Pasta, Pasta~

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

An Italian Adventurer’s Journal ~ Extra Post

“Eating Souvenirs”

My favorite type of souvenir to bring home is an edible one!

When I was a child, my vacation souvenir was usually a trinket that ended up collecting dust on a shelf or was thrown into an old cigar box filled with other memories of vacations past. Now as an adult, I’m not very big on memory trinkets; instead I go for culinary souvenirs—something that, through sight, smell and taste, will transport me back to a particular place and time. I realize that something edible is not as long lasting as a t-shirt, a key chain or some fancy sit-around, but, at this point in my life, do I really need more stuff sitting around? Nah—I’d rather eat and savor my vacation one more time from home.

Last July, when DaVinci Wine sent me to Vinci, Italy, (read the details of that fantastic journey) we were given a tour of the Antico Pastificio Morelli (the ancient Morelli Pasta Factory) located in San Romano near Pisa. The factory was founded in the 1860s and it is still a Morelli family-run business—5 generations later. Bravo, Morelli!

What makes this particular pasta so special is that it uses wheat germ processed in a traditional way that is now one of the family’s most guarded secrets. In fact, while we were being toured though the factory, we had to turn off our cameras in the room where the wheat germ was being ground into flour, so we wouldn’t give away any of the proprietary secrets.

The Morelli’s make a wide variety of pastas from Tartufo (Pasta with Truffle) to Limone e Pepe (Lemon and Black Pepper Pasta) to Banderie di Porcini (Porcini Flag Pasta) to Peperoncino Rosso (Red Pepper Fettuccine) and the list goes on [See a wide selection, but not all, of Morelli pasta on Amazon.].

While we were on the tour I was told that since these are flavored pastas, the best way to serve them would be with a simple sauce—nothing too heavy or sophisticated because it would cover up the pastas’ unique and delicate flavors. When I suggested that their Cacao Penne (Cocoa Penne ~ yes, chocolate pasta) must taste really good in a cream sauce, I was once again reminded that even that would be too heavy of a sauce. “Wow!” I thought, “This is serious pasta!”

I had made such a scene when I first walked into the factory about the profumo buonissimo —the great smell— of the Porcini mushroom pasta, that at the end of the tour, when we were graciously given 3 free packages of pasta, the owner’s wife, with a wink, slipped a fourth package (the Porcini Flag pasta) into my gift bag. Fantastico!

My gift bag included, besides the bonus fourth package of Porcini, a package of Limone e Pepe, Peperoncino Rosso, and Spaghetti alla Chitarra (Guitar Spaghetti). “Wait, ‘guitar’ spaghetti?” Yes Elvis, but don’t think a guitar-shaped pasta. Chitarra pasta is an old-fashioned style pasta that was originally shaped by placing a sheet of raw pasta dough over a series of wires strung over a board—shown HERE—and then pressed through the wires (or “guitar strings”), which cuts the pasta into strips. Hence, the pasta is named after the “guitar” that is used to cut it.

Below is my recipe for Pomodorini Arrosti con Spaghetti alla Chitarra —”Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Guitar Spaghetti.” In keeping with the Morelli’s suggestion that only simple sauces be used, even though this spaghetti is not made with an additional flavor beyond the wheat germ itself, I made this with roasted grape tomatoes. Roasting them releases some of their sweet juices, but the tomatoes do not break down enough to make a true red sauce.

If you can’t find Morelli Spaghetti alla Chitarra, I suggest you make this dish with Bucatini (a thick spaghetti with a hole running through it)—or just plan ole’ spaghetti.

Buon Appetito~

Mark

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Pomodorini Arrosti con Spaghetti alla Chitarra

Roasted Grape Tomatoes with “Guitar” Spaghetti

2 dry pints grape tomatoes

Extra virgin olive oil

Kosher or Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 small yellow onion, minced

1 large clove garlic, sliced

1/2 cup white wine (I suggest DaVinci’s Pinot Grigio)

1 pound Morelli’s Spaghetti alla Chitarra (Bucatini or Spaghetti may be substituted)

1/4 cup chiffonade(*) fresh basil (*basil cut into thin ribbons)

1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes pop and start to caramelize, about 15 to 20 minutes.

While the tomatoes roast~

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and when hot, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. *NOTE: If the onions start to brown and cook too fast, add a little water to slow the cooking process.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Add the garlic and cook for a quick 30 seconds.

When the tomatoes are roasted, remove from oven and set aside to cool.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Letting the tomatoes brown and "caramelize" brings out their natural sugars—and a lot of flavor!

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Add the roasted tomatoes, ALSO adding all of the juices and drippings on the baking sheet as a result of the roasting process.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water. Make sure you add enough salt to make the water taste like sea water ~ this seasons the pasta as it cooks.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Drain, but do not rinse the pasta. Rinsing the pasta would remove the starch, which is important to leave on because it helps the "sauce" adhere to the cooked pasta.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Add the pasta to the sauce.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Toss the pasta with the tomatoes. If the sauce is too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Turn the heat off, add the basil, a 1/4 cup of the grated cheese, and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Plate the pasta, drizzle with a little extra olive oil and grated cheese.

"2012 DaVinci Stroyteller Experience" "Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"

Serve immediately ~ garnishing each serving with a little additional cheese.

Want to see more about Morelli Pasta or my DaVinci Wine experince in Vinci, Italy? Click HERE for my “Italian Adventurer’s Journal” posting about Morelli.

Click HERE for my complete DaVinci experience.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.