You Love Pasta? Enjoy It The Al Dente Way

Have you heard about National Pasta Month? I don't blame you if you haven't. It was also the first time I heard of such when I got an invite for Dona Elena Al Dente's National Pasta Day celebration last October 25 held at The Blackboard by Chef Michel.

Pasta had always been a favorite in our household. If you've been reading my blog you know that pasta is my house specialty. I already have posted 3 pasta recipes in 2 months and cooked at least 5 in a month. I find pasta a very flexible dish. We use pasta in soup or as a side dish, main meal with meat sauce, even cold salad. I remember my mom cooking spaghetti with all sorts of vegetables hidden in it. Mila always enjoys her pasta, red or white sauce, it does not matter to her.

I've learned a lot from the talk during the National Pasta Day Celebration. As a general rule for sauce pairing, thin, delicate pastas, like angel hair or thin spaghetti, are better served with light, thin sauces. Thicker pasta shapes, like fettuccine, work well with heavier sauces. Pasta shapes with holes or ridges, like penne rigate, are perfect for chunkier sauces. You want those bits and pieces caved inside your pasta. 

Pasta shapes alone do not determine if the sauce will stick to it. A good pasta has rough edges or texture so the sauce will not slide over it. That means that you get a mouthful of all the tasty goodness of the dish in every bite. Only pastas made using bronze dies has this kind of rough ridges

If you love Pasta, I bet you've heard about Durum Wheat Semolina. But what is it?

WHEAT is a type of grass grown all over the world for its highly nutritious and useful grain. It is one of the top three most produced crops in the world, along with corn and rice. DURUM in Latin means "hard", and durum wheat is the hardest of all wheats. It is high in protein content. SEMOLINA is the coarse particles of wheat that is left after the finer flour has passed through a bolting machine. It comes only from hard wheat or durum wheat. Semolina is often yellow in color which sets it apart from flour that is white in color.

Under Italian law, dry pasta can only be made from durum wheat semolina which produces high quality pasta. It is high in protein, gives more fiber, less starch and is also a lot better for blood sugar; it does not cause that rapid spike like regular pasta does.

Outside Italy, pasta is frequently made from other types of flour. Wheat flour is refined, white in color and much of its nutritional value has been processed out due to the refining process. It also comes from soft wheat (not durum), and when cooked it yields a softer product that cannot be cooked Al Dente.

Al Dente pasta lives up its name, as being “al dente” or “firm to the bite” - only pasta made from 100% Durum Wheat Semolina can be considered Al Dente!

Doña Elena Al Dente pasta is the only Artisan Quality Italian pasta brand in the Philippines! It is sourced from ITALY, the Pasta capital of modern times. Here's some of the fun pasta shapes from Al Dente that you can get creative with:
(“Twisted Spaghetti”) This long, spiraled shape can be topped with any sauce, broken in half and added to soups, or turned into a beautiful salad. Fusilli also bakes well in casseroles.

(“Quills” or “Feathers”) - Penne compliments virtually every sauce and are exceptional when paired with a chunky sauce. Penne Rigate are ridged and ideal to lock-in flavor. Penne Rigate pairs nicely with chunky meat, chunky vegetable, cream, or oil based sauces. Also, these shapes are great for baking dishes.

(from the Italian word feta, meaning ribbon) - Fettuccine is great for cream-based sauces.

(“A length of Cord”) – A crowd favourite. Spaghetti is the perfect choice for nearly any sauce, or it can be used to make casseroles or stir-fry dishes. Go beyond tomato sauce and see what your favourite becomes.

(From “lasanum,” Latin for pot) – Create original Lasagna casseroles by using chopped vegetables, cheeses and any kind of sauce.

After knowing what's the best pasta to use, it was time to put it to a test. Chef Michael gave a live cooking demo and showed how easy it is to make wonderful dishes using simple recipes with the right ingredients.

Chef Michel with RJ Ledesma of Mercato Central

Simple and Easy

While a few pairs of other mommies had fun with the cook off contest, I busied myself with sampling different dishes from The Blackboard.

It was still October so I didn't miss on the dessert
Fan pic with Chef Michel

It was indeed a fun learning day. I'm glad I didn't miss this event and will look forward to next year's celebration. I love pasta and I enjoy it the Al Dente Way!

Up Next: Another Fab Pasta Recipe to Try

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