruzzo brand we sell is the best I’ve ever found. I use olive oil (generally Italian) in just about everything I cook. I mentioned the Parm. I always have balsamic vinegar around to dress up some salad, fresh tomatoes, or roasted vegetables.
What is your favorite thing about working at Murray’s?
Rustic Bakery is located in Marin County, CA, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Here at Murray’s, we’re so fond of their baked goods that we partnered up to become Rustic Bakery’s exclusive online outlet. What do we so love about these knockout kneaders? “When we started our bakery, we wanted to be the accompaniment to fine cheese,” says Rustic Bakery co-founder Carol LeValley. And boy, have Carol and company succeeded. Cheese shops across the country pride themselves on carrying Rustic’s flatbreads and crisps, and that success has lead this small Bay Area operation to create equally delicious cookies and sweets. But it’s not just about flavor. We’re also deeply inspired by Rustic Bakery’s integrity and commitment to quality. Case in point: their sourdough starter is 20 years old.
Instead of mere crackers, Rustic makes naturally leavened flatbreads. They also make pecan and cranberry crostinis, Meyer lemon shortbreads, and blue cheese and walnut coins, to name just a few of our favorite trusty standbys. But we’ve also just brought in a few new items that we’re particularly fond of: a trio of crisps with incredible depth. What exactly do they taste like? Well, like this:
Imagine a chocolate cherry bread pudding in cracker form. If the thought has your mouth watering, the good news is that such a wonder does not only exist in the realm of imagination. It is real, and it is Rustic Bakery’s Tart Cherry, Cacao Nib & Almond Artisan Crisp. You could easily finish a box on its own, but it also makes a transcendent base for cream bombs like Delice de Bourgogne.
If you took a lemon poppy seed muffin, crossed it with a gingerbread cookie, and then gave it a nice toasty crunch, you’d have yourself Rustic Bakery’s Citrus, Ginger & Thyme Artisan Crisp. If you think that sounds delicious enough to eat on it’s own, you’d be entirely right, though it’s even more sublime when topped with a rich triple crème or fresh cheese.
On the Greek Islands, there’s a cake made with brandy, citrus, and nuts that’s traditional to eat on New Year’s. But it’s such a delicious flavor combo that it calls to be eaten year round, and these artisan crisps make that happen. Give it a smear of a thick, creamy cheese or a dollop of crème fraîche to up the flavor factor even higher.
Okay, these next two items aren’t new, but we’re so swept up in our enthusiasm about Rustic Bakery that we can’t help but continue talking about their products. Light and flaky, these Olive Oil and Sel Gris Flatbread crackers are subtle, satisfying, and sturdy enough to support any cheese or spread. Rustic’s flatbreads are naturally leavened and baked by hand, using only organic grains and seeds. This makes them high in fiber, full of nutrients, and completely delicious. This style features grey sea salt from France and extra virgin olive oil, creating a simple decadence.
A shortbread cookie designed for those who love the rich, robust flavors of dark chocolate. And apparently that’s a pretty large group, because this shortbread is one of Rustic Bakery’s best sellers. It’s made by hand with organic and all natural ingredients, including an indulgent medley of Valrhona cacao nibs and fleur de sel. A snackable dessert on its own, it also pairs particularly well with a cheese like Bay Blue.
Whenever we find ourselves in the Bay Area, we make sure to find a way up to visit Rustic Bakery. But we also want to enjoy their goods much more often, so it’s a good thing that we have such an extensive collection of their items available online. But don’t take our word for it, click here to experience Rustic Bakery for yourself.