So first of all let's talk pasta. I bought some organic pasta from the shops some months ago, which I've been meaning to blog about, because they're pretty different from the standard pasta I usually eat.
These lovely little morsels pictured below are strozzapreti tricolore from Montebello in Italy. Prior to this, I've not had pasta in the strozzapreti shape, so the mere novelty of it all engaged me. Plus, it apparently means priest strangler in Italian, which also brings forth the question, does everything just sound better in Italian? Also, they come in three colours. Technically, it's really four - we've got the chilli ones in red, the nettle ones in green, the wholemeal ones in brown and the classic ones in beige. They're gorgeous AND tasty. The chilli is distinctive, and it will infuse the pasta water with a good dose of heat. The nettle ones have a pleasantly earthy taste, similar to spinach. I have to confess that I've been cooking them in a rather un-Italian fashion, using them in lieu of noodles in my Asian-style broths. I quite like them that way!
|Montebello - Strozzapreti Tricolore Pasta.|
Getting a bit closer to home, and with less food miles, we have Australian-made pasta, too. Hurrah! These are mixed olive leaves from L'Abruzzese, a South Australian company. The green ones are flavoured with spinach powder. The "leaves" are so charmingly rustic, and they also cook up well, retaining a great al dente bite. I figured that they would go beautifully in a gentle, creamy base, so I tossed them through some mascarpone, as well as some other ingredients I no longer remember. My instincts proved correct - it was a delicious match. I've noticed L'Abruzzese also have pasta in native Australian flavours (lemon myrtle! wattleseed! excitement!!), as well as a gluten-free range made with buckwheat, chickpea, rice and lentil flours. Buoyed by my good experience here, I might try those next time.
|L'Abruzzese - Mixed Olive Leaves.|
I bought both of the above pastas at Ripe the Organic Grocer in Prahran Market, but you can probably find them in other stores that stock a good range of organic pasta, as well. Or you may find something else which is just as fun to cook and eat!
- - -
Moving on. I recently accepted an invitation to a complimentary dinner at itali.co ( 1/173-177 Barkly St, St Kilda) to experience a set menu created by head chefs Piero Roldo and Lino Maglione.
Firstly, we were treated to some kitchen demonstrations - a behind-the-scenes look at how they make pasta and pizza. Here's a fleeting shot I managed to catch of one of the steps to creating a squid ink tagliolini.
|The making of squid ink pasta at Itali.co.|
We ate so much and I won't be posting all the photos here, but if you'd like a comprehensive pictorial summary you can check them out under the Media/PR Events album in my Facebook page.
I shall indeed share with you my favourite savoury and sweet dishes of the night, however.
Slow-cooked boneless rack of rabbit, filled with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and basil, served with a red cabbage strudel, and carrot puree.
The description alone is enticing enough, but I did not anticipate how well-executed and beautifully cooked it would be, and in turn, how much I would love it. The rabbit came out in the form of a succulent involtini, rolled with little tangy, salty and herbaceous hits from the tomatoes, olives and basil. The red cabbage strudel, put simply, was like delicious sauerkraut in pastry. The carrot puree was smooth, unctuous, and indulgent. I adored all of it.
|Rabbit involtini, red cabbage strudel and carrot puree at Itali.co.|
My favourite dessert of the night was the strawberry nutella pizza. You're probably not surprised.
For days afterwards, I would get random cravings for that delicious chocolatey hazelnut spread that we all know and love. I fairly blame it on this pizza. It's a simple concept and a flavour combination that has been no doubt done many times in many places, but what really elevated this pizza was that gorgeous crust. I could try to replicate this pizza at home (and ha, I probably will) - the toppings will be easy - but that perfectly cooked dough, with its beguiling stretch and crunch... I'll have to come back here for that.
|Strawberry Nutella pizza at Itali.co.|
Other notes: The general quality of the food I sampled here was excellent. A few didn't quite grab me so much, but besides the two dishes mentioned above, there were several others that I enjoyed - the pan-fried Canadian scallops with cauliflower pannacotta, the black ink tagliolini with assorted seafood (especially when drizzled with the chilli oil condiment on the table), and all the other pizzas I tried - one was a lovely summery one with swordfish on an eggplant base, and the other a deliciously pungent mushroom and truffle pizza. Additionally, a shout out to owner, Remo Nicolini, who was an excellent host - he is clearly passionate about food and it really shows in the way he runs the place.
- - -
Last, but not least, in this series of carb-laden treats...
Hi, bread with juicy figs and aromatic fennel seeds. Why art thou so yummy?
This is the fig and fennel ficelle from Rustica Sourdough Bakery (402 Brunswick St, Fitzroy). Apparently this bakery has been around for quite awhile, but Simon and I only stumbled upon it recently when he wanted some takeaway coffee. We went in and discovered the ficelle. I also discovered, unsurprisingly, that it is even more delicious toasted, with butter. What isn't, really.
- - -
What are some of your recent delights?