PERRYSBURG – Local resident Paul Matthews is in the Italian food business, so he knows a good pasta
entree when he sees one.
He calls Penne Al Ricotta "a nice summer pasta dish" which rewards both the cook for his/her
efforts and the guest with a pleasurable dining experience.
Matthews has been chef partner at the popular Biaggi’s Italian Ristorante at Levis Commons for the past
three and a half years.
That gives him to opportunity to experiment with flavors, and see what people really like.
The Penne Al Ricotta has been so well received that "I’m featuring it (on the menu) for the next 10
This is a dish that can be served meatless and still leave the diner feeling pampered and satisfied.
It also works extremely well with chicken – the only meat Matthews would consider adding.
If he were using it as the centerpiece for a home dinner party "I might add a mozzarella caprese
salad – that would be great. And it would go really well with a crisp white wine" such as a pinot
tois Maculan, an Italian variety with "sweet undertones to bring out the sweet, buttery creaminess
of the cheese" in the pasta sauce.
For those inclined to make the dish themselves, rather than stop by the restaurant and order it, Matthews
has strict advice.
"I don’t rinse my pasta, I oil it on a sheet tray, and toss it back in.
"But I wouldn’t over-mix it, so the cheese all melts completely. You want to have a few cheese
chunks left in so when you bite into one, it’s like a nice surprise."
The inclusion of ricotta and parmesan, rather than a more prosaic variety of cheese, is inspired, and a
good pairing with the baby spinach.
Matthews, his wife and their three children call Perrysburg home. But he originally grew up in Monroe,
His most recent jobs, prior to joining Biaggi’s, were at an Ann Arbor restaurant called Maude’s and at
Chef in the Sky in Detroit.
Rather than attend a culinary arts school, he got his training close to home.
"For almost five years right out of high school I trained with a really, really great chef – Paul
Jurich. He was actually blind; he only had peripheral vision. He was at a steak and seafood place called
the Michigan Bar and Grill; a wonderful place. We made all our own bread."
Biaggi’s marks Matthews’ first foray into the world of Italian cuisine and he’s thoroughly enjoying it.
"Italian food, in general, is more social. It’s every bit as complex, interesting or diverse as
French food, Spanish food."
At the same time "it’s very accessible to people. Everyone understands Italian food. I think
sometimes people get intimidated with French or even fusion cuisine."
He’s very excited about news Biaggi’s just received. The chain has been voted "best Italian
chain" by Consumer Reports, with the details appearing in the July issue of the magazine.
"We tied with Capitol Grill" with a score of 86 "and they’re pretty high end. We’re a
lower price point" chain in comparison. "Nothing in here costs more than $21."
The score was based on evaluation of taste, value, service and mood. "They did about 250 visits in
the course of a year, at each restaurant" and had a whopping 70,000 responses. So Matthews feels
that the Consumer Reports seal of approval really means something.
He also feels Italian cuisine is an excellent choice for home cooks of all skill levels.
"When it comes to Italian, put together five ingredients and as long as they’re five fresh
ingredients, it’s going to be good."
A. 6 oz. penne pasta
B. 1.5 oz. fresh baby spinach
C. 3 oz. Ricotta cheese
D. 4 oz. chicken stock (liquid oz.)
E. 1 oz. fresh diced tomato
F. 1 oz. parmesan blend
G. .25 oz. grated parmesan cheese
H. Salt & Pepper
In a 10 inch sauce pan add B through E and heat on medium heat until it starts to boil.
Toss the pre-cooked pasta ( A ) into the spinach, chicken stock, tomato, cheese broth until penne is well
coated. Remove from heat and toss in fresh grated parmesan cheese.
Salt and Pepper to taste and garnish with fresh Julienne Basil.
Use this dish as a side or add fresh grilled chicken and serve as main course.