Pasta in winter: Island highlights

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—Stacey Rupolo

Once winter arrives and we’re shivering as the snow falls, I always crave carb-loaded pasta dishes. Just like during the hot summer months, when we’re craving fresh, cold green juices and crunchy bowls of salad greens, creamy macaroni and cheese is a must at least once a week in our home. Savory, long-simmering meat sauces like Bolognese twirled around with noodles are what we order when eating out. To make your cravings come true a bit faster this week, I’ve listed some stellar winter pasta dishes you can find on-Island — from the traditional to the not-so-traditional, but just as satisfying.

Let’s begin with the classic macaroni and cheese, which Chef Tony Saccocia from the Grill on Main elevates by adding the most tender, most flavorful grilled and charred shrimp. This Grilled Shrimp Mac and Cheese ($16.95) is a great portion, served drenched in the creamiest, cheesiest sauce ever. As the sauce clings to the pasta, you’ll ask yourself how you can have this for dinner on a nightly basis — it’s that good.

Nothing says comfort food more than the classic Bolognese sauce served with gorgeous pasta. This recipe has been around for decades — actually, a pasta dish described as “Bolognese” first appeared in a cookbook in 1891 in Bologna, Italy. Waltz into the Terrace at the Charlotte Inn, where Chef Justin Melnick strives to make the best Bolognese on the Island. The process takes a couple of days, simmering the meat sauce for hours until ready to serve. It’s served tossed with tagliatelle pasta and shaved Parmesan cheese ($32) — twirl away with your fork and enjoy an evening out.

Another classic can be found at the Barn, Bowl, and Bistro, where they’re serving up Linguini with Mussels Fra Diavolo with spicy tomato garlic sauce ($16). For those nights when the bitter cold is just too much, throw on your coat and get to the Bistro for this spicy pasta dish. It’s named for an Italian revolutionary leader, and you’ll feel like you’re starting a revolution with the spices in this dish. Order some extra toasted bread to soak up the sauce, and eat the mussels with — you’ll make Fra Diavolo proud.

If you’re craving some seafood with your pasta, you can’t go wrong with the traditional Linguini and Clams ($26) from the Wharf Pub. Picture a snowy night in Edgartown as you sidle up to a booth at the restaurant and order this. Fresh littlenecks are simmered in their own broth, along with aromatics like onion, garlic, and herbs. A splash of white wine brings it all together.

For the vegetarians, State Road Restaurant has Winter Squash Dumplings

($24) with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and pickled raisins, all served in an aged cheese bouillon. New Executive Chef Randy Rucker is really showcasing the craft of making dumplings in this simple yet flavorful dish. A must for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

To conclude, smart words from Federico Fellini: “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Go forth and be magical this week, friends — by eating or making pasta!