Pasta is almoost synonymous with Italian cuisine. The durum wheat flour-based noodle can be made fresh or dried and is available in over 300 specific shapes with moore than 1300 documented names! Different regions in Italy produce pasta dishes using a variety of sauces, condiments and ingredients, reflecting the terroir of the area. Regional wines are also commonly enjoyed with the area's pasta to further enhance the gastronomic experience. It is said that when in Italy, it is hard to go wrong if one picks a wine and a dish which are produced from the same region.
A convenient way to experience this without having to fly to Italy or open a bottle of wine to pair with each pasta dish from varying regions is to head to Zafferano's Festival Della Pasta. Available for dinner every Saturday until the end of January 2016, this special menu ($85 per person; additional $75 for wine pairing supplement) offers 5 courses of pasta with a dolci and a biscotti. This pasta fest features family recipes and is Chef Marco Guccio's expression of his passion for Italian cuisine and his tribute to his mother and nona (Ah Ma).
The journey begins at the south of Italy in Sicilia (or Sicily) where pasta was first recorded in 1154! The pasta here reflects the area's preference for lighter flavours, vegetables and Mediterranean herbs. This first pasta course of Zitoni with Purple Eggplant, Fresh 'Pachino' Tomatoes, and Salted 'Ricotta' Cheese blew me away with its simple yet flavourful combination of sweet eggplants, sweet-tangy tomatoes and a savoury touch from the olives and salted 'ricotta' cheese. This was paired with the bright, generous and citrus-minerally Firriato Santagostino Catarratto & Chardonnay IGT 2013 produced in the same region of Sicilia.
The ones we sampled at Zafferano were al dente with a firm, pleasant bite. Its shape allows it to 'catch' sauce. Chef Marco prepared this in a classic Apuglian style with turnip greens, which added a touch of pleasant bitterness, olive oil and anchovies. I find this similar in style with the Teochew fried kway teow with kai lan and chye poh. Maybe Marco Polo should explain the two dishes' ancestry. Moohehe.
Enjoy the Orecchiete with the recommended Tormaresca Chardonnay 2013 which was crisp, delicately floral and had a hint of salinity, perhaps from its closeness to the sea.
Next up, we headed towards the north for Emilia Romagna with this Homemade 'Tortellini', Clear Chicken Consomme. Meats, cheeses, butter and richer flavours tend to dominate cuisine style of northern Italy. This comforting chicken consommé was clear and focused in flavour, perfect with the prosciutto-and-mortadella-stuffed Tortellini.
Only one wine comes to mind when Emilia Romagna is mentioned- Lambrusco. Specially paired with the Tortellini dish was the Medici Ermete Lambrusco Salomino Concerto 2013. Made by 4th generation owners of the family business, this lightly sparkling, fruity Lambrusco offered berries and cherries, with a dry but soft mouth feel and gentle tannins. I really like this pairing which elevated both the wine and the pasta, providing a mildly sweet foil to the rich, savoury Tortellini filling.
From Emilia Romagna, the journey continues up north to Lombardia (or Lombardy), home of Casoncelli, a uniquely sweet stuffed pasta. The 'Casoncelli' with Butternut Pumpkin, 'Taleggio' Cheese Fondue, Butter and Sage Emulsion, Walnuts showcased a variety of textures and flavours with just a handful of ingredients. Take a sip of the accompanying 100% Pinor Noir-based Barone Pizzini Rose Franciacorta DOCG 2011 for a creamy burst of freshness and acidity.
The final pasta course brought us to Piemonte (or Piedmont) close to the Alps. With the colder climate, dishes here are richer. The region's signature pasta is the Agnolotti which can only be filled with roasted meat unlike the moore versatile Ravioli. The "Agnolotti" Filled with 12-hour-marinated Beef Ox-tail, Celery Root Puree, Pistachio Nuts was heady and rich. It went well with the region's Adriano Barbera d'Alba 2013 which had nice acidity and moderate tannins. A mighty Barolo (another Piedmont signature wine) would have been wonderful too. Moohehe.
The meal ended with
pasta 'Crostata' with Homemade Fresh Berry Jam, a homely rustic pie filled with mixed berries jam and enjoyed throughout Italy. Chef Marco whipped up this using his mum's recipe.
A few pieces of Cantucci, the classic Tuscan cookie, were also presented for dunking into the final pour (and disgestif) of the evening- Vin Santo Farnito Antinori, a sweet dessert wine from Tuscany.
This concept of tasting pasta dishes alongside wines to give 'a sense of place' of several Italian regions is a fun and delicious way to eat around Italy while learning about its food culture. Catch it while you can!
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Chew On This: Catch the last sunset of 2015 on 31 December with a view over the Marina Bay and mark New Year's Eve with a special 4-course dinner at $98 per person!