World Pasta Day
World Pasta Day Image Credit: Shutterstock

Another Sunday, another bout of the dreaded Sunday blues. Usually, a strong cup of coffee would be our go-to recommendation to get over the lethargic slump, but today throw caution to the winds and ring in lunch hour early with the ultimate carb-laden comfort food – pasta. It’s World Pasta Day today!

We have the World Pasta congress to thank for bestowing the day as an excuse (like we ever needed one) to scarf down some penne arrabbiata sprinkled with generous shavings of parmesan.

On October 25, 1995, pasta makers from around the globe congregated in Rome and unanimously agreed to celebrate the popular food.

Twenty-five years later, pasta is an omnipresent culinary presence: You’ll find it on the menus of roadside cafeterias, instinctively reach for ready-to-cook boxes of mac-n-cheese on your grocery run, and it even manages to satiate picky little gourmands – we’re yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love spaghetti and meat balls.

But that’s just pasta at its everyday best. Paired with the right sauces and dressed up with decadent ingredients such as truffles and pecorino, they’re an epicurean delight.

PASTA PERFECT

Although our taste buds owe much in terms of gratitude to boot-shaped Italy for bestowing around 300 different shapes and variants of the humble pasta, along with a dozen or so sauces and meat and vegetable fillings, historians believe that the Italians have the Chinese to thank in turn – it’s said that Venetian merchant Marco Polo brought back the noodle from China after his journey through Asia in the 13th century.

But that’s not going to dent any true-blue Italian’s love for pasta confirms Chef Davide Marzullo, Chef de Cuisine at Bellavista – Grosvenor House Dubai’s Italian eatery.

Chef Davide Marzullo
Chef Davide Marzullo, chef de cuisine at Bellavista, Grosvenor House Image Credit: Supplied

"My grandmother and my mum would begin preparing the lunch at sunrise, and the delicious smell of pasta sauce and fresh pasta cooking in the pots would wake my brother and I up.”

- Chef Davide Marzullo

For Italians, pasta is more than just a local food, it’s a tradition, memories and culture, says the Italian Chef.

“But above all for me, pasta means family.

As a child, I vividly remember waiting for Sunday morning like kids waiting for Christmas. As Sunday was the day that my whole family gathered together for a Sunday family lunch – which is a tradition in Italy.

"My grandmother and my mum would begin preparing the lunch at sunrise, and the delicious smell of pasta sauce and fresh pasta cooking in the pots would wake my brother and I up.”

It’s a dish that universally wakes up everyone’s appetites and with good reason too. “It’s a quality source of carbohydrate energy in our diet. With its ability to help you feel full for longer and its versatility to be paired with almost every ingredient, pasta is more often than not, suitable to meet everyone’s taste,” explains Chef Davide.

Think about it pasta is a great canvas to build dishes on – it lends itself to casserole meals such as lasagne, it’s a perfect punch of carbs to salads, and it’s great as a leftover too. Chef Davide lets us in on a leftover recipe his mum uses.

“Whenever we had leftovers, she used to make Frittata di Pasta out of it. It’s basically an omelette with pasta inside and is perfect served hot or cold. Frittata di Pasta is a great dish to pack for a picnic or take to work for your lunch break.”

It’s also a great dish to make use of the excess pasta you end up boiling, if like us, you can never seem to get the ratio of pasta to the ratio of sauce right.

Drain out the misconceptions

Another common error home cooks ending up making are overcooking the pasta, points out Chef Davide. “As an Italian, I would say overcooking the pasta is one of the most common mistakes that most people make. A little tip – when you cook pasta, take it out of the water when it’s still a bit hard and finish cooking it in the pan with the sauce. Just remember to add some hot water as this will help ensure that you don’t overcook it.”

If you’ve got down cooking pasta to a science but tend to worry about the calories your favourite comfort food entails, Chef Davide has some bracing words of comfort. “I’ve heard this time and time again, that ‘pasta will make you gain weight’. Pasta itself is not fattening. In fact, a one cup of cooked pasta contains less than 200 calories with only about 1 gram of fat.”

He goes on to sing its praises: “Fresh pasta is a wholesome, low sodium food that can fit in right with your weight loss plan. In addition to its valuable vitamins and minerals, it’s also extremely filling, so it helps keep you fuller for longer.”

I’ve heard this time and time again, that ‘pasta will make you gain weight’. Pasta itself is not fattening. In fact, a one cup of cooked pasta contains less than 200 calories with only about 1 gram of fat.

- Chef Davide Marzullo, Chef de Cuisine at Bellavista – Grosvenor House

Trending through the years

We’re sold on the idea of pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These two recipes – one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian – might give you the nudge of inspiration you need.

And if you haven’t fallen in love with the reassuring creaminess a bowl of Fettucine Alfredo offers at the end of a long day, then this fun fact Chef Davide shared with us should endear the pasta to you.

“Macaroni is not only the name for pasta, but also for a puffy hairstyle in England during the mid-18th-century. Young aristocrats came up with the name after visiting Italy and seeing the resemblance of the two shapes.”

We’re in the 21st century and the only sartorial choices pasta still influences might be the macaroni jewellery kids string up during arts and craft in school, but there’s no denying that eating pasta will never go out of style on our dining tables. Buon appetite!

RECIPES 

Ravioli Ricotta Spinach

Ravioli Ricotta Spinach
Ravioli Ricotta Spinach Image Credit: Shutterstock

This dish was inspired by two traditional recipes, says Chef Davide. How you make your ravioli is a good indicator of which part of Italy you’re from as each region as its own unique filling and shape, says Chef Davide. “In the region I am from, the filling is made with ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and black pepper. It’s served with a fonduta cheese, which is a classic recipe prepared in my hometown Turin, and can also be eaten alongside some boiled potatoes. I decided to merge the two dishes and create my own.”

Serves: 4 persons

Prep time : 45 min

Cooking time: 15 min

Ingredients

Pasta Dough

100gram pasta flour (Could be type of all-purpose flour or semolina flour or '00' flour.)

60gram egg yolk (Around 3 egg yolks)

Ricotta Filling

40gram fresh spinach, cleaned and blanched (placed in hot water for 5 minutes and then rinsed with cold water)

30gram white onion, chopped

½ tsp olive oil

100gram Ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

10gram Castelmagno cheese, grated (At a push, you could subsitute with mild cheddar)

A pinch of salt

A pinch of black pepper, ground

Cheese Sauce

6) tsp Fontina cheese, grated (Can be subsituted with Gruyère, provolone, Gouda, or Emmental)

6 tsp Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tbsp Pecorino cheese, grated (Can be subsituted with Parmesan, Asiago, or Grana Padano)

1 tsp Gorgonzola cheese

2 tbsp cream

1 tbsp milk

A pinch salt

A pinch white pepper, ground

For plating 

36pcs Ravioli

50gm butter

4-5 leaves sage

1 tsp Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tbsp Almond flakes, roasted

Method 

1. For the pasta dough combine pasta flour and egg yolk together in a mixer. Mix for 10 min or until dough is formed. Rest dough aside.

2. For the filling: Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté the white onion until translucent. Add the spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until spinach and onion are completely soft. Set aside on a strainer to cool and to drain excess liquid.

3. In a blender, combine the spinach and onion mixture with the ricotta, parmesan and castelmagno cheeses. Pulse but don’t blend too much. Mixture needs to be pulpy and spreadable but not pureed. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a piping bag.

4. For the ravioli. Roll the dough in the pasta machine until sheet is between 2-3mm in thickness and 60-80cm in length. If you have the muscle power, you can roll this out with a pastry rolling pin, too. But, be careful for even thickness.

5. Spread the pasta sheet on a flat surface dusted with pasta flour. Pipe out spinach stuffing (10gram) onto the pasta sheet leaving spaces (2-3cm) in between the filling. Fill only half of the whole length of the pasta sheet as the other half will serve as the cover of the ravioli. Wet the gaps between the filling with water (or egg wash) and slowly cover it with the other half of the pasta sheet, making sure to press out the air in between the gaps of the filling.

6. Use a 2.5cm ravioli stamp to cut out the individual raviolis. You can also use a knife but make sure to close off all sides of the ravioli by pressing with your thumb or with a fork. Place raviolis in a tray lined with baking paper and cover with cling wrap for storage or when it’s ready to be cooked.

7. For the cheese sauce: Combine all cheeses, cream and milk in a thermomix and blend for 10 minutes with velocity of 6 and temperature of 80⁰C. In the absence of a thermomix, you can also use a double boiler (one vessel in another that is bigger and has water) and make sure to whisk all ingredients thoroughly until all cheeses are melted and sauce is thick.

8. To cook the ravioli, boil water with salt to 100 ⁰C. Drop raviolis into the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or when all starts to float to the surface.

9. While the ravioli is cooking, in a non-stick pan, melt the butter over a low fire. Add the sage and 1tbsp of the pasta water and simmer.

10. Transfer the raviolis to the melted butter and continue cooking until all raviolis are coated with the butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the fire and toss the grated parmesan in.

Plating

Arrange raviolis on a flat plate and spread the cheese sauce on top of them. Garnish with roasted almond flakes

Linguine black ink with artichokes calamari and fresh Burrata

Linguine black ink with artichokes calamari and fresh Burrata
Linguine black ink with artichokes calamari and fresh Burrata Image Credit: Shutterstock

This recipe combines Chef Davide’s love of pasta and a cheerful memory of his mum’s antipasti recipe of artichokes and calamari alongside Burrata.

Serves: 4

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

400 gm Black ink linguine pasta (store bought)

4 fresh artichoke

2 fresh calamari

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp chopped garlic

1 tbsp of parsley

1 tsp of dry fish stock

Salt and pepper

1 fresh Burrata (120gm) cheese

Method 

1. Clean the artichokes and julienne them.

2. Clean the calamari and cut into small cubes – about half a centimeter. Then proceed to cut the heads of the calamari in 2 so you will have a total of 4 pieces – one for each plate

3. Season the calamari with a bit of salt and pepper

4. For boiling the pasta fill a big pot with water and add salt to taste, keep in mind that the water should taste salty. When it begins to boil, add the pasta in the water and set your timer for 8-9 minutes (al dente)

5. Separately warm up a wide pan where we will prepare our sauce

6. Add olive oil and the garlic to the pan. When the garlic begins to take on a golden color, add the artichokes and the dry fish stock along with one cup of hot water

7. Add a little salt and black pepper

8. Add the calamari and cook all together for 2 minutes (if the sauce needs more water you can add as much you need)

9. Once the pasta is cooked, strain the pasta saving a cup of the water that the pasta cooked in.

10. Put the pasta in the saucepan that the sauce was cooked in and add a bit of the pasta water if needed. Starch from the pasta will be released and you will end up with a nice, creamy sauce

11. Cook for other 2 minutes and finished with a little touch of olive oil

12. Cut the burrata into 8 pieces (2 for each plate of pasta)

Plating

Create a pasta nest shape by rotating the pasta on your fork. Do this across four plates, until all the pasta has been evenly distributed. Next, take a spoon and pour the sauce and the other ingredients on top of each of the four nests of pasta. Finally, finish off your dish by adding the 2 pieces of fresh burrata on each plate and crack some black pepper on top.