Ask any Italian mama, “What’s the single most important item on your pantry shelf?” Invariably, her answer will be pasta. Whether it plays a minor role in a major dinner, or serves as a quick dish to quell ravenous appetites, a bowl of pasta is always gladly received. And whether Italy is or is not the originator of pasta, she has taken the concept and run with it. There are two basic categories of pasta: dried, factory-made pasta made with flour and water, and fresh pasta, made with egg and flour. Neither is superior, they’re just different. Each type lends itself to different kinds of sauces and preparations. Our markets now carry good-quality fresh pastas, so making your own pasta at home isn’t essential. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try. For a complete guide to making your own pasta, consult Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Her instructions are impeccable. There are many reasons to love pasta in addition to the comfort and satisfaction that come with a steaming bowl placed before you. Pasta is very economical.

Even the fancy artisanal brands shouldn’t break the bank. Meat lovers and vegetarians alike can find satisfying pasta recipes. And pasta can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, making it a boon to harried cooks. Despite the varying food trends, pasta always manages to prevail.

Pasta can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, making it a boon to harried cooks.

Joe Buonincontri, chef/owner of Luce Ristorante E Enoteca, recently traveled to Tuscany, where he discovered this authentic recipe for Wild Boar Ragu. It’s a hearty dish that’s perfect for these cold winter months, and he serves it as a special at the restaurant. The term ragù (pronounced rah GOO) refers to sauces made from a variety of chopped meats, sautéed vegetables and one or more liquids such as water, stock, wine, tomato or milk or cream. Buonincontri’s version is ethereal. He prepares it with wild boar that can easily be ordered from Broken Arrow Ranch in Ingram, Texas, but Buonincontri says you can use other meats if preferred. He also notes that you could serve this sauce over soft polenta. No matter how it’s served, his Italian mama would approve.

Chef Jason Dady is owner of two locations of Tre Trattoria, Bin 555, Two Bros BBQ Market, and the DUK Truck, so he’s one busy guy. Dady says this pasta recipe is “likely my all-time fave easy pasta recipe,” since it involves just a few simple ingredients. With a recipe like this, it’s essential to use the best ingredients you can find — ripe tomatoes, pristine shrimp (buy them frozen and defrost them yourself right before cooking), and the best Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. One of the secrets to this dish is the delicate-flavored Olio Santo basil oil — an herb-infused oil that imparts a subtle hint of summer-fresh basil, even in the dead of winter. Many cutting-edge chefs are using such infused oils to effortlessly add great flavor to dishes. At Tre Trattoria, they make their own exquisite pasta, but you can find the wide ribbons of pasta called pappardelle at most grocery stores.