Cooking the Books: The Pasta Course

My name is Laura, and I am a carb addict. I never met a potato I didn’t like. Never went to an Italian restaurant without ordering at least a side of pasta. I have been known to eat an entire mini baguette with a slab of Brie. I couldn’t even make it forty-eight hours on the Atkins diet. Well, you get the idea.

Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy
Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy
But despite my firm belief that every dinner should include a pasta course, I’ve never attempted to make my own fresh dough. It always seemed like so much work, and since there’s so much good stuff out there already, I had to wonder whether it could really be worth the effort. But then I ran across the recipe for Chesapeake Crab Agnolottis with Basil Oil in Julie Hyzy’s latest mystery, Buffalo West Wing.

I love crab, and Hyzy has an “ easy version” where you use wonton wrappers instead of making your own pasta from scratch, so I thought I’d give it a shot. The dish came out differently than I expected, but still delicious. I suspect if I’d made the pasta, the agnolottis would have remained individuals, like ravioli, but since I used the “wonton wrapper” method, once I’d put them onto the plates, they clung together so I got a sort of crab lasagna thing: layers of pasta and crab and basil-flavored oil. 

If you’re a pasta maker, pick up Hyzy’s book or use your own recipe for the “hard way.”  If you’d prefer to cheat like me, here’s the “easy way.”



1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

(Because I consider pasta without some form of garlic anathema, I added two cloves of roasted garlic at the same time as the basil)

Place the olive oil and basil leaves in a blender container. Pulse until leaves are finely chopped but not yet a paste. Transfer the mixture to a skillet over medium heat. Warm through until the oil smells fragrant. Place a fine-meshed strainer over a glass bowl. Line with two layers of cheesecloth. (If you don’t have cheesecloth, as I didn’t, a coffee filter will do nicely.) Pour the warm oil through the strainer to remove the basil leaves. Pour the filtered oil into a cruet or a bottle. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.

Chesapeake crab agnolottis with basil oil from Julie Hyzy’s Buffalo West Wing: the oil begins
The oil begins. My basil leaves were torn, not blended.

2 Packages Wonton Wrappers

1 cup ricotta cheese

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 lb. lump crabmeat, preferably fresh Chesapeake crabmeat, carefully picked over to remove any shell fragments

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place all filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. 

Chesapeake crab agnolottis with basil oil from Julie Hyzy’s Buffalo West Wing: the filling
The crab and basil filling
Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of a wonton-wrapper square. Wet your fingers. Dampen the edges of the wonton square. Place a second wonton square on top of the filled square of wonton wrapper. Use your fingers to stick the dough edges together, so that you have a little sandwich of wonton dough around the filling, with the edges firmly glued to each other. 

Chesapeake crab agnolottis with basil oil from Julie Hyzy’s Buffalo West Wing: the layout
The layout
Once your agnolottis are stuffed and ready to go, drop them into a heavy pot filled two-thirds with salted boiling water. Stir the water gently with a wooden spoon to keep the pasta from sticking together. Boil until pasta is cooked al dente, roughly 3-6 minutes. (Fresh pasta cooks a lot faster than dried pasta.) Remove to a warmed platter with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with basil oil. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired. Serve. 

Chesapeake crab agnolottis with basil oil from Julie Hyzy’s Buffalo West Wing
The pasta!

Read Laura Curtis’s Cooking the Books: Cozy Appetizer course for Avery Aames’ risotto with smoked salmon and mascarpone recipe.

You may also be interested in our Food Fatale feature section.

Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill.  She blogs at Women of Mystery and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks.  She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.


  1. Katrina Niidas Holm

    I ADORE these books, but for some reason, have never thought to make any of the recipes. What think you? Worth the effort?

  2. Laura K. Curtis

    I definitely think it would have been better with homemade pasta, but it was pretty delicious anyway!

  3. Katrina Niidas Holm

    Hmm. I have a pasta maker in the basement somewhere. Will have to dig it out and give this a try… Thanks for being my guinea pig!

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