On the 25th January I was invited to my first foodie event since the launch of Kitchen Geekery. As it was hosted by Sara Danesin – 2011 MasterChef UK Finalist – I was both excited, and nervous in equal measure.
I am big fan of MasterChef - it’s one of the few shows I actually watch religiously - and watching Sara go from a very capable cook to someone producing fine dining under the pressure of demanding judges on a popular TV show was actually one of my motivations to set out on a (more modest) food journey of my own.
The dish I looked forward to the most was the spaghetti and red mullet ragout, which for me, a seafood lover, was always going to be something special - but that would come to be just one high of a great afternoon.
Whilst watching Sara cook two things really struck me; the most notable being what Italians really mean by ‘al dente’ pasta - they really do mean firm to the bite!
Whilst preparing the Pasta alla Norma dish - itself a heavenly mix of augberine and basil flavours - the Garofalo Mezze Maniche pasta was cooked for about 14 minutes. This meant it kept its colour really well, and retained its clean, sharp edges. The pasta itself was great, having a pleasant nutty taste. The texture too made a surprising difference to the dish, and for that reason Garofalo is now my pasta brand of choice.
Rather than being able to make quite short work of the pasta, and the vegetables being the star of the dish, the firmer pasta required more chewing than usual, and brought some calm and refinement to what was ultimately quite a simple dish.
The other learning experience was the sparing use of garlic. When creating the base for the sauces, Sara fried a still skinned garlic clove in the olive oil “which she describes as cooking in its jacket” and removed the clove from the pan before going on to add the rest of the ingredients. Even the splashes of pesto for the ragout only used a single clove of garlic, and yet the taste still shone through – so I probably just saved myself quite an expense over the course of a years cooking!
So as well as good food, and a bit of learning, the standout was really just how kind, and grounded Sara is. Her experiences on MasterChef, and some recent events have done nothing but intensify her passion for cookery, her family, and for life.
The Garofalo pasta is sadly quite difficult to obtain in the UK (They are expanding their distribution), but Ocado, the online arm of Waitrose stock it.
It’s certainly a bit more expensive than your average pasta, but rather than being used to bulk up a dish, the Garofalo pasta actually forms an enjoyable part of the meal in its own right, and fully justifies the extra expense.
I have posted most of the recipes to the site, but the rest will follow, and post below if you have questions or thoughts, I’d be happy to answer them.