As Matias Perdomo said from the stage of Gastronomika in San Sebastian on Wednesday 10th October, «in Italy a chef, whatever his passport, cannot do without pasta». And then he presented the audience of the 20th edition of the congress a lasagna bon bon worth explaining and enjoying.

Of course there can be disappointing takes as well. It happens when a very famous recipe has not the expected substance and care. In New York, for the weekend brunch, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune presents «Spaghetti a la Carbonara. The Italian way to get your bacon and eggs… with pasta. And plenty of black pepper». At least she avoided cream, but what’s sure is that in Italy’s Carbonara is not an alternative for eggs and bacon. If this is not clear, there’s been a clear misunderstanding.

Then there are those who have good personal ideas, like Perdomo. People who delight you and please you even though what they serve has a completely different shape and soul. This is the extraordinary case of Matthew Kenney in California. The vegan and basically raw-diet chef, at his Plant food + Wine in Venice, Los Angeles, presents his take on cacio e pepe. It’s extraordinary, especially if you’re not Roman, and therefore influenced by endless memories.

Matthew serves Kelp noodle cacio e pepe. It’s a cacio e pepe made with seaweed flour and has the same texture and transparency of Asian spaghetti, served with crispy peas and pea sprouts, as well as oil and olives, and of course lots of freshly ground pepper. There’s not the energy of our durum wheat dry pasta, but it’s so delicious.

The difference between the East Coast Carbonara and the West Coast Cacio e Pepe is soon explained: Hamilton took a recipe, read it and handed it to the kitchen, without paying attention. Kenney studied and looked for a way to present it in a vegan restaurant. Of course it is his cacio e pepe, but one has to say it is good and pleasing. And hadn’t it been named after the Roman traditional recipe, we wouldn’t even question its authenticity.

Paolo Marchi
Content by Gabriele Zanatta, translated by Slawka G. Scarso. Photo Brambilla/Serrani

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Monograno Felicetti 
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Newsletter 69 del 27 october 2018

Dear {{NOME}},

As Matias Perdomo said from the stage of Gastronomika in San Sebastian on Wednesday 10th October, «in Italy a chef, whatever his passport, cannot do without pasta». And then he presented the audience of the 20th edition of the congress a lasagna bon bon worth explaining and enjoying.

Of course there can be disappointing takes as well. It happens when a very famous recipe has not the expected substance and care. In New York, for the weekend brunch, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune presents «Spaghetti a la Carbonara. The Italian way to get your bacon and eggs… with pasta. And plenty of black pepper». At least she avoided cream, but what’s sure is that in Italy’s Carbonara is not an alternative for eggs and bacon. If this is not clear, there’s been a clear misunderstanding.

Then there are those who have good personal ideas, like Perdomo. People who delight you and please you even though what they serve has a completely different shape and soul. This is the extraordinary case of Matthew Kenney in California. The vegan and basically raw-diet chef, at his Plant food + Wine in Venice, Los Angeles, presents his take on cacio e pepe. It’s extraordinary, especially if you’re not Roman, and therefore influenced by endless memories.

Matthew serves Kelp noodle cacio e pepe. It’s a cacio e pepe made with seaweed flour and has the same texture and transparency of Asian spaghetti, served with crispy peas and pea sprouts, as well as oil and olives, and of course lots of freshly ground pepper. There’s not the energy of our durum wheat dry pasta, but it’s so delicious.

The difference between the East Coast Carbonara and the West Coast Cacio e Pepe is soon explained: Hamilton took a recipe, read it and handed it to the kitchen, without paying attention. Kenney studied and looked for a way to present it in a vegan restaurant. Of course it is his cacio e pepe, but one has to say it is good and pleasing. And hadn’t it been named after the Roman traditional recipe, we wouldn’t even question its authenticity.

Paolo Marchi
Content by Gabriele Zanatta, translated by Slawka G. Scarso. Photo Brambilla/Serrani

Felicetti: high quality ideas won in America

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We’re just back from the 9th edition of Identità Stati Uniti, this time with stops in New York and Los Angeles. These have been thrilling days for us, for one reason above all: we have realised, once more, that pasta is so versatile that it can suit any kind of audience. Those who were interested in techniques, attended the lessons; those who were only interested in the food, the Dine Around dinner, perhaps the most spectacular event of the trip; those who love romantic sunsets, the dinner at restaurant Terra in Los Angeles.

In every moment, there were the most prominent cooks and pizzaioli in the Italian restaurant scene, and this was obvious. Some moments will remain stuck in my memory for a long time: what Corrado Assenza said on the meaning of his work. Massimo Bottura, when he explained that culture is not just about high quality ingredients but about high quality ideas too. Indeed it is very true that our work as entrepreneurs goes far beyond the simple recipe.
Riccardo Felicetti
(in the photo, with Carlo Cracco)

Cracco’s purple Spaghettone: elegant and meaty

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The scenic photo above gives an idea of one of the most appreciated dishes during the American trip of Identità Golose, to New York and Los Angeles. It’s Spaghettone with cocoa grue, purple cabbage and salmon roe by Carlo Cracco, chef at Cracco in Galleria in Milan. Here’s his explanation.

«We usually use cabbage just as a decoration, given its typical purple colour. But it has much more dignity when cooked». Cracco makes a juice out of it, reduced by 50%, from 1 litre to half. And he uses the sauce to cook the spaghettone risotto-style, first cooking the pasta for 9 minutes instead of the suggested 12. Not just any spaghettone, but Spaghettone Monograno Felicetti Valentino, named after the founder of the pasta factory, the great grandfather of Riccardo, who was in the audience. «It’s a family of visionaries», points out the chef, «because they were brave enough to create a pasta factory in the mountains».

The spaghettoni are not “mantecati”, they are just finished with a little extra virgin olive oil. They then add some cocoa beans grue - «Not just cocoa powder because it would change the flavour; it’s best to use the beans» - some salmon roe and the bird’s nest is formed on the plate. A fantastic tasting, as those who ate this dish at the debut of Identità Golose Milano’s Hub know well: the spaghettoni are meaty, strongly textured.

Massimo Bottura’s Spaghetti Western

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The dish in the photo has nothing to do with the classic pop-corn bags we find at the cinema. It’s the Spaghetti Pop Corn that Massimo Botturaha served to the audience in New York and Los Angeles. It’s a parody of Fettuccine Alfredo, with butter and Parmigiano, a non-Italian classic. «When I was working in New York», said Bottura, «my boss of the time, Ray Costantini, asked me to make them and I replied: fuck you, this is not an Italian dish. It’s an abstract dish of spaghetti». And here go a thousand anecdotes from the chef’s past, a pinball bouncing between the two continents.

Wise contaminations, indeed, which today give life to a dish with spaghetti Felicetti, left on purpose to cook a few moments more than necessary (Alfredo didn’t know the meaning of al dente) and an emulsion of Grana Padano water, niosette butter and capon broth with popcorns sprinkled on top. Spaghetti Western, the way you’d never expect them from the chef from Modena. And with his saying «Always be ready for the unexpected, always keep an open door to the unexpected», he surprised us as usual.

The final goodbye: «I’d like to thank Riccardo Felicetti. It is thanks to his invitation that we managed to transform spaghetti in the crispy part of lasagne, the topic of one of the most important lessons given at Identità», a dish the American audience knows very well, thanks to the video with millions of views, made by the New York Times.

Corrado Assenza’s Pasta al mare

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La pasta al mare is the dish through which Corrado Assenza of Caffè Sicilia in Noto (Ragusa) charmed the audience at Eataly Los Angeles. This, after a very special premise: «As pastry chefs», he explained, «we are condemned to express all our value in just one dish, whereas chefs have 5 or 6 chances». But this shouldn’t be the case, he explains, because for Corrado sweetness is a universal element in the menu, not just confined to the end of the journey. It’s the renown crumbling of the wall between sweet and savoury, from which Assenza removed the first brick.

In this specific case, pasta al mare is a happy meeting of sweet and savoury through cold spaghetti in a sea of prawns and almonds («the ingredient that best combines sweet and savoury in the kitchen»), calamari marinated in orange flower honey, and two tomato sauces, one “almost” raw, the other more concentrated used to cook the calamari. A dish of concentric circles of flavour and colour that fully express the skills of the Assenza family, who have been pastry-chefs for 126 years.

Bowerman, orzotto cooked like rice

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Orzotto with smoked cacio e pepe sauce, sea urchins, lemon, a dish conceived and dished out in New York by Cristina Bowerman, chef at Glass Hostaria in Trastevere, Rome and president of the Ambasciatori del Gusto association. The goal of her lesson at Eataly, which she conveyed in a proficient English, given her long stay in the United States as a young woman, was to show that risotto is not just a product, but a very versatile technique, which can be used for pasta too.

Orzotto is a pasta made of durum wheat: it’s cooked in the pot, gradually pouring some chicken stock - «the perfect ratio is 1.4 litres per 1 kg of rice» -, sieved through a colander of peppercorns. She then adds an emulsion of smoked cacio e pepe sauce, made with Grana Padano aged 36 months.

Grated lemon zest, sea urchin on the base of the plate, - «which here in America is much lighter and has a less concentrated flavour than in Italy», points out the chef – plus a touch of shaved truffle on top at the end. The aroma is delicious, and once you taste it, you can recognise multiple nuances of different layers of flavours, with the dish changing a lot between the first and last mouthful, «this feature», Bowerman says, «is very common in Asian cuisine».

Cracco, once more, with spaghettini alla ischitana

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In New York and Los Angeles, Carlo Cracco moved with ease from spaghettoni (see the news above) to spaghettini Felicetti, crunchier and more elegant. It’s a long-ignored format which is enjoying a significant nouvelle vague», Riccardo Felicetti pointed out.

Cracco’s dish is a well accomplished take on a classic from Ischia: Spaghettini with provola, lemon and fried caper flowers. There’s however a coup de theatre in the shape of texture, since the lemon is served as a meringue. Once again people moan with pleasure. «Curiosity is the sparkle in our profession», ended Cracco, «We like using inspiration from afar. After all, you have to be open minded to live in Italy».

Cracco part three: fusilloni and mackerel

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Another great first course by Carlo Cracco in the United States: Monograno Felicetti Fusillone Matt, sorrel, mackerel and black garlic, served both at the Dine Around dinner in New York and at the dinner at restaurant Terra in Los Angeles. Smokiness, crispy pasta, fermented flavours, sweetness, all in one dish. Bravo.

Cedroni’s Lasagna: going East

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This is the formidable Lasagnetta di pesce in bianco with which Moreno Cedroni, chef from La Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigallia (Ancona), conquered the audience at Identità Golose’s Hub in Milan in Via Romagnosi. This first course is a great classic from the chef. «In the filling», he explained, «I tried to sum up all my flavours, the seafood sauce I love the best». Strong flavours that go East, with a Thai sauce made of coconut, parsley and lime.

Negativo di carbonara, Colonna strikes

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Antonello Colonna’s now famous Negativo di carbonara, a dish presented by the Roman chef at Identità Milano’s Hub. «It’s a personal take, a contemporary heritage of Roman cuisine. It’s my most famous dish, which I can’t manage to take off the menu. The idea comes from the attempt to present a filled pasta in Rome, which is not allowed by tradition, given it’s a town of fettuccine and bucatini, amatriciana and arrabbiata; the only exceptions being lasagne and cannelloni. So I tried to give the town its filled pasta. I started to work, and soon arrived my Ravioli with Roman tripe, and then Cappelletti with oxtail alla vaccinara and capon broth.

And finally Negativo di carbonara, «The name came by chance», he told Carlo Passera, «I was cooking in the kitchen in Labico and a family friend stopped by to say hi. "Ahò, ma che stai a ffà? Che è?" [Whatcha doin’? What’s that?]. Taste it, I said. "But this is a negative of carbonara!". It was the perfect definition. In all these years I’ve made hundreds of thousands of these ravioli, we serve them in all my three restaurants – the resort in Labico, the restaurant in the centre of Rome and the one in Fiumicino – because people keep on asking for them. What’s striking, is that even when we participate in external events, people expect them». During the three days at Identità Milano he made almost 2,000.

Nido nel Bosco, Riccardo Gaspari’s masterpiece

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I wanted to write about a dish that struck me. It’s called Un nido nel bosco [a nest in the woods] and the author is Riccardo Gaspari, of restaurant Sanbrite in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Belluno). It’s made with Spaghetti Monograno Felicetti, cooked in broth and mixed with mountain pine oil.

He keeps the mountain pine in an infusion in olive oil for six months, in a vacuum pack. After the "maceration", he strains it and uses it to finish the dish. It’s paired with a caramelised larch lichen, which you must eat before starting with the spaghetti. The larch prepares the palate.

As you probably know, I seldom write in this newsletter of a specific dish, but I make an exception because Gaspari found a unique way to mix a product that is not quite of his area – durum wheat pasta – with ingredients that make you feel the calm of mountain tracks. It’s like being teleported to the Dolomites.
Riccardo Felicetti

David Chang at Nishi: Italy without borders

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Italy has never been so popular in New York. The clearest proof is given by the opening and success of David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in Chelsea. The dish in the photo is Spaghetti alla chitarra with anchovy colatura and onions, an expression of Italian cuisine, but seen from 10,000 km away. A dish without any prejudgement, rich of flavours that mix our own with Asian ones.

At Nishi, there’s also a pasta-tasting, a vertical tasting of 6 dishes (4 first courses and two desserts) for 62 dollars. In detail: Stellette, clams, verbenaAgnolotti, corn and trout roeBucatini cacio e pepeOrecchiette, duck, tomatillo and mezcal. Pasta without borders.