Photo by Faith Willinger
A few years ago, my friend Massimo Bottura (chef of Osteria Francescana in Modena, new-wave cuisine superstar, highly rated in the guides) gave me a nonstick pan. He was consulting for Moneta, an important cookware manufacturer, to design Pro, a line of pots and pans for professionals. My sample was fantastic: sturdy Teflon Platinum coating on a thick aluminum body, quick to heat, with just the right angle for flipping pasta (or anything else) over on itself, a most frequent gesture in the Italian kitchen.
I contacted Moneta and ordered Dutch ovens, two-handled skillets, fry pans, and saucepans, and got rid of all my old, mangled, mistaken purchases—Calphalon (didn't like the weight and reactive qualities), French commercial Teflon on cast iron (too heavy, angle not right for flipping), Alessi (beautiful design but didn't work well and got very stained), an entire set of multi-layered cookware from a friend, all accumulated over the years in my quest for perfection. I did, however, hold onto my cast iron and copper. And my most adored, perfectly engineered Alessi pasta pot, always on the stove in my kitchen.
My order arrived, and I was in love. The Pro Moneta line held up better than any nonstick I've ever owned. But after years of constant use, the Teflon has scratched on a few pieces, and since I needed to replace them I checked out the Moneta site. And that's how I learned about Pro Ceramica, a new line with the same shapes as Pro. Instead of Teflon there's a nanotechnological coating made up of tiny molecules, forming a surface that's non-porous and slick like glass, and that holds up in high heat with no toxic emissions.
I got a sample fry pan, and am in love once again. It heats quickly and evenly, oil skids along the surface, food sears beautifully and caramelizes without sticking. I fried potatoes and made Parmigiano crisps, and was impressed.
So I replaced all my scratched Pro cookware with Ceramica. It is not cheap, but my cookware is important to me, and it's less expensive than Calphalon One, which Megan McArdle recommended in her most informative post on holiday gift giving. (I bought the Kyocera slicer on her advice and adore it.) Ceramica is sold in the U.S. by gocookware.com. I can't wait to try the Dutch ovens, great for slow braises and soups, and the larger fry pans, for sauce with pasta, frittate, or vegetables with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and peperoncini.