Sean Tompkins' Way of Pasta
THE “FLAVOR-FORWARD, modern, approachable” menu at the Redwood Bar + Restaurant in Kingston includes pasta dishes from different cultures. “Not being Italian, I am detached from cultural associations with it, so I also think of ramen and Chinese noodles as pasta,” chef-owner Sean Tompkins says. “Pasta is hot, plentiful, customizable, full of tastes and textures—pasta is one of my favorite foods, from long before I started cooking.”
Redwood’s menu includes lamb farfalle with merguez, ras el hanout, ricotta, peas and saffron; spicy vegetable ramen with smoked tofu, beech mushroom, bok choy, sprouts and an egg; and soup dumplings with braised pork, ginger and cabbage.
“I started in the Hudson Valley as a cook when I was a lot younger, and, to be honest, the level of food at that time wasn't optimal,” Tompkins says. “Then I went to Westchester to work with a chef from Sicily—I thought I would learn about pasta, but I didn’t.” He didn’t really understand the art of making pasta until he went to work in an Italian restaurant where “every pasta dish on the menu was made fresh, in house. I learned by making 10 pounds of dough a day.” Then a stint at a Mediterranean restaurant found him making “50 pounds of just fettuccine a week.”
Tompkins now has a kitchen staff of four at Redwood, which he opened with Kelly and Scott Polston in 2016, but he generally makes all the pasta himself. “I need it to be clean-edged. I am very precise about the shapes and size, just very technical about it.”
Chef Sean Tompkins makes Pasta alla Genovese frequently at home, and his family loves it. The dish is from Napoli, named after the merchants who brought it from Genoa. Using meat cuts with bones will add significant flavor to the sauce. Pork or beef shanks may be used in place of the veal. The pork skin is important; gelatin may be used instead. (Gelatins vary in strength—use 6 to 10 grams of silver 160 bloom for this dish.)