Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meet your pasta fantasy (recipe for lemon spaghetti included)

Yesterday, I got to attend Casa Barilla, the culmination of the Summer of Italy program. It's taking place in Central Park under a gigantic tent, and it is fascinating and fun and filled with pasta, pasta, pasta!

The event features four days of cooking and culture workshops and demonstrations by top chefs. Interactive classes include Italian Pasta Classics and Italian Coastal Pasta; I particularly liked Simply Healthy Italian Pasta with Chef Ivan Beacco, in which a group watched him make Gnochetti Sardi alla Nuorese (pasta with olives, salami, white wine, shallots and ricotta salata). I didn't have the heart to ask how to convince Max to try other pastas beyond spaghetti (spaghetti all the time is getting a little old for us, but not for Max), though I did ask him how to prevent pasta from sticking. "A little stirring, that's it," he said. Revelatory: He cooked the pasta with a steel colander in the pot. I am so getting one.

There are tasting stations...

...including one just for Parmigiano Reggiano, imported from Italy. One word: OMG.

The dining area

The Piccolini zone, where tots could make pasta and play games.

The humongous coffee bar. I love caffe macchiato, espresso with a splash of steamed milk. True story: I studied in Italy as a junior in college, and at first didn't realize that when you made a pot of espresso, you were supposed to drink a teeny cup of the stuff—not a gigantic mug of it. I was wired for weeks.

You can also pick up pasta, sauces, vinegars and cool retro tins in a shop.

This is exactly what's missing from Max's room: a pole filled with pasta.

Casa Barilla is happening through Friday September 16. The entry fee, $5 per adult, along with a portion of merchandise sold benefits the Food Bank for New York City. Check it all out (and register for classes) here.

Meanwhile, I snagged this genius spaghetti recipe, good for grownups and kids. Hopefully, it will help us break out of our spaghetti-and-sauce rut!

Barilla Lemon Spaghetti

1 box Barilla spaghetti
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
3/4 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tbsp. marjoram, packed
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)

The how-tos
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add salt (optional).
• Whisk the oil, grated cheeses, lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl to blend.
• Set the lemon sauce aside. (The sauce can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)
• Cook the spaghetti, stirring occasionally, until tender yet al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
• Add the spaghetti to the lemon sauce, and toss with the marjoram and lemon zest.
• Toss the pasta with enough reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten.
• Season the pasta with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls. Serve.

Grazie to Barilla for sponsoring Casa Barilla, and this post.


  1. Oh Man you didn't know that about espresso? I had a small cup yesterday and i was shaking the rest of the day!

  2. This looks like a super-cool, fun and yummy event. I live and work in Manhattan, so I will try to go. Thanks for letting us know about it.

  3. Yes, Anthony, I was clueless back then. Now a teeny cup of espresso can keep me going just fine!

    And Anon, enjoy!

  4. Looks like fun!

    I don't know if this will help but I just wanted to add my two cents. Maybe this is obvious and you arleady do it, anyway:

    My husband likes a very specific pasta (he's italian)and he also likes his pasta very al dente. I do not like my pasta super al dente and I'm pretty sure my daughter doesn't either.

    Whenever I make pasta, I make two kinds, one his favourite and one with whatever we're eating. For his I just make a portion size. The sauce is separate. That way I don't have to always eat the same pasta.

    Of course this is an extra pot and extra washing up but you could do it once in a while so that Max can still have his spaghetti and you can have something else. =)

  5. Thanks for joining us for the events Ellen, it was fun for all the chefs too!!
    For your little chef at home, i suggest you to ask him to help you cooking and when it's time to choose pasta show him some fun shapes and let him pick which one he wants to eat. Also: associate the sauces he loves most and "tweak" the pasta.
    It worked with my 3 years old many times, so worth trying isn't?


Thanks for sharing!

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