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Le Strade della Mozzarella (The Streets of Mozzarella), the Italian festival dedicated to buffalo mozzarella, has finally kicked off. We were in Paestrum on Day One to bring you all the happenings between the meeting of great chefs who put their own spin on one of Italy's most beloved foods.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana Dop is the highest quality mozzarella and some of the chef pairings will amuse you. Mozzarella and sweetbreads? Mozzarella and watermelon? We saw that and more at the 9th edition of the festival.
This year's theme? Contamination (which refers to the different ways cooks can 'contaminate' mozzarella by pairing it with unlikely foods).
Turin in Paestum: Baronetto blends Sweetbreads and Mozzarella
First up was a taste of Northern Italy: chef Matteo Baronetto arrived from Turin to show us how he plays with mozzarella. His dish, Sweetbreads and Mozzarella, blends Northern and Southern Italy. Why sweetbreads? Because the chef believes it combines well with mozzarella. To make the dish more in the style of Campania (the region that is home to mozzarella), Baronetto boils the sweetbreads so they become milky and soft. Then they are smoked with natural untreated charcoal to make them taste more like smoked mozzarella. Finally, the sweetbreads are sliced thinly and served carpaccio-style with slices of mozzarella.
RICCARDO MONCO: MOZZARELLA IN A THERMAL BATH
During his first visit to Le Strade della Mozzarella chef Riccardo Monco brought along Alessandro Tommasini, chef di cuisine at Enoteca Pinchiorri.
He was introduced by Luigi Cremona, who described Enoteca Pinchiorri as one of the best restaurants in the world, albeit an underrated one.
Riccardo Monco has been the only executive chef at Enoteca after the departure of Italo Bassi. He says, “I don't like hierarchies, I like sharing in the kitchen."
Ricardo's dish blends Tuscan cuisine with the one in Campania: noodles made from mother dough, clams and mozzarella, all submerged in a "thermal bath" of tomato broth, garlic, basil, and spinach.
In regards to 'contamination', the chef says: "A few years ago I had the desire to bring everything I had seen in my travels at Enoteca. Then I stepped back and said to myself that we chefs had a duty to encourage our diners to discover all the good things that we have in Italy. "
PARMESAN IN LANGHE? ENRICO CRIPPA MAKES IT
Three-Michelin star cuisine continues at LSDM.
Next up was Enrico Crippa, Piazza al Duomo, who put a summer spin on mozzarella. The chef confesses that he doesn't like to cook with mozzarella, instead enjoys it served at room temperature.
la mozzarella è sinonimo di estate: lo chef confessa di non amare cucinare con la mozzarella, gli piace al naturale - servita a temperatura ambiente.
On the occasion of LSDM he prepared a beautiful Parmesan summer dish: tomate sauce is cooled served with a fondue made of Parmesan and provolone cheeses along with cream. The eggplant is fire roasted then pureed. To finish it all off, Crippa added his signature herbs from his garden with room-temperature mozzarella and a simple basil puree.
The chef from Alba also added a playful touch with a 'taco' made from tomato sauce, onions, garlic whipped together and baked on a silpat. The taco was filled with a sprinkle of fennel pollen and mozzarella served two ways: cubed and whipped.
'Nearby' Contamination: Luca Abbruzzino from Calabria to Paestum
The South meets the South: contamination in this case is easy but not any less surprising. We're talking about Luca Abbruzzino, a 27-year old chef from Catanzaro and a symbol of the culinary renaissance of the region of Calabria. Abbruzzino came to LSDM with his colleagues from Cooking Soon.
Among his most interesting dishes was a cold antipasto with seafood, buffalo mozzarella and mandarin oranges. But why mandarins? Luca has an easy explanation: "The products that were once foreign have become ours."
His colorful antipasto was served wtih crostini made with 'nduja, a sausage from Calabria.
Now we taste a fun dessert from Calabria: gelato alla Stroncatura. It features gelato stuffed inside a cannolo made from leftover flour from other pastries. The dessert has all the flavors of the region: bergamot, cider and licorice - all bathed in mozzarella.
Ancient cabbage with pennette alla vodka with Luigi Taglienti
This was the second time around for Luigi Taglienti at Le Strade della Mozzarella. His take on contamination is quite interesting, he doesn't look at it from country to country but from century to century. Why limit yourself?
To prove his point he presented a dish made with Torzella, a highly nutritious ancient cabbage that dates back 4,000 years and is now considered a super food. It was served atop buffalo milk cream and anchovies from Liguria. This dish will certainly be on the menu at his upcoming restaurant Lume, which is slated to open in Milan in May.
His second dish is his take on penne and vodka, which was popular in the 80s. Taglienti calls the dish Pasta and Salmon, and features another 'ancient' ingredient: radicchio. This bitter lettuce adds a special oomph that was missing in the original dish. It's all comes together with a hollandaise sauce made with buffalo mozzarella whey.
Mozzarella and watermelon: it's possible with Gert De Mangeleer
Prosciutto and melon, tomatoes and mozzarella; but has anyone ever thought that mozzarella and watermelon were a perfect pair? Perhaps not in Italy but Belgian chef Gert De Mangeleer from Hertog Jan seems to think so. He served up a gorgeous dish of mozzarella spheres and watermelon pearls marinated in dashi vinegar and sprinkled with black cardamom.
Mozzarella Soup with Mauro Colagreco
Mirazur is a restaurant that straddles the border between France and Italy. In between it all is Argentinean chef Mauro Colagreco. His view of 'contamination' is best described as 'freedom'. Freedom to use ingredients from Italy, France and any other cuisine without making cultural sacrifices.
The star of his dish is buffalo mozzarella which he cooks slowly. Doing so releases all the milk from the cheese which creates a splendid broth. The remaining cheese blended with white beets and used to stuff ravoili. It's topped with a quail egg cooked at low heat over buckwheat.
Isn't it amazing how many different things you can make with mozzarella? Which chef creation did you like most? Tell us on Facebook.
All images: ©Roberta Abate for Fine Dining Lovers