Authentic taste of Italy
THE joy of twirling endless strips of thin spaghetti around your fork shouldn’t be reserved for trips to fancy restaurants. Home cooks can create their own delicious slice of Italy with minimal effort.
Owner and chef at Sydney’s Pendolino cafe and restaurant Nino Zoccali says as long as you stick to a few rules, home cooks can’t go wrong.
“Nothing really beats pasta for me,” Zoccali says.
“There are really just two recipes for pasta: semolina based, which is dry, and egg based, which is fresh, once you get an understanding of those you can expand yourself with flavours and textures.”
The art of good pasta making is in the ingredients.
Zoccali says choosing the finest quality items will give dishes an authentic taste of Italy.
“To me, pasta is Italy, I go back once a year and can see the real fresh ingredients they use, it makes all the difference to a dish: it can have a little bit of sauce and be a big bowl of pasta but still be flavourful.”
Zoccali’s number one tip, which he uses at his own restaurant where they make their pasta in-house with a specially made drying machine, is to keep it thin.
“The thinner you make the pasta, no matter what kind, I like to keep it rolled out very thin and very delicate, the better it will be.”
Zoccali also has rapidly boiling water with a generous amount of salt mixed through before he adds the uncooked pasta.
“Cooks need to get into the habit of not overcooking their pasta, al dente, means to the tooth; you want it to have bite.”
Once the basics are covered, Zoccali says that cooks have a world of shapes and sauces open to them.
“There is no one pasta that goes best with a sauce, so try it out, find a recipe you like, research the regions or the pastas and find what works best for you.”
Chef Nino Zoccali (inset) has perfected the art of pasta making. Picture: Hugh Stewart