“Pasta, Mozzarella e Pummarola” (Pasta, mozzarella and tomato): the simplest, most delicious and widely imitated, but also the most Italian of all culinary trios is the theme of the latest edition of Le Strade della Mozzarella (literally Mozzarella Roads) a yearly event held each year at Paestum in Campania to celebrate the local Buffalo Mozzarella, a PDO product. Next 13 and 14 April, eight chefs will be called on to express their culinary philosophy using these three ingredients: we have been talking to some of them to learn how to combine their different textures and tastes.
Cristina Bowerman, chef of the Glass Hostaria and Romeo restaurant in Roma, waxes enthusiastic. "I have decided to transform the pasta element into a container. The linguine pasta in the fresine shape produced by Pastificio dei Campi used in one of my dishes is going to become a crunchy cannolo, a sort of sfogliatella to be filled with buffalo ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes. I am particularly enthusiastic, however, about the mozzarella seitan I am going to use as a ragout after putting it through a meat grinder. Bowerman draws our attention to the temperature factor and advises us to store mozzarella according to the texture we prefer. "The fresher it is, the tougher it tends to be. The more you keep it, the softer it gets. So long as you don’t exaggerate, of course”. She ends the conversation by making an appeal: "If we all know that mozzarella should be eaten at room temperature, why does Italian legislation oblige us to keep it in the fridge?”.
Brothers Manuel and Christian Costardi from the Hotel Cinzia, have set out from Vercelli in Piedmont where rice is an authentic “vocation”. Hence their preamble: "As we see it, rice is love and pasta is fun", which leads to the question. "Who said pasta has to be a first course?” The answer lies in two recipes: one is sweet and the other savoury. Sotto la Bufala la Pasta Canta (Under the buffalo, the pasta sings, to paraphrase a popular nursery rhyme) sets out from the brilliant idea of using 30% of the mozzarella’s own liquid to cook the pasta, which is first brought to the boil and then removed from the heat to “infuse”, as practised in today’s haute cuisine. The final touch consists in a cream of mozzarella, a drop of pesto sauce and cherry tomatoes. The second dish transforms pasta into an ice-cream made to order, and served with a cream of buffalo mozzarella and a sweet tomato sauce.
Ernesto Iaccarino of the Don Alfonso restaurant in Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi (Salerno province, Campania region), is unwilling to give up his beloved spaghetti: the concept is to dehydrate them and turn them into something resembling pasta chips, accompanied by cherry tomatoes grown around Mount Vesuvius. “For our second dish, we have decided to focus on the mozzarella. We have studied for months and have come up with a Soufflé of Mozzarella in its Snow which, as everyone knows, has a truly delicate taste. We set out to create a sensation of purity, and we did”. With regard to mozzarella, Iaccarino also has a recommendation to make: "It’s all a question of temperature. My tip is: add it at the last minute, whatever dish you are making”.
Francesco Apreda from the Imago in Roma draws from his own menu entitled Flavours of a Journey to present penne pasta arrabbiata-style, buffalo yogurt and a spicy Bombay blend. He says: "This dish is an authentic journey around the world, passing through the cities that have taught me most, with regard to cooking and life, starting from Naples. This dish could easily be called From Naples to Mumbai. And the reason for including spaghetti alla carbonara? Because it is the best-known Italian dish in India, a great country I owe my inspiration to.
Oliver Glowing marries mozzarella with raw scampi and upgrades them (as though there were a need to) with caviar, tomato consommé and a pasta salad with pesto sauce. Instead, Riccardo Camanini has decided to upturn the cooking methods and take the three basic ingredients to very high temperatures, over 300 degrees, to enhance them to the full.