Not many dishes have the power to bring back memories of home as a bowl of pasta Barilla, a brand that is one of the symbol of the Italian cuisine across the world. I grew up eating this pasta nearly every day. Our kitchen cupboards in Rome were always filled with Barilla in all shapes and forms. Nowadays I don’t eat pasta as often as I used to when I was young, but I continue to buy Barilla here in London.
Pasta for me is the ultimate Italian dish, one that is easy and quick to make. I like to season the pasta with a simple sauce, using good and seasonal ingredients: tasty ripe tomatoes, flavourful basil, juicy aubergines or a pesto sauce for a fresh, summer dish.
Barilla was founded in Parma in 1877 out of a shop that made bread and pasta. The Barilla production plant, the biggest pasta plant worldwide, is still there today. The city of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna, is famous all over the world for its food and rich gastronomical tradition, so much that it was recently proclaimed Creative City for Gastronomy by Unesco.
Parma is also where the Accademia Barilla is located, the first international center dedicated to the development and promotion of Italian Gastronomic Culture. Last week, the Accademia Barilla was the arena for the 5th edition of the Barilla Pasta World Championship which saw Slovenian Chef Jure Tomic win the 1st prize with the recipe “Fusilli integrali formaggio di capra e zucca” (wholemeal fusilli goat cheese and pumpkin). Italian Chef Caterina Amelio was crowned winner of the “Young Talented Chefs” competition.
I couldn’t be in Parma last week to attend the event, but I was happy to collaborate with Barilla on this post to share one of my favourite pasta recipes and to promote one of the most popular Italian brands.
Why do I love pesto sauce? It’s fresh, it requires no cooking, and has few ingredients. If you know how to make pesto (and it is very easy to do), you can pretty much create your own version, throwing together what’s available in your fridge.
It’s not just basil that can create this classic sauce. Among the many twists on the recipe that you could try, I love this rocket and walnut pesto sauce.
Substitute the basil for wild rocket for a stronger and peppery taste. Replace pine nuts with walnuts for a more nutty flavour and crunch. Blitz it together with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese (or pecorino), garlic and a splash of lemon juice. Voilà! Your pasta sauce is ready.
Serve with Barilla spaghetti cooked al dente and a generous grating of parmesan. A handful of crisp pancetta would be delicious too.
This Rocket and Walnut Pesto is also excellent as a pizza base or drizzled over a salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh cheese.
- 2 big handfuls of rocket (arugula), washed
- 1 clove garlic
- small handful of walnuts, crushed
- extra virgin olive oil, as needed
- 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
- splash of lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 160g Barilla spaghettoni n. 7
Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, blitz the rocket leaves with a drizzle of olive oil. Add in the garlic and continue to grind. Now add in the walnuts, parmesan and lemon juice and continue to grind.
Add more olive oil if the mixture is too dry. Keep mixing until you achieve your desired consistency. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Transfer the pesto into a large bowl.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.
Drain the spaghetti and toss them with the pesto in the bowl. Serve immediately.
Disclaimer: this post was written in collaboration with Barilla. All opinions are my own.