In a world where everything is about bigger, better, and faster, one thing that has remained the same since the beginning of time is pasta. Sure, there have been dozens of new shapes, sizes, pairings, colors and flavours, yet the constant seems to be the dreaded cooking time. If you’re anything like me, you stare at the water waiting for it to boil. Al dente perfection in eleven to twelve minutes? I might die of starvation by then. Don’t get me wrong, I am a culinary queen and I’ll spend hours on dishes that I know are going to knock people’s socks off, but I’m a fat girl who knows hunger never quits. Sometimes I feel a bit shameful being an Italian girl resorting to pasta as a quick and easy alternative considering my ancestors dedicated their lives to perfecting this food that is now sold for ninety-eight cents a pound in the supermarket. But let’s be real: sometimes you just don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish all of your errands and make a seven course meal.
At the beginning of October, I attended Rustichella D’Abruzzo’s event in which they introduced their newest product: 90 Seconds Rapida. This pasta is the work of Maria Stefania and Gianluigi Peduzzi who worked with engineers to develop their revolutionary ninety-second spaghetti, and I was very lucky to find out their secret to share with you. The dough is created from high-gluten durum wheat semolina and water, and once the pasta is stretched, it’s then dyed with bronze to give it a unique, rough texture which I later learned is responsible for its superior ability to hold onto any seasonings or sauces. During the presentation, each of us were given a single piece of the dried product to look at to see if we could figure out what mechanism or feature was responsible for the speedy cooking time. In a room of over thirty people, no one could figure it out. Gianluigi then pointed out something everyone completely overlooked: the true shape of the pasta. Initially, it appears to just be ordinary spaghetti, but when you look closer, you then realize that its actual shape is that of a stalk of celery. When raw, it has said celery-like shape, but as it cooks in the boiling water, the gluten is then released which fuses the spaghetto to become its traditional, solid shape. That small space throughout the pasta is the genius behind the whole idea! Who knew? Apparently no one else ever.
I was definitely the youngest person here and it was my very first Fat Girl Food Squad event. Initially I was really intimidated, because everyone was really dressed up and talking about real adult things while I was shakin’ in my twenty-two-year-old boots. I began to mingle to ease my overwhelming anxiety and excitement and then the best part arrived: the food. We were served really unique, single-serving appetizers ranging from deep fried, ricotta stuffed squash blossoms to pecorino balls over sweet pea puree. Each thing was better than the last, and the free Campari and Prosecco helped to lubricate the whole shebang. After indulging in copious amounts of tiny foods, the winner of Greatest Chef China – Italy Edition, William Zonfa, came to put the pasta to the test. Complete with a ninety second timer, Chef Zonfa cooked the pasta and made a creamy saffron-leek puree topped with crunchy guanciale (pork cheek bacon) and shaved pecorino. Not only was everything cooked in ninety seconds, but it was all beautifully plated and it was truly an honorable experience to see such a talented chef perform his craft right in front of me.
Now it was time to taste the rapida spaghetti I’d been drooling over. Side note, for a few minutes I was observing the Abruzzese people and how they ate their spaghetti. Sure, I knew how my Grandma ate it, but she was my Grandma. It felt like a true spectator experience to watch a real Italian person eat spaghetti. Do they twirl it? No. Do they slurp it? Hell yeah. Now I felt comfortable to slurp in all my saffron glory for the next fifteen seconds that the pasta would remain on my plate. I’m sure you all have experienced a food epiphany before. You get that blast of food heroin through your veins and it reaches your brain and you experience euphoria. Amongst all those awesome feelings, your brain is freaking out screaming “THIS IS THE BEST _____ I’VE EVER HAD”. You know that feeling, right? That’s how I felt at that very moment. Being Sicilian, saffron had always been a really major ingredient in my Grandma’s pantry so I was loving every second of it. Since I’m a vegetarian, I sadly neglected the guanciale but with the strong flavors of the elements, I didn’t even care. I actually felt sad when I was done. Sad. But nevertheless, very impressed by the quality of the pasta because although it’s a dried pasta, it has all the qualities of its fresh counterparts.
Then came dessert; an array of fresh Italian biscotti and pastries and another saffron dish: custard. It was the soft and creamy dessert that you’d expect with a zing of saffron and what seemed to be a piping of vanilla bean and thyme ice cream. So all in all, yes, let me shout it to the heavens, yes.