(photo credit: Courtesy)
Mention Italy and a number of foods probably come to mind such as pizza, mozzarella cheese and ice cream. But Italy's most famous export has to be pasta.
At a recent reception at the Italian Ambassador's residence in Ramat Gan, famed Italian chef Roberto Bassi showed off the simplicity of pasta while showcasing how versatile it can be when mixed with the right ingredients. Bassi, who is head chef at Barilla, one of Italy's most famous pasta brands, wowed the guests by preparing different pasta dishes using only the freshest accompaniments.
Growing up in the Emilia Romagna region, where Barilla started out 134 years ago, and near his grandmother who was a famous local chef, it was almost inevitable that Bassi would follow in the family footsteps. Since 1988 he has worked with Barilla on a number of different levels and has been responsible for creating innovative recipes.
Bassi spoke of the many similarities between Italian and Israeli cuisine, mentioning the frequent use of eggplant, garlic and parsley – all ingredients that are synonymous with Middle Eastern cooking. His Israeli counterpart, chef Erez Komarovsky, agreed but said that Israelis have a tendency to exaggerate with some of these ingredients and use them too much.
The secret to Italian cuisine lies in its simplicity, and Bassi was able to show that through the recipes he has created throughout the years. Unlike French cuisine, which demands those preparing it to pay close attention to detail, Italian cuisine, and especially cooking pasta, is much more relaxed and easygoing, he said.
He stressed that cooking should be enjoyable and anyone can cook his simple yet delicious recipes at home without being a top chef.
He shared some of his most popular recipes which can all be tried by even the most amateur cooks at home.BAKED BUCATINI PASTA WITH PECORINO CHEESE AND TOMATOESServes 4
✔ 1 packet Barilla bucatini (No. 9)
✔ 400 gr. tomatoes
✔ 2 tsp. chopped parsley
✔ 1 onion, chopped
✔ 5 basil leaves, chopped
✔ 1 garlic clove, minced
✔ 100 gr. grated pecorino cheese
✔ 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
✔ Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 180º. Put a little olive oil in a saute pan and place over low heat. Add onions, then garlic and herbs. Cut tomatoes lengthwise and crush a little with a fork. Add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Do not overcook, pasta should be “al dente.” Drain well and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Pour tomato sauce over pasta to cover. Season with a little freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the pecorino cheese evenly over the top and bake at 180º for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into portions and serve immediately.WHOLE-WHEAT PENNE RIGATE WITH EGGPLANT AND RED MULLET
✔ 1 packet whole-wheat Barilla penne rigate
✔ 150 ml. extra virgin olive oil
✔ 300 gr. eggplant
✔ 300 gr. fresh red mullet
✔ 10 basil leaves
✔ 200 gr. cherry tomatoes
✔ 100 ml dry white wine
✔ 1 clove garlic, sliced
✔ Salt and pepper
Dice eggplant into cubes.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot fry the eggplant until
golden. Remove from pan and dry with paper or kitchen towel. Keep warm.
Wash tomatoes and halve.
Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, saute garlic and tomatoes, add
basil, then mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from
Slice the red mullet into strips and lightly brown in the pan using a
little olive oil. Add the wine and continue cooking until it evaporates.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Pour sauce on the
pasta, add eggplant cubes. Mix carefully and pour to a serving dish.
Place fish strips on top. Garnish with basil leaves.