*This post is in partnership with Barilla. I’m so thrilled to work with them and proclaim a shared belief that pasta is art. “Each piece of pasta is a small piece of design that combines beauty and taste.” Right now, chefs from around the world are competing in Paris at the Pasta World Championship. Check out Barilla’s Instagram page site to get the know the chefs and follow along as they crown this year’s winner.
Have you ever thought about being a part of cooking competition? The ones where the clock ticks loudly, you have a stocked kitchen and a plan and then a mystery box is thrown in or you have to cook with your eyes closed or use aluminum foil for your cooking vessel. Plates fall, ingredients are flying, people are sweating, and hands are thrown up as the clock menacingly hits zero.
I applaud those who can stomach it, but me? Give me a quiet kitchen, a full pantry and a glass of wine and that’s what I call cooking. Every once in a while, though I like to imagine if I were a part of a cooking competition what would I make. Especially when the challenge is simply this: prepare a signature dish. What would be the recipe that encapsulates you on a plate?
The Barilla Pasta World Championship is happening in Paris right now and as much as I wish I could be there (watching, not competing) I had fun in the kitchen imagining what I would make for their first challenge: “The Masterpiece. In this challenge, the chefs will create and present their Masterpiece – their signature dish.”
A pasta-centric signature dish. I wanted to play along. So, here’s how my process went.
For days I haven’t been able to get Pasta al Limone out of my head. Bon Appetit posted a stunningly creamy pasta dish with citron curls of lemon peel, a heavy hand of black pepper and a few flutters of Parmesan. So, I started there, but if this was to be a masterpiece then it needs more.
I went to the store for inspiration. That’s where my next step usually is. I wander the aisles thinking about what might be the right addition with a lemon-y pasta. I imagine myself eating the dish; it’s silky, tender and creamy so maybe I want a little crunch, some texture and bite. Standing at the deli counter I see a fennel-studded salami – finocchiona. I imagine it diced and fried until crisp. Next I spot chanterelles. It’s the time of year when they are in abundance and I am tempted to put them in everything. Their season is so short so really there’s no reason to not be eating them right now. Plus, if this is my masterpiece, I want it to tell the story of my home and one bite of chanterelles I’m immediately standing in the damp woods, under the canopy of the pines. Speaking of pine, I remember I have some leftover toasted pine nuts and think that they too would offer a nice buttery bite. To complete my masterpiece, I use Barilla Spaghetti so that all of the ingredients blend together around the pasta. Then I think about how it will all look on the plate, it’s a lot of beige at this point but nothing that a simple flurry of finely minced parsley can’t fix.
When all is said and done it’s a visually humble masterpiece but me on a plate? Absolutely. It’s simple with a twist. The ingredient list is short but purposeful, it has texture contrast and intrigue and is equally comfortable being eaten in a bowl on the couch with a glass of wine nearby or being served in a lovely restaurant, artfully presented. I’ll take the couch.
I’m not too certain it would win me the competition but I will say I am very happy with dinner tonight.
Pasta al limone with finocchiona, chanterelle and Parmesan
Yield 4 servings
12 ounces Barilla spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound finocchiona, 1/4-inch dice
1/4 pound chanterelles, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Set a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil then add the finocchiona. Sauté until the salami is browned and crisp. Add the chanterelles along with a pinch of salt. Saute until just starting to brown, then add the garlic and continue to saute for a few minutes more.
Using a vegetable peeler cut a 1 inch strip of the lemon peel off then zest the remaining peel using a microplane. Squeeze the juice (about 2 tablespoons) then set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil then add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Add the pasta, cook for 8-9 minutes, until it still has a good bit of bite to it. It will continue to cook in the sauce.
While the pasta cooks transfer the salami and chanterelles from the skillet to a plate. Return the skillet to the stove set over medium heat. Add the cream, 1/2 pasta water, lemon zest and a good bit of black pepper. Whisk in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Stir in 1 cup of the parmesan. Taste and add salt if needed.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce then cook, stirring well to coat the pasta. Add more pasta water if the sauce looks dry. Add the sauteed mushrooms and salami to the pasta. Stir in the lemon juice and toss to combine.
Transfer the pasta to a serving platter. Cut the lemon peel into thin strips then add to the top of the pasta along with remaining Parmesan, pine nuts and parsley. Serve right away.