Pasta and pizza. Identità Chicago, which started on Saturday 7th October in the gigantic city on Lake Michigan, presented these two worlds that are a synonym of Italy and that thanks to their very universal character are too often distorted. The further we are from home, the more liberty and improvisation is to be found in the dish.

This edition of Eataly Chicago served to create some order in this topic. By bringing two flags of ours like pasta and pizza, we wanted to show two delicious touchstones.

Paolo Marchi, content by Gabriele Zanatta

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Monograno Felicetti 
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Newsletter 61 del 18 october 2017

Dear {{NOME}},

Pasta and pizza. Identità Chicago, which started on Saturday 7th October in the gigantic city on Lake Michigan, presented these two worlds that are a synonym of Italy and that thanks to their very universal character are too often distorted. The further we are from home, the more liberty and improvisation is to be found in the dish.

This edition of Eataly Chicago served to create some order in this topic. By bringing two flags of ours like pasta and pizza, we wanted to show two delicious touchstones.

Paolo Marchi, content by Gabriele Zanatta

Riccardo Felicetti: American expectations

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Last week the Monograno Felicetti adventure in Identità Chicago, New York and Boston began. In the Illinois metropolis the focus of the programme was indeed on pasta and pizza (more details here).

My expectations in the United States? The confirming of a trend that seems strengthened overseas: pasta is no longer demonised as in the past, but is once again considered for what it is, good, healthy, versatile and easy to make food. Most of all, it is a symbol of joy and conviviality, reflecting the characteristics of our country in terms of food.

My expectations from the Italian chefs at work in the United States, included stimulating interpretations, capable of expressing the soul of the product, as well as recipes easy to understand and repeat. Otherwise, they’re just a sterile lab exercise.

I also expected that they’d work to debunk a cliché that still exists in the United States: “pasta makes you fat”. Of course, if you gulp down buckets of carbonara with 200 grams of pasta, 50 g of Grana, 50 of pecorino, 4 eggs and 100 grams of pork jowl, calories will rocket. Yet this doesn’t prove a thing: you can make extraordinary pasta, in smaller portions. Here’s another challenge for our cooks.
Riccardo Felicetti

(In the photo, the protagonists of the 4th edition of Identità Chicago: top left, clockwise, Vittorio and Saverio Borgia, Corrado Scaglione, Sarah Minnick, Davide Oldani, Sarah Grueneberg, Luciano Monosilio, Fernando Darin and Jonathan Benno)

Leeman’s vegan Amatriciana is so good

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On Monday a couple of weeks ago, at Open Colonna in Rome, the first Associazione italiana Ambasciatori del Gusto congress was followed by a charity dinner. 7 Chef per Amatrice, this was the title, with all seven chefs interpreting a dish that is emblematic of the territories affected by last year’s earthquakes: Amatriciana. With two doubts, the first regarding the gelato that Paolo Brunelli was to present, and the second with reference to the pasta by Pietro Leemann. Mission accomplished for both.

We can discuss on the absence of pork jowl. Pietro is a vegan and of course he won’t use it, but as Manuela Zanni said: «Amatriciana has only one flaw, pork jowl. Without it, it’s equally good». The description Zanni gives in the article is clear: «The dish dedicated to Amatrice was called Penso, quindi sono: which is clearly inspired by Carthesius and encloses the perfect synthesis of the philosophy on which a cuisine based on respect for food as a nourishment not only for the body is based, following Ayurveda rules. His vegetarian amatriciana, a timbale of spaghetti with a sauce of roasted tomatoes, seasoned with a mousse of smoked cauliflower and toasted almonds and wild fennel, shows that by using your mind you can find unexpected alternatives to what looks like predestined, with equally good and remarkable results».

In general, a vegan interpretation of a non vegan dish creates a debate. You look for the usual ingredients and, not finding them, as in the classic recipe, you’re left uncertain and wondering if the new version is reasoned or not. On that Monday, instead, the participants appreciated the work of Leemann, a good idea and lots of substance.

Paolo Marchi, photo by Eleonora Cozzella

Andrea Aprea’s dynamic risotto-style cooking

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We’re back visiting Andrea Aprea after some time. We tasted the fabulous Linguine with pepper from Senise, sardines and watercress (in the photo) and it has plenty of stimuli. It recalls the linguine the chef from Park Hyatt, the Neapolitan further to the north, presented at the congress in Milan in 2011.

Even then, there were sardines. What struck us the most, however, was the colour of the pasta, which was purple because of the cabbage juice in which it was cooked in the pan, risotto-style. A memorable dish, at least in our very private culinary conscience. The colour purple was smeared with watercress, pine nuts and burrata, an exchange of ingredients between North and South that was a sign of his skill in keeping a balance between his Neapolitan roots and the branches spreading between different regional traditions of Italian cuisine.

So what happened to those cabbage linguine? «They’ll be back in the menu this autumn», the chef reveals, «but taste changes: the dish cannot stay in the menu and remain unchanged. We decided to remove the overpowering flavour of the sardines, which we smoked ourselves, and enhance the earthy and intense flavour of the cabbage». Roots further to the north. With them, the time dedicated to the risotto-style cooking has also increased: «Before, I used to cook the pasta half in boiling water and half in the pan. Now, by adding the dose of purple centrifuge juice, I cook it risotto-style for 70% of the time. I love the starch the pasta releases in the end». And so do we.

Torretta: the classic goes round the world

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What with one thing and the other, even Matteo Torretta has been working for a while with his second Giuseppe Cascio at restaurant Asola, on top of the Brian&Barry Building in the San Babila building site in Milan. Six years, to be precise, more or less the time he spent beside his master Martin Berasategui, in the Basque Country.

The latter experience is still noticeable in the work of this big guy: this is where he learnt to translate a basic intuition into practice, with a vocabulary oozing technique and creativity. It’s the case of the stunning Spaghetti we tasted a few days ago, recently included in the menu. It’s made by centrifuging cold Purple prawns, including the heads (but without the shell) in oil, water and salt. A sauce that’s a bit like a shortcut of a bisque. The dish is completed with diced green apple in a ginger infusion (sweetness and crunchiness) and green shiso instead of the classic basil (a sui generis acidity).

A recommendation. If you climb to Aosta, ask for a second helping of first courses with the Mixed pasta with clams opened with Martini and fermented cream of beans, his interpretation of the super classic pasta with beans and clams. «My colleagues usually open the clams with white wine. But Martini Dry, sweet and dry, is even better for this mission. The cream of beans, instead, is fermented like kimchi». Classics that often go on a round-the-world trip. Trivia fact: the pasta is not cooked in boiling water, not even for a second. He cooks it like risotto.

The double carbohydrates of marathon runner Bob

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If German Christoph Bob has been imprisoned for years on the Coast of Amalfi, it is not only thanks to his wife from Vico Equense but also to the sirens of dry pasta: «I love simple recipes, those that only combine 3 ingredients». This had to be the case, given his restaurant is called Refettorio and is inside a Monastery (of Santa Rosa, in fact a super luxury den).

In the super first course tasted this year, there were also only three ingredients, Linguine with sea truffles and friggitelli, river chilli peppers. «I started with Spaghetti with clams, a great classic you could eat all day long and still be fine». Sea truffles are sweeter and more delicate than clams. Friggitelli add a bitter counterpoint.

There’s also a hot touch which comes from the tarallo from Agerola crumbled and toasted in extra virgin olive oil. A trick that invites to dip some bread into the sauce in the end. «After all, I always have bread with my pasta», admits Bob. These are the double carbohydrates that will support him during the New York marathon, on the 5th of November.

Nino Rossi and the invisible details in tubettoni

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Speaking of classics with a little change in direction, there’s a simple dish but very effective, cooked by a Calabrian chef that deserves a notice. His name is Nino Rossi, he’s chef at Qafiz in Santa Cristina – in Aspromonte at 300 metres above the sea level – and we tasted it at S’Apposentu in Siddi, on the occasion of a beautiful dinner with multiple authors with Fili di Gusto.

These tenacious tubettoni are immersed in a suave cream of smoked potatoes, with small pieces of steamed fish – deep water amberjack, in our case. «We dedicated it to our dining room director Rossella Audino», says the chef, 36, «who complains no dish is inspired by her, and she loves Pasta potatoes and mussels». The secret is in the invisible details: «In order to lighten the greasiness of the cream of potatoes with a little acidity, we add Champagne vinegar. And to give freshness, we include basil».

The tubettone format has a diameter large enough to enclose the fish and perhaps some lightly blanched diced potatoes. The tasting is very satisfying, and so are two other factors: «The restaurant staff, and the bride and groom who decided to celebrate at Qafiz».

Crescenzo puts mullet into cacio e pepe pasta

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In the space of a few months, his fresh tagliolini with Fiorone truffle from Pollino and red prawns conquered two generations of Identitagolosians (the first and the second). But before the season ends (on the 22nd of October), it’s worth paying a visit to Pietramare in Crotone to understand how good chef Alfonso Crescenzo is with everything from starter to dessert, and dwell on the dry side of pasta («I’m from Campania, I have it in my blood»).

Spaghettone cacio, pepe and mullet are an extension of the famous speciality to a latitude even further to the south than its original cradle. «I thicken it away from the stove, with pasta cooking water, pepper, a pinch of salt, pecorino from Steccato di Cutro, sprinkled with a Microplane». The mullet is added later, in the shape of a tartare, including the skin, with minced red onion from Tropea. A trick that happily fills the palate.

Bikini’s chiummenzana

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Linguine with tomato alla chiummenzana, capers, olives and (hidden) flakes of salted codifish with pil pil by Andrea Napolitano, chef trained with Cannavacciuolo, recently working with Giorgio Scarselli at Bikini in Vico Equense (Naples). Chiummenza, in the local dialect, is the team of fishermen awaiting to get on board. When at sea, they could forget a sauce like this.

Cavatelli by maestro Gatto

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Cavatelli with calamari sauce by Giuseppe Gatto, a master of traditional Calabrian cuisine, in the philosophy of Slow Food, at restaurant Lucrezia in Trebisacce (Cosenza). A dish perfect for everyone from 1 to 101 years old (ask a second helping by choosing Cavatelli with murex).

Fregola 1/Black fregola by Fabio Groppi

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This is Black Fregola by Fabio Groppi, the very talented chef with Ligurian-Piedmontese origins, who’s been at the helm of Escargot for little over a year. The snail-shaped restaurant overlooks the transparent sea of Costa Rei in Sardinia. Scattered around the squid ink sauce, are calamari, lobsters. To the right, a fake pea made with pea cream and a fake pod which is in fact a wafer made with Parmigiano. Groppi is about to apply all the expertise he acquired in Sardinia in a second restaurant, this time in Verona, in Via Oberdan 2.

Fregola 2/Super-traditional fregola at Is Menhirs

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Super traditional fregola with stew and myrtle at Is Menhirs in Castiadas, in the inland of Costa Rei in Sardinia. Here you can taste the joys of Sardinian cuisine, by Francesca Murgia.