Anyone else day dreaming of summer, Italy, and pasta? Eight years ago exactly I was in the middle of my spring term abroad in Florence. I had the chance to study art history, photography, and attempt to learn basic Italian phrases, while really getting an education in who had the best pizza and gelato in town.
I fell in love with the culture, art, fresh tomatoes and olives, discovered pecorino cheese, and tried to converse with my host mom who made incredible pasta every night, but didn’t speak a word of English. Each night she would cook a new gourmet dinner and almost all included a pasta course, sometimes as the main dish but often as a side. Cooking to her was seasonal and effortless. I cherished our dinners together despite the language barrier. We would sit with the English-Italian dictionary on the table and point to words when we couldn’t communicate.
We mostly communicated through food and facial expressions and this experience truly taught me that food is one of the most powerful and beautiful languages.
One night my good friend and roommate, Anna, and I taught our host mom and her granddaughter how to make pancakes. The ultimate American food! I regret not asking her to teach us how to make pasta or for some of her favorite recipes. I hope go have the chance to go back and visit and learn how to make authentic Italian pasta with her or other Italian grandmas/chefs/experts.
This inspired me to enter a pasta competition I learned about through an upcoming Italian food event in Houston.
This blog post has been entered in the Pasta Blogger Competition (Houston 2018)”. You can learn more about the event here which will be a foodie dream filled with over 20 different Houston restaurants preparing their favorite pasta creations. Here are the details, it will be a delicious and indulgent evening!
Authentic Italian Table:
A Celebration of Pasta, Italy’s gift to the world! Sunday, May 20, 2018
Bayou City Event Center
9401 Knight Road
Houston TX 77045
$35 per person
Click here for event registration info.
To get in the Italian and pasta spirit I made a recipe that represents the colors of the Italian flag while focusing on seasonal produce from the farmers market, and Italian cheese from Central Market . I was excited to discover fresh pasta from Casetta Catering at the Memorial Villages Farmers Market. The pasta is handcrafted by Italian Chef Francesco who imports his flour from Italy. This is the real deal and we are lucky to have access to authentic fresh Italian pasta here in Houston.
I sautéed asparagus, zucchini, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and green peas in Bellucci Italian olive oil.
While this was going, I added the fresh pasta to boiling water for just under two minutes. Another perk of fresh pasta is it cooks super fast and you want to make sure you keep the perfect al dente texture.
Once I combined my fresh veggies with the pasta, I topped it with toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of pesto, and lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese!
To continue with the Italian celebration, I served a cheese board with cheeses from the incredible Italian cheese section at Central Market. These included: fontina fontal which was my favorite, a pecorino romano which is a classic salty Italian cheese, and the wildcard was a ubriaco di raboso cheese which is a semi hard cheese from Trevisio with a deep violet color and a fruity finish. I am obsessed with castelvetrano olives, the bright green delicious ones that come from Sicily, so this had to make it on the cheese board as well. To give Texas a shout out I had to use my Texas shaped cheese board.
Lastly, the finishing touch of our Italian celebration included blood orange Italian soda with gin and rosemary. The perfect refreshing cocktail to enjoy with all the pasta and cheese!
This is the perfect meatless Monday pasta dish and was a big hit with my friends. I can’t wait to try all the pasta dishes at the upcoming pasta celebration on May 20th, hope to see you there!