This post is sponsored by Barilla®. All opinions and content herein are my own.
There are days when being a blogger is super fun and creative. Where your artistic and imaginative side really get to shine and you revel in the joys of creating. There are also days where it’s a total drag. Sitting at your desk all day, emails piling up, nonstop negotiations, and plenty of rejection. And then there are the days that make you completely question if your life is even real. Where you get to do something so out of the norm that you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s truly happening.
This is a recap of one of those days… the amazing kind that you treasure forever.
To celebrate its sponsorship of the Laver Cup tennis tournament, which takes place here in Chicago Sept. 21-23, Barilla® hosted an exclusive three-course lunch at Spiaggia (where I had my baby shower) for select influencers and a few very special guests to experience their line of Barilla Collezione pastas. Laver Cup’s co-founder Roger Federer, US Olympic gold medalist alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, and Top Chef season 15 winner Joe Flamm were all on hand to ring in the festivities and celebrate Barilla’s artisanal line, Collezione.
Like I’ve always said, food is the universal language. It brings everybody together… even bloggers like yours truly and the biggest stars in the world of sports and food.
To say this room was filled with overwhelming talent would be such a gross understatement. These remarkable humans are the best in their field and I was just there to eat pasta! You kind of have to laugh, right? I was in complete awe of our guests and the fact that Barilla had hand-selected me to join them, work with the team throughout Laver Cup in their Fan Village, and try this new, exquisite artisanal pasta was such an honor. Pinched, indeed.
To kick off lunch, Chef Joe got to work in the kitchen on a Pomodoro Fresco using Barilla Collezione rigatoni and fabulous seasonal ingredients while our group and his sous chefs Roger and Mikaela watched on. LOL, those are some mighty expensive sous chefs. It was so fantastic being able to watch this top chef in action — we learned so many little tips and tricks, like how to shave sundried tomato over pasta as the perfect finishing touch. Who knew? Adding that to my bag of tricks for sure.
Joe reinforced why Barilla Collezione pastas are ideal for foodies and those with discerning palates who always look for the best ingredients when cooking at home. Barilla Collezione pastas are bronze cut and restaurant quality. Being bronze cut provides pasta with a more rough, porous surface, which gives a texture most similar to homemade pasta (if you look up close, you can actually see the rougher texture). That surface is optimal for sauce cling and ensures you get sauce and all of your little pasta accoutrements in each savorable bite. Basically, it’s the most delicious pasta experience you can have as a home chef.
This guy rocked out our lunch and served some of the most tasty – and delicious – food I’ve experienced in quite some time. Why aren’t all of my ‘business’ lunches like this? Just me, my favorite top chef, Mikaela and Roger (swoon, Roger). Take a look at some of the beautiful dishes that were presented by Joe and Barilla:
Just phenomenal. I was so inspired by the dishes and the seeming ease it took to create them, that I wanted to get in the kitchen and try Barilla Collezione for myself. Could it really make me a ‘Joe Flamm’ at home? I was prepared to find out!
I had several of the Barilla Collezione varieties to try and decided to go with their Casarecce. Not only is this one of my favorite pastas, but it is a pasta you rarely, if ever, see available at your local grocery store. Casarecce translates to “homemade” in Italian and is known for its imperfect shape and hand-rolled appearance. What an easy way to elevate your at-home cooking experience.
I wanted to make my easy, weeknight ‘Brett’s Bolognese’ with the casarecce for a hearty, but unique pasta experience. Italy’s #1 brand of pasta did not disappoint. The perfectly al dente pasta came out beautifully after only 10 minutes in boiling, salted water. All of the little nooks in the bronze cut pasta were the perfect pockets for my meaty bolognese and I decided I just had to share the recipe with you. I’m posting it here below so you can recreate at home — this would be the perfect plate as the weather gets cooler and the nights call for a warm, delicious dish.
Brett’s Easy Weeknight Bolognese
Barilla Collezione Casarecce Pasta
3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1 pound ground sirloin
1 small white onion
4 cloves minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1-1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F
- Coat cherry tomatoes with 1 Tbs. of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, roast for 20 min in the oven until wrinkly and softened
- In a 6-quart Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, add 1 Tbs. of the oil on medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, cooking until browned and no pink remains. Drain pan if necessary, transfer to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the pot. Add onion, cook for 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and then the wine, deglaze bottom of the pot; cook until the liquid begins to reduce, about 5-6 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the casarecce, cooking according to the package directions until al dente.
- Add the ground beef back to the pot and add the San Marzano tomatoes (including broth) and bring to a boil. Stir and crush the tomatoes as you bring the meat up to heat.
- Serve topped generously with grated Parmesan, 2-3 dollops of whole milk ricotta, and torn basil leaves
Enjoy! I hope you give this dish a try and it gives you a little taste of the Barilla Collezione experience and our absolutely exceptional time at Spiaggia with Barilla. I’m not sure if you’ll have a pinch me moment eating it, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I hope you’ll also join me at Barilla Fan Village this week at Laver Cup. Let’s eat all of the delicious Collezione together. You can find your free tickets here.