10 Must-Try Pasta Dishes in San Francisco

By Lauren Sloss  |  February 18, 2015
Credit: RRPR

We’re not sure if there’s anything we love quite as much as pasta. Carb-filled and comforting, pasta is a perfect canvas for stunning culinary skills and creativity, particularly in the hands of San Francisco’s top restaurants. Whether they’re bread crumb-topped and baked or simply dressed with a sauce made from the season’s bounty, we love our pasta any way we can get it. Here are 10 must-eat pasta dishes in San Francisco, plus suggested wine pairings from the restaurants’ wine lists.

Curry and Goat Sausage Agnolotti at SPQR

Picking just one pasta to order at SPQR is nearly impossible — their selection of pastas is 13 strong, with each one more tantalizing sounding than the last. Right now, we can’t stop thinking about the curry and goat sausage agnolotti, a stunning and surprising combination of flavors sure to haunt us for months to come. The delicately spiced, slightly gamey meat filling the tender pyramids of pasta is nicely rounded thanks to nutty cauliflower, sweet sultana raisins and a rich swath of smoked goat cheddar.
Drink This: 6 Mura, 'Giba', Carignano del Sulcis, Sardegna 2011

1911 Fillmore St.; 415-771-7779

Baked Rigatoni With Squash at Ragazza

There’s something about baked pasta — it harkens back to classic childhood comfort food in an incomparable way. Which makes the baked rigatoni at Ragazza (pictured above) an immediate favorite — not least because it’s all grown up in its flavor and sophistication. Tender tubes of rigatoni are baked until bubbling hot with Italian butternut squash, fontina béchamel and brown butter, then topped with bread crumbs.
Drink This: 2012 Langhe Nebbiolo from Produttori del Barbaresco, Piemonte

311 Divisadero St.; 415-255-1133

Cappellacci dei Briganti With Polpettini at Flour + Water

We’re going to go ahead and make a bold statement here — we love the pastas at Flour + Water even more than we love their pizzas (and their pizzas are damn good).The combination of perfectly textured fresh noodles and traditional Italian sensibilities with decidedly Californian flair makes for combinations that are as memorable as they are delicious. Currently, that’s the cappellacci dei briganti with beef polpettini — the tender noodles, whose name means “brigands’ hats,” showcase handmade pasta at its best. Peppered with rich little meatballs, the pasta is lent brightness thanks to the addition of rangpur lime, a tart-sweet cross between an orange and a lemon.
Drink This: 2008 Tenunta Sella, Nebbiolo, Bramaterra DOC

2401 Harrison St.; 415-826-7000

Photo by Nick Maltagliata

Cuttlefish-Ink Tagliatelle at Plin

We love the dramatic presentation of a good squid-ink pasta, and appreciate the dish even more when it’s as delicious as the version at Mission pasta palace Plin (pictured above). Here, cuttlefish is used to flavor and color fresh tagliatelle; this is then topped with a creamy tomato sauce, macerated almonds and a brightening heat of chile oil.
Drink This: 2011 Timorasso, La Colombera “Derthona”

280 Valencia St.; 415-644-8425

Bucatini D’Amatriciana at Tosca

This classic Roman pasta dish is good no matter who’s making it. Bucatini (pictured above) topped with spicy, guanciale-laced tomato sauce and showered in a blizzard of pecorino can’t really ever be bad. But no one does it quite like the team at April Bloomfield’s Tosca; the ingredients are tops, the pasta is perfectly al dente and fresh, and the guanciale is applied liberally. Your move, Rome.
Drink This: 2009 Canalicchio Franco Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino, Toscana

242 Columbus Ave.; 415-986-9651

Photo courtesy of RRPR

Semolina Gnocchi at La Nebbia

Any kind of pasta from the brilliant chefs behind La Ciccia is alright by us. So when we saw that Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan’s new restaurant, La Nebbia, had a few choice pasta dishes alongside their cheese, meat and pizza offerings, we knew we were onto something good. Top among those is their earthy, tender semolina gnocchi (pictured above), served with chard, brown butter, sage and salty-rich pecorino.
Drink This: Schulthauser San Michael Eppan Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige

1781 Church St.; 415-874-9924

Photo courtesy of MADE PR

Tortelli With Black Trumpet Mushrooms at Locanda

Leave it to the Delfina team to take the bounty of Northern California and translate it into Roman perfection at Locanda. Take their tortelli (pictured above) — the gorgeous, handmade pasta is filled with crescenza cheese from Bellwether Farms, and served with earthy-rich black trumpet mushrooms. Mint and pine nuts lend freshness and buttery crunch, respectively.
Drink This: La Colombera “Derthona” Timorasso

557 Valencia St.; 415-863-6800

Photo courtesy of Rich Table

Bucatini With Octopus Confit at Rich Table

We can always count on Rich Table when we’re looking for stunning, fresh pasta…that’s thoroughly modern thanks to creative flavor and texture combinations. We’re currently obsessed with their bucatini (pictured above) — the hollow, long strands are topped with a deeply flavorful octopus confit, grounded with earthy-sweet red beets and punched up with savory toasted garlic.
Drink This: 2012 Raventos Blanc 'de Nit' Rosado Cava from Penedes, Spain

199 Gough St.; 415-355-9085

Photo by Virginia Miller

Tonarelli With Green Garlic and Bottarga at AL’s Place

Get a bright and dynamic taste of spring in the form of the tonarelli (pictured above) at the newly opened AL’s Place, already one of our favorite new spots of 2015. The tender pasta is tossed with an addictive green garlic pesto, given a note heady citrus thanks to the subtle use of bergamot oil, and topped with salty shaved bottarga.
Drink This: 2012 Elisabetta Fordadori Manzoni Bianco from Trentino

1499 Valencia St.; 415-416-6136

Spaghetti and Meatballs at Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack

Sometimes, when it comes to pasta cravings, only a hearty classic will do. It doesn’t get more old school, or more delicious, than the hearty pile of spaghetti and fist-size meatballs (pictured above) at Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack. Share with a group or dig into the meaty carby goodness yourself; you’ll want some garlic bread to swipe up all of the sauce your fork missed in its exertions.
Drink This: Old Wave Zinfandel from Random Ridge Winery, Sonoma

3230 Mission St.; 415-206-2086