Primavera Pasta and Dreaming of Italy

italyfresh pasta in italy

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.

pizza italy

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.

italian host fam

This inspired me to enter a pasta competition I learned about through an upcoming Italian food event in Houston.pasta event

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
2-5 p.m.
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.

italian pasta

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!

South by Southwest 2016- Austin

I’ve been dying to go to South by Southwest since moving to Texas and I’m glad to have now experienced and survived my first ACL and SXSW in one year! I think this may bring me one step closer to being a Texan? That along with wearing my cowboy boots to the rodeo last week. This is truly the best time of year to live in and visit Texas with so many events going on, and our small window of perfect patio weather. So if you’re reading this and intrigued, get your booty and boots on a plane and I’ll be waiting for you with queso…you’re welcome.

My weekend in Austin started off with a delicious dinner at North Italia at the Domain. I’ve been to their Houston location once and loved it, so I was excited to try their Austin location and sample more dishes. We started off with this epic chef’s plate filled with 3 artisan cheeses, olives, macrona almonds, grilled asparagus, marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, an apricot jam, and grilled bread. Holy yum it delicious! One of the best chef’s plates in terms of quality, variety, and generous portions. Also a nice balance between sweet and savory. It was just what we needed to recharge after a 3 hour drive from Houston and went perfectly with my delightful vanilla ginger vodka cocktail.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted meatballs or salad for dinner (normal I know), so I decided to get two appetizers, a win-win.

This Kale salad is no ordinary kale salad. It even will make kale haters reconsider their feelings for this often overly chewy leafy green. Once it’s marinated in a Parmesan vinaigrette it’s topped with apples, pistachios, charred grapes, and breadcrumbs. The kale is just a vehicle to get to all the other deliciousness while also getting your dose of greens.

Next up were the marinara meatballs served with crunchy grilled cheesy bread.

They were seasoned perfectly and a great portion for an appetizer. We even ended up with some leftovers. The service was on point and the atmosphere was lively. I’m glad we have a location in Houston and will definitely be back for that chef’s board and cocktail. After dinner we enjoyed some live music and the fire pits at the retro  Lone Star Court right near the Domain.

The next morning we were ready to take on SXSW! We had registered for the Rachael Ray Stubb’s BBQ event and were grateful to get in as press.

It is open to the public but the lines can be quite long so I would recommend getting there early.It’s so worth it though with two stages of live music all day, multiple open bars, and amazing Southern comfort food.

This was the main lunch. Grits with a fried chicken wing, slider and slaw, corn salad, and upside down Frito pie. My first Frito pie experience and all I can say is oh my…

This was the Blue Moon Stage. Favorite performers of the day were Jenny Lewis and Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals. Rachael was dancing on the stage during the last show and she’s got some moves! Was hoping for a selfie with her but she was on the move. Here’s hoping for next year.

The cold pressed juices were a refreshing necessity between Frito pie and trying to gear up for the night ahead.

We stopped by Fukumoto Sushi and Yakitiri Izakaya for  happy hour.

These tempura green beans were light and crispy with a zesty dipping sauce.

I also highly recommend their tofu. I’m not one to order tofu often, but this melted in your mouth and was the best tofu I’ve ever had, hands down. The sake cocktail was delicious and just the right amount of sweet and boozy.

Next we wandered around 6th street which was packed with people walking around and free giveaways.

Afterwards we stopped by Hole in the Wall near UT’s campus which has a great divey feel, live music, and dirt cheap drinks. We were fooled by this band that they were Third Eye Blind doing a secret show…le sigh.

Our night ended at Weather Up with this amazing burrata and strawberry mint rum slush drink. Apparently they have a NYC location too which I hope to check out!

The next morning we had brunch at Salt and Time, a rustic cafe in a butcher shop.

The Miga’s were tasty with crisp tortillas, veggies, and savory n’duja. A round of beer was sent to our table on this clever carousel, but none of us could really stomach much  beer at that hour. Afterwards we checked  out their impressive butcher shop on the other side of the restaurant. I love their farm to table approach.

Before hitting the road, we walked around UT’s campus which was a perfect way to end the weekend. Until next time, Austin…