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Teishoku Pasta



The Japanese are masters at embracing foreign cultures, tweaking the elements, and sublimating the essence into their own reason for being. The same holds true for spaghetti. Dishes featuring ingredients from fermented beans to pollock roe and seasonings like soy sauce and miso are called wafu (Japanese-style) pasta and constitute a category in their own right.

Enter Teishoku Pasta.

Ostrich fern in pesto alla genovese with fragrant nuts, from spring recipes
Hamaguri clam and Japanese parsley in white wine sauce with butter and soy sauce, from spring recipes

The authoritative dictionary Kojien defines teishoku as a set menu of several fixed courses served at a cafeteria or restaurant. Teishoku Pasta sets out to elevate spaghetti into a set menu. It presents over 50 recipes using fresh seasonal ingredients with the aim of establishing the single course as a square meal.

To be clear, this is not a cookbook of Japanese-style pasta. Some of the ingredient combinations certainly bring to mind Japanese recipes — mackerel and Japanese ginger, nori seaweed and tofu skin, yellowtail and daikon, to give a few examples — but the goal of each is to create a satisfying single-plate microcosm of seasonal flavors, wholesome nutrition, and the cook’s affection. From Italian to Japanese to Chinese to Thai, all of the ingredients are artfully transformed into teishoku pasta.

Manganji pepper and Japanese flying squid in garum butter sauce, from summer recipes

The author, Makiko Hamada, is the owner and chef of Capsula, an Italian wine bar and restaurant in the Ogikubo neighborhood of Tokyo. Hamada says that before she went independent, while she was still a trainee, there came a moment when it clicked what cooking was all about. That sensation has served as her guiding principle ever since. It taught her to enjoy cooking without being too caught up in the boundaries or theory of Italian cuisine.

Pacific saury, king trumpet mushroom, and sudachi in white wine sauce, from autumn recipes

Pasta is the perfect staple for creative cooking. Like a blank canvas to the painter, or a foundation to the architect, it provides a solid base on which to play around and explore. Pasta is liberal and versatile, a food that readily realizes the joy of cooking and of eating.

How about a change from the usual white rice with assorted side dishes? Tonight, try breaking up that routine. Roll up your sleeves and prepare a proper dish of pasta.

Lotus root and millets in arrabbiata sauce, from winter recipes

Teishoku Pasta by Makiko Hamada
The chef of Italian wine bar and restaurant Capsula, in the Ogikubo neighborhood of Tokyo, presents unexpected ingredient combinations and tiny cooking tips that make a big difference. Her book promises not only to improve your skills and the joy of cooking pasta but also to broaden your culinary horizons.

text|Mick Nomura(photopicnic) photography|Jiro Fujita(photopicnic)