Texas Trio of Pasta Pockets

When it comes to a warm comforting bowl of pasta, it doesn’t get more decadent than stuffed pasta—think manicotti, tortellini, agnolotti or ravioli. But how often do all the elements—the noodles, filling and the sauce—turn out just right? Here’s a Texas trio of pasta pockets sure to induce fork fights!

Green With Envy

How fresh can fresh pasta be? At North Italia, through the glass kitchen window, watch executive chef Jonathan Wills and his crew make the spinach pasta dough, roll it out, and punch cut the tortellini rounds. Then they pipe in the filling and skillfully hand fold each pocket right before boiling the pasta. This painstaking process ensures fresh and fluffy dough.

There is only one stuffed pasta dish on North’s menu and the puffy oversized Spinach Tortellini, filled with four cheeses including mascarpone, melt in your mouth. Expect generous layers of olive oil-glossed garlic spinach and roasted mushrooms interwoven in the dish, which magically create a natural sauce. For the final fruity-sweet touch, Italian saba vinegar reduction is drizzled over the pasta. Although this verdant green jumble of tortellini looks virtuous—after all, it is spinach—the overall effect is wicked.


Fat & Flirty Florentine

At this Italian shrine, regulars rave over the unique ravioli di pollo stuffed with tender chicken confit and haricot verts baked in rich gorgonzola crema and paved with pine nut bread crumbs. But for just as much luxury and more flavor notes, we can’t resist the tangy, creamy and bright Manicotti Florentine.

The light and airy handmade pasta dough is rolled thin enough to be tender to the bite but sturdy enough to hold plenty of filling. The filling is ultra creamy, oozing with fresh ricotta—and we mean lots of ricotta. Laced inside the cheese is garlicky sautéed spinach with just the right spark of lemon zest flavor. The manicotti is topped with spicy arrabbiata tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella before being baked. It’s the fresh and tangy tomato sauce—not too sweet, not too thick nor too thin that keeps the dish balanced.

We just can’t get enough of Enoteca Vespaio. Insider tip for pasta fans: Go next door to beloved sister restaurant, Vespaio, for pansoti—half-moon pasta filled with butternut squash and amaretti, sage brown butter, walnuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It could stand in for dessert.


Crème de la Mer

Chef-owner Anthony Russo opened his first restaurant in Galveston after moving to Texas from New York. Now he owns several Italian concepts around Texas known for convenient, tasty and fairly priced food. One of the most popular items on Russo’s Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen menu is the Lobster Ravioli.

Have you noticed old school square ravioli have gone round and puffy? This means more dough and filling for us—and this filling is impressive with big chunks of Maine lobster claw meat. The generous serving is blanketed in a divine tomato cream sauce flavored with garlic, white wine and mascarpone cheese. Finally, it’s freshened up with tart diced tomatoes and fragrant just-picked basil.

“Our lobster ravioli sold so well during a special that we decided it should be a permanent menu item,” Russo says. Smart move. Meat and mushroom lovers will like the giant veal and beef stuffed tortellacci with mushrooms, garlic and a heady Marsala cream sauce.


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