Edera Italian Eatery Andrew Simon

Andrew Simon is the head chef at Edera Italian Eatery in the Central West End.

While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, baked goods and more.

Andrew Simon is the head chef of Edera Italian Eatery, a modern Italian concept that opened in the Central West End this past fall. The restaurant currently offers online ordering for carryout and curbside pickup as well as dine-in service and delivery. Visit the Edera website for the menu and ordering details.

What are some unique essential ingredients in your home kitchen that you always like to keep on hand? Do you have a secret weapon spice or ingredient? I definitely always have a good quality butter, ginger root and lemons. Lately, I always keep David Chang’s Momofuku Savory Spice on hand. I recently fried chicken wings for our staff family meal and added that spice to it, and they were delicious.

When you’re seeking something comforting, what are your go-to dishes to make? My wife bought me a propane flat top, and I love being able to make three-cheese grilled cheese on sourdough bread. I like using smoked Gouda, Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses. Oftentimes I will top it with a homemade tomato jam.

What tools should home cooks invest in if they want to make their own pasta from scratch, and what advice can you offer for beginners? A pasta scraper, pasta roller (Atlas 150 Aluminum Pasta Maker is a good option) and KitchenAid mixer will make it easier to make the dough, as it is less labor and will knead it for you. Try a smaller non-tapered rolling pin – a smaller rolling pin gives you more control.

A wide-noodle pasta is probably the best to try as a beginner. It will be the easiest, as it's easy to cut. Try a pappardelle or fettuccine noodle first. Good eggs, and a few ounces more of semolina than all-purpose flour will give better texture. Make sure to let the pasta dough rest. Also, I think people tend to under salt their pasta water; you want to make it salty like the sea.