Italian Marathon of Pasta - Part 1
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
This is the first leg of a 7 day journey that I took with Rob Emery, Production Manager for Etto, and Tyler Hill, Assistant Winemaker for our winery Giornata, in May of 2022.
Here we are fresh off our flight from Milan, fresh faced and ready for adventure. I was ready for what was to come - I've been training my whole life for this. Rob was looking forward to the pasta riches that I told him about but also a bit nervous and said a couple times, "I'm just along for the ride". Tyler, Giornata's assistant winemaker, and salad enthusiast brought his running shoes, I was a bit worried about Tyler. Even thought he's run ultra-marathons I doubt his brand of training will do much good for our pasta marathon. I told him I think they have some types of salad in Italy but could never really recall trying one. I'd have to keep a close eye on Tyler.
I did my customary weigh in before I left for Italy and hoped that my usual theory, that no matter how much I eat over there, I never really gain any weight. These eight days would put it to the test. Please enjoy this 2 part pasta marathon, and those of you who beg me for an Etto sponsored trip to Italy read this as a caution and you might want to begin training now. Join us next week for part 2 of this special series.
We went to lunch with our Italian wine barrel maker, Mauro Gamba and one of his favorite local spots near the town of Asti. His family has been making barrels for seven generations and probably eating pasta for more. I love when places with let you try two or more different pastas together on one plate.
Here we have a raviolini with meat ragu and spinach agnolini with butter and herbs.
Both were as good as they looked. We were off to a strong start. Mauro Gamba proudly eats pasta everyday - I wish we could have brought him the distance with us.
Dinner on day one included another two for one pasta dishes with the two classic pastas from Barolo. We visited a little spot in La Morra up in the Barolo hills and had agnolotti del plin and tajarin al ragu (seen below). I've had both of these dishes many times over the years and felt these were very worth examples in not exemplary. We came out of the gates strong.
Tally Day One - 4 Pasta
agnolotti del plin and tajarin al ragu
On day 2 we visited some friends who make wine in Barolo and kicked around wine country a bit. Rob inhaled his lasagne at lunch and forgot to take a picture -it happens. For dinner we visited a great new restaurant in the town of Alba called Ventuno.uno or 21.1. The owners and chef were from the south of Italy and focused on Campania style pasta and a little classics of the classics from Alba too. I assured Tyler that our two pastas were mostly fish and he would never run faster after eating them. We also enjoyed raw beef with a bit of fresh truffle. Ahhhhhh - Alba.
Clockwise from top left - Spaghetti with red shrimp and bottarga - Spaghetti with Fava bean and spring onion - Paccheri with Tuna, orange zest and spring onion, Tortelli with veal and cream sauce.
Tally Day Two - 9 Pasta
On Day 3 we visited the town of Parma, famous of course for Parmesan cheese and Prosciutto di Parma. We had copious amounts of both and even some Lambrusco to wash it down for breakfast no less. This was my first visit to Parma and in addition to being one of Italy's best food cities it's also an amazing arts town. We visited the theater where Verdi wrote and performed his famous opera. I also learned a valuable lesson that you never ask for tortellini in brodo in the city of Parma. It's a dish famous in Bologna while only an hour away might as well be across the globe. They eat Anolini in brodo in parma. While I did like it, sorry Parma, but tortellini in brodo is superior in my book.
Top right we have trombe with fresh peas, onion, anchovy and cheese.
Clockwise from top left -Tagliatelle with meat bianco ragu and breadcrumbs - Tortelli d'erbetta stuffed with cheese and chard - Anolini in brodo.
Tally Day Three - 14 Pasta
On day four we visited the factory where our pasta machines are made on the outskirts of Parma and also visited a small pasta factory in Verona. The owner of Italpast, our pasta equipment, also owns restaurants - like eleven of them or so, mostly in Milan, but also a new one near his factory. He wanted to show off his newest restaurant to us and I knew we were in trouble. This was one of those classic Italian lunches where the food kept coming and the wine kept pouring and we didn't want to be rude so we ate until we were about ready to pop. At one point when I glanced over at Tyler I could tell we had his game face on - like on mile 95 of a hundred miler.
Just when we thought it was over a huge bowl of tortellini in brodo came out. The owner wanted us to try it and I figured, I've been training so why not. After my first bite he claimed that the flavor was off and sent it back to the kitchen. He shouted all the bad words I know in Italian into his cell phone to I'm sure a very nervous chef and slammed the phone down and asked if we wanted coffee. We drove to Florence late afternoon, didn't eat dinner that night and I slept on my back.