The carbornara sbagliata to the left, and wild mushroom and porcini pasta to the rightEden Keily-Thurstain

Market Square is something of a hub in terms of Cambridge’s street food offerings. From mac and cheese to waffles, those looking to upgrade from their Mainsbury’s meal deals once in a while are spoilt for choice. However, if those falafel wraps are not hitting quite the same as they used to, then you might want to search slightly further afield. Cue Maccaruna, a new sister brand to Aromi, located a stone’s throw from Market Square on Peas Hill. The promise of a fresh pasta takeaway was appealing, but their “special opening price” of £6 a portion was more so. Ignoring the bursts of torrential rain and the fact that I can’t digest wheat, I headed to the shop front that Maccaruna shares with Aromi Gelato to sample what they had to offer.

I first opted for the carbonara sbagliata, taken in by the menu’s promise of guanciale, rather than bacon, its common anglicised substitute. I chose to splash out and pay the 50p for extra pecorino on top, and for those who like to wait uncomfortably long to say “when” while being served cheese on pasta, you’ll be happy to hear that it felt like quite a generous amount. Sadly, I did not realise that by opting for even more salty cheese in my pasta box, I was shooting myself in the foot.

“You might argue that pasta consisting of hard salty cheese and cured pork is not exactly going to be bland”

Things seemed promising at first, as I was handed a generous helping of beautifully sunny yellow sauce, full of guanciale within the sauce itself and dusted on top as a garnish. As many carbonara fiends may experience, British offerings too often involve a bland, white sauce, with bits of bacon swimming sadly in it, surely enough to make any nonna cry. This was far from that. However, mild tragedy struck a few bites in, when I became increasingly unable to handle just how salty this visually beautiful pasta dish was. With the strident combo of hard cheese and cured pork it's safe to say it certainly wasn't bland. However, even as someone usually left wanting more from my pasta (and someone who likes to test their kidneys every once in a while), I thought that in this instance its overriding saltiness made it a little hard to manage, an opinion also shared by my pasta-eating companion. Call me weak, if you think you can handle it better than me then be my guest. It’s quite sad really because the dish was otherwise quite perfect, but I did have to intersperse my bites with the other option ordered — better-balanced Wild Mushroom and Porcini pasta.

The norma pasta to the left, ragu on the top and bottom, mushroom and porcini, taken for another spin, on the rightEden Keily-Thurstain

If there was one pasta up to the job of restoring my faith in Maccaruna, it would be the aforementioned wild mushroom and porcini. Using three types of mushrooms, the sauce was nutty, earthy, and creamy without being overly rich. The parsley on top was a nice, if not subtle touch. Eating pasta with white wine sauce on Kings Parade felt unnecessarily classy, but in a great way, albeit reaffirming stereotypes about what the lunch break of a Cambridge student looks like. A consistent strength across the dishes was the pasta itself. While Maccaruna has relatively little branding at the moment, their pasta being fresh and homemade is well signposted, and they have every right to boast. Perfectly springy, it felt like a real selling point and even helped me overcome my recent carbonara-related woes. Two dishes down, and suitably carbed up, we called it a day, but I was struck with a desire for more. The menu has nine different pasta options, and to make it a fair test it was only right if I stuffed my face with more of it.

“Maccaruna’s pasta being fresh and homemade is well signposted, and they have every right to boast”

A few days later, and with reinforcements (more pasta fans), I descended back on Maccaruna, determined to sample a greater breadth of options. Between us, the additions of the norma and Sicilian ragú were able to be happily tackled. Made with Maccaruna’s namesake pasta shape, the norma was quite delightful, if a little hard to eat with the wooden fork you are given. The rich tomato sauce with aubergine was perfectly balanced; when it wasn’t getting carried and flung into the air by the pasta. Not one to have if you’re wearing white. The ragú was also excellent, as well as a little less messy, accompanied by the easier-to-weld tagliatelle.


Mountain View

Yori-gret this! A night of disappointing food at Yori

Just like that, my pasta pilgrimages were over. Despite my sad moment with the carbonara, everything I consumed from the Macaruna hatch was delicious. At the special price of £6, it’s a pretty stunning deal for a generous helping of restaurant-quality pasta that is cooked in front of you, and well worth the visit. There is no indication of what the regular prices will be, but it will be interesting to see whether Maccaruna will eventually be comparable to the well-trodden street food offerings of Market Square.