Mat­teo Ponti of For­lino

Ex­ec­u­tive chef Mat­teo Ponti of For­lino took Priyanka El­hence on a jour­ney through some of Pied­mont’s most renowned clas­sics.

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Known for its rich cui­sine, white Alba truf­fles and tan­nin-heavy Neb­bi­olo wines, such as Barolo and Bar­baresco, there is so much to love about Pied­mont, Italy’s sec­ond largest re­gion. Bor­der­ing Switzer­land and France in the north­west of the coun­try, Pied­mont has a moun­tain­ous land­scape sur­rounded by the Alps on three sides, and is home to Italy’s high­est peaks and largest glaciers. “I’m from the small town of Tre­cate in the No­vara prov­ince, Pied­mont’s sec­ond most pop­u­lar city af­ter the cap­i­tal, Turin. It’s lo­cated in the mid­dle of the Aquerello rice plan­ta­tion, home to the fa­mous aged carnaroli rice, one of the best risotto rice in the world,” says ex­ec­u­tive chef Mat­teo Ponti of For­lino proudly.

Un­like a busy me­trop­o­lis, Pied­mont is all about the coun­try life­style. “Fam­i­lies be­lieve in grow­ing their own veg­eta­bles for per­sonal consumption and buy­ing from small pro­duc­ers to sup­port the lo­cal com­mu­nity,” says Ponti. As his home­town is lo­cated be­tween the two large cities of No­varra and Mi­lano, Ponti grew up con­stantly ex­posed to good food. “Pied­mont clas­sics in­clude salame della duja, the tra­di­tional Ital­ian pork salami cured in the ‘duja’ ter­ra­cotta jug; cas­soeula, an an­cient Mi­lanese pork and savoy cab­bage stew served with po­lenta, a typ­i­cal win­ter dish from Lom­bar­dia; and salame di cioc­co­lato,

choco­late salami, a favourite birth­day present of mine” he shares. The re­gion is also known for its prized noc­ci­ola tonda

gen­tile delle langhe or noc­ci­ola del Piemonte, the Pied­mont hazel­nut, val­ued for its al­most-round shape, mild flavour, high oil con­tent and crunchy flesh.

The youngest among four broth­ers and one sis­ter, Ponti spent a lot of time in his fam­ily gar­den filled with pro­duce, which was used to make home­made jams, pasta, vine­gar and tomato sauce. He was al­ways amazed at the things his mum would whip up for them; his favourite dish was freshly plucked zuc­chini flow­ers and pump­kin flow­ers deep-fried with an­chovies. For spe­cial oc­ca­sions, carpac­cio di manzo alla Pied­mon­tese

was a reg­u­lar fea­ture, show­cas­ing the re­gion’s fa­mous Fas­sona beef from spe­cial Alba cows. Ponti’s ren­di­tion here adds an in­ven­tive spin of bagna càuda to the regional dish. Mamma Ponti also taught him how to make the iconic ravi­oli del plin, the hand­crafted ravi­oli stuffed with slow-braised beef chuck, black truffle and porcini mush­rooms. “The pasta is char­ac­terised by the ‘pinch­ing’ method of mak­ing the ravi­oli,” he adds. The tra­di­tional recipe’s ori­gins how­ever date back to Turin’s aris­to­cratic past, dur­ing which leftover roasted meats from lav­ish feasts for roy­alty were used the next day to make stuffed pas­tas.

Ponti’s fa­ther, on the other hand, tended to the fam­ily farm and was in charge of the fam­ily Sun­day Brunch. Ponti was only four years old when his fa­ther taught him how to make his fa­mous risotto alla Mi­lanese, to­gether with coniglio con po­lenta e stufato

di funghi del piemonte (rab­bit with po­lenta and mush­room stew).

Kitchen night­mares were a reg­u­lar fea­ture in his early life. “The most memorable episode was when I first started bak­ing. I got so frus­trated one day that I smashed one of my failed cre­ations on the wall. As you can imag­ine, Mamma Ponti wasn’t too happy about clean­ing up the mess that I had made,” he grins.

Still, he per­se­vered and from the age of 11, Ponti’s home­made cakes and cook­ies were a huge hit at school. “My bak­ing ex­ploits made me re­ally pop­u­lar with my school­mates and they al­ways looked for­ward to my treats on my birth­day ev­ery year,” he ends with a smile.

PINCHED BRAISED BEEF CHUCK AND PORCINI MUSH­ROOM RAVI­OLI WITH BLACK TRUF­FLES ‘RAVI­OLI DEL PLIN’

Serves 10 Prep time 15 min­utes

Cook time 2 hours + 12 hours mar­i­na­tion + 3 hours bak­ing time

egg pasta 600g flour 500g egg yolks

• In an elec­tric mixer, com­bine flour and egg yolks for 10-15 min­utes un­til a smooth dough forms.

• Wrap dough in plas­tic wrap and rest in the chiller for 1 hour.

ravi­oli fill­ing

700g beef chuck, cubed 50g car­rots, cubed

6g gar­lic, sliced

50g onions, cubed

50g cel­ery, cubed

2g rose­mary

10g brown sugar

500ml Barolo red wine

2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp olive oil salt and black pep­per, to taste 50g ri­cotta

30g 36-month-aged Parme­san cheese 1 egg

6g Ital­ian pars­ley, chopped

• In a mix­ing bowl, mix the beef chuck to­gether with the car­rots, gar­lic, onions, cel­ery, rose­mary, Barolo red wine and brown sugar. Re­frig­er­ate overnight.

• Pre­heat oven to 120°C.

• Strain beef and veg­eta­bles and set wine mari­nade aside. • Driz­zle olive oil in a hot pan and sear the beef to form a brown crust on all sides. Sea­son.

• In a sep­a­rate pan, sear veg­eta­bles in hot oil for ap­prox­i­mately 5 min­utes. Sea­son.

• Place the seared beef and veg­eta­bles on an oven tray and driz­zle over with the wine mari­nade. Cover tray with alu­minium foil and bake for 3 hours.

• Strain and blend the beef and veg­eta­bles in a food pro­ces­sor. Add ri­cotta, Parme­san, egg, pars­ley and sea­son­ing. Set aside.

• Re­move the pasta dough from the chiller. Di­vide dough into 4 equal por­tions. Keep­ing the other por­tions cov­ered un­til ready to use, roll one por­tion into a sheet 2mm thick.

• Work­ing quickly, place rounded tea­spoon­fuls of fill­ing 1-inch apart over half of the pasta sheet. Mois­ten the dough around the fill­ing by brush­ing gen­tly with wa­ter.

• Roll out another por­tion of dough and place

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