In the Kitchen: Perfect pasta and decadent grilled cheese

S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Fellow food fans,

Just back from a long weekend in the Napa Valley, where almost everyone is talking about the winter that wasn’t. At least one winemaker told me that this year’s grape crop is a full month ahead of normal, meaning harvest as early as August. I’ve been hearing similar things up and down the state from growers of all kinds of fruits and vegetables. What’s it all going to mean? It’s not clear yet — we’re pretty much in uncharted territory, climate-wise. Rest assured we’ll be keeping you up to date as the season progresses.

But first, how about a little pasta class? And a stove knob that will control heat within a single degree? And, in case you missed it, a look back at National Grilled Cheese Day, because ... grilled cheese.

— Russ Parsons

In pursuit of perfect pasta

Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri may have a kitchen outfitted with all the latest toys, but when it comes to making fresh pasta, he’s definitely old school, says S. Irene Virbila. How old school? He still rolls out the sheets with a mattarello — the long, straight wooden rolling pin favored by Italian grandmothers everywhere.


Smart stove knob

How often have you put a soup on to simmer, only to return 10 minutes later and find it has somehow all on its own increased to a rolling boil? The company Meld wants to put an end to that. It just launched a Kickstarter campaign for a stove knob that will monitor the temperature in a pot and keep it perfectly steady. Think about the implications for candy making and deep-frying! Excited? You’re not alone — it fulfilled its $50,000 goal in 7 hours.

Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times

Waste not, want not

What happens to all that sparkling fresh produce left over at the end of a farmers market? A lot of the time it’s collected by the nonprofit Food Forward, which then passes it along to those who need it most — food pantries and other charitable organizations. In the last six years, they’ve saved more than 8 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables from going to waste.

Looking to reduce food waste in your own kitchen? It’s more than just the right thing to do, it is delicious. Don’t throw out scraps such as carrot and radish tops and old Parmesan rinds, use them in your next dinner. We’ve got 10 recipes to get you started.

Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Grilled cheese lovers do it taller

How did you celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day? You probably can’t top our Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter and Food writer Jenn Harris, who put a gold star on the red-letter day by building a 20-layer grilled cheese sandwich. What was in it? American cheese, mozzarella and sliced tomato, provolone and pesto, pepperjack and fried egg, gorgonzola and grilled onions, brie and bacon, Monterey Jack and pastrami, Velveeta and Tater Tots, smoked gouda, cream cheese and lox — and that’s just the start. 

And do you know why grilled cheese lovers are such a happy bunch? According to scientists (well, not really — it was a survey from the Internet, but that’s almost as good, right?), it’s because grilled cheese lovers have sex more often than abstainers. Though probably not after eating that 20-layer monster.


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