1. Carbonara with Truffle at Basilico
Carbonara, done right, is such an amazing dish – slurp-worthy pasta coated ever so lightly with a smooth creamy-savoury sauce. But it really isn’t easy to find a satisfying carbonara these days, and we are talking about a traditional Italian carbonara prepared with the classic combination of pancetta, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and egg yolks (read: no cream!).
We are happy to report that Head Chef Luca Beccalli serves a brilliant version at Basilico with the added goodness of shaved black truffles. When the Spaghettoni (a slightly thicker version of spaghetti) alla Carbonara e Tartufo ($33) is served, you will want to put your phone away and attack it immediately as it is best enjoyed piping hot. Other pastas, such as the handmade Tagliatelle with a rich Wagyu beef bolognese and aged Parmesan cheese, are wonderful as well. Both pastas are available on the dinner a la carte menu.
Follow our recipe to make your own!
Basilico Italian Restaurant is at Level 2, Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Road, tel: 6725 3088.
2. Ravioles de Royans at Merci Marcel
Ravioli, square-shaped pillows of pasta with fillings such as cheese, spinach and meats, are usually served with a red sauce, cream sauce or butter sauce. At this Parisian-chic bistro, their signature Ravioles de Royans ($18), are so addictive that they now come in two sizes to suit your fancy. Each pocket of pasta is filled with a creamy emulsion of Swiss Tête de Moine cheese, but you don’t feel gelak easily as the pastas are mini-sized.
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Merci Marcel is at 56 Eng Hoon St, #01-68, tel: 6224 0113; and 7-9 Club St, tel: 6438 3913.
3. Rigatoni Bolognese at SONS
Pasta Bolognese is undoubtedly one of the classic favourites among the Singapore crowd. At SONS, chefs prepare their Rigatoni Bolognese ($10.90, available only for lunch, Mondays to Fridays only) the traditional way. The meat sauce starts with finely diced carrots, onions and garlic, cooked in a pot with extra virgin olive oil and bay leaf, then minced meat is added, followed by red wine and tomatoes. This is then left to simmer slowly for four hours to bring out the wonderful flavours. The rigatoni (or tubed-shaped pasta) with all its ridges and hollow centre is the perfect vehicle for this sauce. Sons is closed on Sundays.
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SONS is at #01-19 China Square Central, 20 Cross Street, tel: 6221 3937.
4. Lobster Spaghetti Chitarra at Amò
This show-stopping Spaghetti Chitarra with Boston Lobster and Tarragon ($98, serves 2) is, we think, one of the best-kept secrets of Amò, which is known for their handcrafted pizzas. Just look at that gigantic lobster, claws and all. At this casual Italian eatery by Michelin star restaurateur Beppe De Vito, fresh Boston Lobster and handmade spaghetti alla chitarra or “guitar spaghetti” (the name of the pasta is inspired by a century-old contraption that is used to shape and cut it so it looks like a guitar) are cooked in a rich tarragon sauce.
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The spaghetti’s signature long square-shaped strands help the pasta take in all the delicious flavours of the sauce. Portions are generous and can feed more than two people if you are ordering dishes to share.
Amò is at 33 Hong Kong Street, tel: 6723 7733.
5. Squid ink pasta at Gattopardo
While searching for squid ink pastas, we found two main versions: One has pasta (usually spaghetti) cooked in a deep black sauce, which seems to be the more old school way, and the other has the ink incorporated into the pasta dough so the dark inky pasta is then paired with other sauces. Both versions have their merits, but if we had to enjoy the characteristic briny taste of squid ink in the company of associates and friends then we would go for the latter.
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At Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare, the squid ink pasta is still painstakingly handmade and Sicilian chef-owner Lino Sauro, who advocates using sustainably-farmed seafood, combines the toothsome pasta with seasonal seafood. It could be Atlantic blue lobster and brandy one month and Argentinian prawns the next. Presently, the homemade squid ink pasta is prepared with Queensland spanner crab and Nduja (a spicy spreadable salami, say: en-doo-ya). Best enjoyed with a glass of chilled white wine or Prosecco.
Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare is at 34 Tras Street, tel: 6338 5498.
6. Mentaiko Pasta at Kabe no Ana
Love mentaiko pasta? Then you have Kabe no Ana (it means “Hole in the Wall” in Japanese) to thank. This eatery, founded by Takayasu Narimatsu in Chuo-ku of Tokyo in 1953, first served spaghetti in Tokyo in the ’50s and ’60s when pasta was a relatively unfamiliar food in Japan.
They were also known to be the first to incorporate natto (fermented soybeans) and mentaiko (marinated cod roe) in their pasta, thus pioneering the new wafu (or Japanese-style) pasta wave. We hear that mentaiko spaghetti in particular, was inspired by the request of a regular Kabe no Ana customer who suggested adding caviar to his spaghetti — they improvised and replaced caviar with tarako (salted cod roe or pollock roe) instead. You can find Kabe no Ana’s mentaiko pasta dishes (think: Mentaiko Carbonara, Mentaiko Ebi Kinoko (mentaiko with prawn and shimeji mushroom) and more) in Singapore at Shokutsu Ten Japanese Food Street. Learn how to make your own mentaiko pasta with our recipe.
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Kabe no Ana is at #B1-80 NEX, 23 Serangoon Central, tel: 6634 8024; and #B1-55 Jurong Point, 1 Jurong West Central 2, tel: 6397 0435.
7. Spaghetti with Meatballs at Lavo
Lavo, perched atop Marina Bay Sands (MBS) at 57 floors above-ground, takes the Italian-American classic of Spaghetti and Meatballs ($48) to new heights. Chef Ralph Scarmardella, Chef and Partner of Tao Group (Lavo is a collaboration between MBS and Tao Group), tells us that the famous Lavo Meatball consists of freshly ground veal, pork and imperial Wagyu beef. It is always prepared by hand, never a machine.
For the sauce, ingredients include Italian canned tomatoes, basil, parsley, onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. The whole dish takes about three hours to prepare. The result is a meatball pasta dish that has deep, rich meaty flavours with a slightly spicy finish. Best come for dinner, the view is spectacular.
Lavo is at Level 57, Tower 1, Sands Skypark, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, tel: 6688 8591.
8. Sea Urchin Pasta at Terra
There are many versions of the uni (sea urchin) pasta — some prepare it aglio olio and top it off with uni, some mix seafood with uni, and others use uni cream. To each its own, but the version at Terra is one of our absolute favourites.
Chef-owner Seita Nakahara expresses his Tokyo-Italian cuisine philosophy by using the best seasonal ingredients from Japan and preparing the dish in the classic Italian way. Homemade pasta, cut into strands using a chitarra (a tool that has strings like a guitar) is cooked till al dente and combined with luscious lobes of sea urchin, topped with home-cured bottarga (mullet roe) and lightly scented with yuzu. You can taste the sweet-briny creamy sea urchin with every bite.
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There is no a la carte menu here, only set lunch and degustation for dinner, but diners can enjoy the uni pasta with their set lunch with an add-on of $10 (Express lunch starts from $42). Check with the staff on the availability of the dish for dinner.
Terra is at 54 Tras Street, tel: 6221 5159.
9. Fideua at OLA Cocina Del Mar
Fideua is essentially a paella that uses short pasta instead of rice, and it is absolutely delicious. Well, at least at Ola Cocina Del Mar it is. Chef-owner Daniel Chavez, who worked with the late Catalan masterchef Santi Santamaria for many years, helms the contemporary and cozy Spanish restaurant. Chef Chavez’s version of fideua is hearty, satisfying and packed with flavour from his intense seafood-based stock.
Short, thin fideos (or fideus) pasta is toasted in a large paella pan and cooked in that amazing stock with bits of sausages and finished in a very hot oven so there are crispy bits that the local diners favour. It is then studded with seafood, such as sweet fresh langoustines and prawns, and served with a creamy garlicky aioli sauce. A squeeze of lemon provides a touch of brightness and completes the dish. One portion can serve two to three people, but likely, you will not want to share.
Learn how to make your own seafood paella with these easy recipes here and here.
OLA Cocina Del Mar is at #01-06 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3, 12 Marina Boulevard, tel: 6604 7050.
Photo: Xie Huiqun
10. Hae Bee Hiam pasta at Relish
While the Laksa Pesto Linguine by local chef Willin Low has quite a following, we would now like to bring the spotlight to another local-inspired creation Chef Low serves at Relish: The Hae Bee Hiam Spaghettini ($22.80). This mod-sin pasta dish tossed with spicy shrimp belachan, conpoy (dried scallops) and tiger prawns hits the spot if you are looking something spicy, punchy and yummy. While you are there, do also try their spam fries served with kaffir lime mayo ($11.30) and the lip-smacking Wild Rocket Beef Burger with Sarawak black pepper sauce ($22.36).
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Relish @ Cluny Court is at #02-01 Cluny Court, 501 Bukit Timah Road, tel: 67631547.
11. Bottoni at Zafferano
At contemporary Italian restaurant Zafferano’s newly revamped menu by Tuscan native Emanuele Faggi, we spot an unusual ravioli dish. Hand-crafted ‘bottoni’ (button-shaped pasta) filled with braised veal tongue, salsa verde and served with fresh oyster, candied lemon and veal stock to be precise.
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The rich ravioli filling of veal tongue slow-cooked in vegetable stock for four hours is paired with briny fresh oysters in sort of a tango of the land and sea. Kudos for the creative spin. Oh, and did we mention the restaurant has an awesome view of the CBD?
Zafferano is at Level 43, Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay, tel: 6509 1488.
Photo: Xie Huiqun
12. Linguine with Clams at House of Mu
At restaurant and bar House of MU, Chef Tyrell Joon, who held key positions in the Les Amis group of restaurants for many years, dishes out well-loved family-styled dishes. One dish that impressed was the vongole (clam) pasta with an aglio olio base (garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes). Plump and sweet clams, soaked in salted water for over two days to get rid of any sandy bits, are cooked separately and deglazed with sherry instead of the usual white wine, then combined with perfectly executed linguine (a slightly flattened spaghetti) aglio olio, giving the dish an alluring fragrance and added sweetness.
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House of Mu is at 11 Mohammed Sultan Road, tel: 6732 1011. Visit www.facebook.com/theHouseofMU
13. Tortellini at Lino
Lino, a contemporary Italian-inspired restaurant by Les Amis Group, is the latest addition to our ever-growing list of casual-fine Italian eateries. The focus here is on fresh handmade pizzas, pastas, and small plates. Chef Shaufi Yusof, who used to work at Publico Ristorante at the InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay and the now-defunct Mozza at Marina Bay Sands, serves a tortellini (a ring-shaped pasta usually filled with meat, cheese or vegetables) dish inspired by his exploration trip to Italy.
Chef tells us that traditionally, tortellini is served with broth and grated Parmigiano Reggiano, but at Lino, he makes fresh tortellini with pork and veal filling and serves it with a Parmigiano Reggiano sauce – a rich dish that goes well with a glass a wine.
Lino is at 7 Binjai Park, tel: 6463 7800. Visit www.linorestaurant.com
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Text: Xie Huiqun, Additional reporting: Elizabeth Liew