A few nights ago I attended a cooking demonstration at Casa Barilla.
Although Barilla is a fourth-generation company turning over $7B per year, it’s products have only been available in Australia for the last decade or so. When Barilla did start selling its pastas and pasta sauces here I was an instant convert. In those days the products had to be hunted for on the bottom shelf of the supermarket and the range was fairly limited however today Barilla products are prominently displayed at eye-level and the range is extensive.
From the first time I tried Barilla pasta I never looked back. What I liked about it was how well the pasta retained its shape and how it didn’t stick or clump or fall apart during the cooking process which are issues I’ve had with other brands. In the last few decades I don’t think I’ve ever had a day when there hasn’t been a Barilla product in my kitchen. My emergency dinner for starving children has always been to cook up some pasta, pour over a jar of sauce and top with cheese. Very quick, simple and something the kids never seem to tire of.
I continue to buy Barilla but not just for the reasons mentioned. More importantly, Barilla is preservative-free, additive free and contains no GMO ingredients and that is worldwide, not just in the Australian market.
There are many, many types of pasta in the Barilla range and they have just launched a range in whole wheat. The exciting news is that this October a gluten-free range will launch in New York for the US market and in January the range including spaghetti and penne and several other varieties will launch here.
The Casa Barilla headquarters in Sydney is in the very Italian suburb of Annandale in the Inner West. Downstairs is the office space and upstairs is their kitchen and showroom. Every week there is a range of cooking courses and cooking demonstrations being held and I attended a demonstration by Gabriele Taddeucci who is from Tuscany. Gabriele began his cooking career at 14 and has been a chef in Italy, France, Switzerland, the USA and now Australia. He is the Head Chef at Balla which is located at Star.
When we arrived at Casa Barilla we were offered a glass of Prosecco and invited to help ourselves to an antipasto platter that had a variety of charcuterie, some room temperature cheeses and some olives. We mingled and introduced ourselves to the others attending the demonstration and quite naturally, they were people who are enthusiastic about their food and keen to acquire more knowledge about cooking and preparing dishes.
After we’d worked over the antipasto and I may have had a refill of Prosecco (the meat was salty), we sat down at the tables. It doesn’t matter where you sit, you will always have a good view of what’s happening in the kitchen.
Barilla’s head chef, Luca Ciano from Milan welcomed us and introduced us to Gabriele Taddeucci. Gabriele gave us some information about Italian cooking. I knew it is very regional but I did not know there are 20 regions. I thought there were about seven! Because he is from Tuscany, Gabriele cooked two dishes from that region where simple ingredients are put together to create something special.
The first was a chickpea soup with cuttlefish. The chickpeas were soaked, cooked with some garlic and a few herbs, whizzed with a blender then Barilla’s Sundried Tomato pesto (Pomodori Secci) was blended through. The cuttlefish needed to be cut almost as fine as spaghetti. In order to achieve this, Gabriele says to put the cuttlefish in the freezer for a few minutes and that will make it more firm and stop it sliding around while you try to slice it. The cuttlefish was quickly cooked in a hot frying pan then placed on top of the plated up soup. We enjoyed this with a glass of white wine.
The next dish was casarecce with leeks, sausage and salted ricotta. As luck would have it, casarecce is one of my most favourite types of pasta. The sausages were removed from their casings, cooked until golden then the white wine was added and allowed to evaporate. Then the leek was added and sauteed until softened. The mixture was toss through the pasta and the cheeses were added. We enjoyed this with a red wine.
After the meal mini gelato cones were passed around that nicely completed the meal.
The courses/demonstrations run for an hour and a half and when you’re leaving you’re presented with a goodie bag containing the recipes, product and information on Barilla.
I had a really enjoyable evening where I was not only presented with excellent regional Italian cooking but also had the opportunity to watch incredible chefs in action and learn from their knowledge and skills.
The good news for Hotly Spiced readers is that Casa Barilla is giving away to one lucky reader a double pass to a Lombardy cooking course. In the course you will learn how to make a Risoni Risotto Milanese, an Ossobucco with gremolata and a traditional Christmas Panettone – it’s never too early to prepare for Christmas!
The course dates are:
- Wednesday July 3, 6.30 – 8pm
- Thursday July 4, 6.30 – 8pm
- Saturday July 27, 11am – 1.30pm
All you have to do to enter the competition is to like Hotly Spiced on Facebook and tell me in the comments your most favourite Italian dish. Extra entries will be given to those who also like Hotly Spiced on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.
This prize is valued at $180.00. Everyone is eligible to enter the competition however you do have to be in Sydney to attend the course so that would eliminate a few of you. The competition closes at 8pm on Monday, July 1 and the winner will be notified by email and on the Hotly Spiced facebook page.
Good luck to everyone!
Casa Barilla invited Hotly Spiced to attend the cooking course as a guest. If you’d like to view the cooking courses currently available, click here.
Casa Barilla: 4 Annandale Road, Annandale NSW
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