Pasta doesn’t cost the Earth at Miscusi

Covent Garden restaurant offers ‘low-impact’ dishes, made with less carbon emissions

Thursday, 26th May — By Tom Moggach

Miscusi 22-Eating out

UNTIL the war in Ukraine, we took the supply of wheat for granted. But this conflict has exposed frailties in global food chains and prices are skyrocketing.

It’s an issue that has long troubled Alberto Cartasegna, the founder of Miscusi – a restaurant offering a new wave of sustainable pastas. He operates 13 branches in Italy and a London outpost in Covent Garden, with another opening in Upper Street in Islington at the start of next month.

Cartasegna describes how we now rely on a small number of industrially farmed cereals, which are traded as a crude commodity.

Farmers are locked in a vicious cycle – relying on chemical fertilisers and pesticides to maintain yields, which in turn generate a large carbon footprint and damage both biodiversity and soil and human health.

“I don’t understand why we treat wheat like it is a pair of shoes,” Cartasegna laments. “It doesn’t make sense anymore.”

At Miscusi, they work with small farmers in Italy to source and trial different grains to make their pastas. All crops are grown without artificial irrigation and pesticides.

The new menu now offers a range of what they call “low-impact pastas”, made with 80 per cent less carbon emissions than traditional industrial pasta. They use sorghum, for example, a grain naturally low in gluten and ancient strains of Durum wheat from Sicily. For their M7 pasta, it’s a unique blend of four grains and three legumes.

But how do they taste? You should visit to find out. The short menu at Miscusi operates on a pick-and-mix basis.

Pair their M7 rigatoni with a carbonara sauce, for example, or the ancient grains tagliatelle with a beef ragu. Customise further with extra toppings such as olives, almonds and burrata.

More adventurous options include fusilloni with pistachio pesto, Mediterranean tuna and chopped pistachios; or a spaghetti with pecorino, black pepper and a Sicilian prawn tartare.

This Covent Garden branch is located in a shiny new courtyard development near Seven Dials. I sat on the terrace and ordered a negroni. The special was a green tagliatelle with artichoke sauce, crispy artichoke and pecorino for £11.50.

If you want to play it safe, stick with the Durum wheat, typically used for quality pasta.

I went for the sorghum fusilloni, a bit firmer to the bite, with an unusual sauce of creamy pesto and chunks of tuna.

M7 spaghetti with cacio e pepe was intensely cheesy and very well made. In fact, I would challenge you to tell the difference.

For dessert, I popped into Darlish Ice Cream opposite. Here they offer flavours with a Middle Eastern twist, such as chai and cinnamon or mango sorbet with a sprinkle of sumac.

The young woman behind the counter had strong feelings about the Miscusi ethos.

“Why does food have to be virtuous?” she asked. “They are doing this whole ancient grains thing but when I eat pasta I know I am eating carbs – and I am OK with that.”

A meal at Miscusi sparks an interesting debate – and one we should all be having.

23 Slingsby Place

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