The Art of Pasta is one of my favourite cook books. I am completely enamoured with it. It is a stunning collection of pasta and Italian recipes that is artistically captured and presented through an inspiring collaboration between Artist and Chef. Showcasing two craftsman at their best. Dishes are uniquely dressed with the original artworks of Luke Sciberras that were inspired and painted simultaneously while Lucio prepared the food on set. The book is so exquisitely beautiful, creative and just so… explicit that I have admittedly drawn inspiration for my food photography right from this book.
I discovered from the Sydney Morning Herald Grower’s Market (Pyrmont) facebook page, that the two authors Lucio Galletto owner and chef of 2 Chef’s Hat Lucio’s Restaurant and David Dale would be completing two food porn-y pasta demonstrations up on the Master Chef Stage followed by book signing. Right in front of everyone too, which is a bit naughty!!
With their first demonstration they began walking us though the preparation of Tagliatelle pasta with figs and prosciutto featured in The Art of Pasta book (p.187). One of Lucio’s Chefs began preparing the tagliatelle from scratch, while Lucio walked us through the process of making his soffrito of figs and prosciutto to complement the pasta. The smell of the salty prosciutto sitting on top of the sweetness of the figs with two men cooking in plain sight was simply torturous!
After having my book signed, I couldn’t help but talk about my secret love affair with this book and how beautiful it had been pieced together. I had to mention my favourite photo that received a double spread in the middle of the book. This is also the image featured on the cover (see below). The pasta machine is painted on the canvass while the (real) pasta sheets appear to be made by the machine. Funnily enough, I was told that the pasta machine is actually David Dale’s and the artist decided to cut a hole in the canvas to purposely feed the pasta through. How ingenious is that? Looks so real, I want to slice, cook, lick and eat it.
Feeling inspired, hungry and like two little copycats. Julia and I decided to replicate the Tagliatelle with Figs and Prosciutto. Well Julia didn’t do very much. She just veg’d and stood in as my stunt double. She is useless! Jokes. I was very happy to be cooking for her because everybody AND I mean everybody knows that I am a feeder!
Tagliatelle with Figs & Prosciutto
To begin, you will need:
160 ml extra virgin olive oil
80 ml balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Leaves from 5 sprigs of marjoram
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 slices of prosciutto, cut as thick as bacon (yes the butcher will look at you funny)
2 small leeks
30ml dry white wine
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan or to taste
Wipe figs clean with a wet cloth.
Hmmph… they look pretty clean to me.
So I gave up halfway.
Cut off the stems and dice into quarters.
I found some hard dark brown crunchy bits in the centre of the figs and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
So when it doubt do without!
Place figs in bowl and cover with half of the olive oil (80ml) and add the balsamic vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle over the marjoram leaves.
I added 12 cloves instead of the recommended 3.
Mix delicately to evenly coat the figs with the marinade.
Set aside for 30 minutes.
And if you can’t wait that long like Ms Julia and I.
Just scoff the prematurely marinated figs and reserve enough for the others.
Discard the dark green ends of the leek while retaining only the white to light green parts of the leek.
Remove the outer leaves and chop the inner parts finely.
Cut the prosciutto into small cubes.
Make sure you pop some of the scrummy little morsels into your mouth when no one is looking.
Heat the remaining olive oil (80ml) in a heavy based pan over a medium heat.
Add the prosciutto and leeks and cook for 8 minutes, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon, until the leek is soft and the prosciutto is crunchy.
Remove the figs from the marinade, then add to the pan with the wine and 3 tablespoons of the marinade.
Season with salt and pepper and cook for around 5 minutes.
Stirring gently every so often.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
Instead of making my own pasta which the recipe suggests that you do. I used a packet of Pasta Emilia that I had purchased from Wild Basket in Neutral Bay. The staff assured me it would be fine for me to freeze the fresh pasta and save for another day. As much as I hate freezing things, the process surprisingly didn’t make a difference to the quality, texture or taste of the fresh pasta.
It was incredibly silky, fresh and so delicious! I didn’t even notice the difference.
Drain pasta. Mix gently in the pan with the figs and prosciutto. Sprinkle with parmesan and voila!
Pasta with figs and prosciutto.
Try not to eat this all to yourself. It does serve for four.
Welcome to the Art of Pasta and to two hungry copycats, eating for four.