Going to Taste of Atlanta this year was a last minute decision for me. I was planning on a lazy weekend at home, but when Barilla US asked if I would like to attend the festival and meet their Executive Chef Lorenzo Boni… I happily packed up my camera and headed down to Midtown for the festival.
After a stroll around the food tents at the festival, I settled down at the Global Flavors stage for the demonstration, where Chef Lorenzo cooked up a Campanelle with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Butternut Squash & Mushrooms.
Did you know that most modern Italian pasta dishes aren’t drenched in heavy tomato sauces? They are actually made up of pasta, fresh vegetables and high quality olive oil. Finding this out only strengthened my love for Italian food.
Chef Lorenzo gave us lots of great tips for cooking with pasta. Here are a few that I picked up:
1. Use sea salt for the water to boil the pasta. Sea salt is more readily available in Italy, and has more minerals to add flavor to your dish.
2. Most modern Italian pasta dishes don’t have much garlic or tomato sauce, they are actually made up of fresh vegetables and high quality olive oil.
3. Get a good bottle of extra virgin olive oil to make your sauces with, and make sure to check the label to see that the olive oil is Made in Italy. Which means that it was made with Italian olives.
4. Start cooking a good Italian pasta sauce at medium to medium high heat. Cook slowly to infuse all the flavors.
5. Make sure your sauce is ready before the pasta is done, so that the pasta isn’t sitting around getting cold.
6. Undercook your pasta by a few minutes, then add it to your sauce and let cook till al dente to infuse the flavors of the sauce into your pasta.
7. The beauty of Italian cooking is that nothing is written in stone. Use fresh seasonal ingredients in your pasta sauce.
And quick photo with Chef Lorenzo Boni after the Barilla demo. What a nice & talented guy – and absolutely loved his Italian accent. I think I could’ve listened to him talk about food all day.
After watching Chef Lorenzo cook up this pasta dish during the demo, I felt inspired and stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the festival and picked up the ingredients to make it for dinner that same evening.
I wish I had known how easy it is to make oven dried tomatoes at home. After making these, I am never buying sun dried tomatoes ever again. The flavor of these oven dried tomatoes is almost mind blowing.
Below recipe is by Barilla US. I substituted penne for the campanelle because I couldn’t find any campanelle in my local grocery store.
Oven Dried Tomatoes
2 pints, cherry tomatoes
Pre-heat the oven to 200˚F.
Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds, then place on a sheet try lined with parchment paper.
Dry in the preheated oven for 2 to 2.5 hours.
Penne with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Butternut Squash & Mushrooms (serves 6)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 butternut squash, medium diced
8 oz oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 onion, julienned in short pieces
2 pints, oven-dried cherry tomatoes
1 box, penne
sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp, fresh parsley chiffonade
1/2 cup, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
Pre-heat the oven to 425˚F, toss the diced butternut squash and onions in 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and then roast on a sheet tray in the oven for about 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
While the squash and onions are roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Saute mushrooms in a large skillet with the remaining 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for 4-5 minutes. Then add the roasted squash, onions and tomatoes to the skillet. Saute for another 2-3 minutes.
Cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain and add to the skillet with the sauce.
Add parsley to the skillet and toss well.
Top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before serving. Enjoy!
Full Disclosure: Thank you to Barilla for providing a VIP admission ticket to the Taste of Atlanta.