I first met Giada de Laurentiis a few years ago at the opening of her first restaurant - a fabulous spot in the Cromwell Hotel on the Vegas strip. I'd become numb in terms of meeting celebrity chefs and foodpreneuers since most concepts were merely the celebrity's name and not much else. Giada was different though - not only was she there that night watching us take photos and videos but she even criticized us for taking too many pictures and letting the food get cold! So, when her PR person reached out a few weeks ago with an offer to send me some of her new line of Giadzy Pasta ... I knew it was going to be good!
Seriously, Giada is someone special. She is hands-on with the stuff that features her name and the quality is always good. Even back then, I was shocked to see her in her own restaurant eating the food the morning after our media dinner. I've not seen other celebrity chef's do that outside of press events and that sorta sealed the deal for me ... she's was more than just selling her name. Instead, she is sharing things that she loves with us because she is just that type of person. Authenticity like that is uncommon but when I find it, I like to celebrate it.
Giadazy Pasta is obviously a premium product and comes directly from Italy. She worked directly with local artisans to create what she says matters most in pasta: Taste, Texture, and Fun. It is crafted in Abruzzo, a village on Italy's east coast where verdant parkland nestles up against the Majella mountains and some of the most skilled pasta artisans in Italy can be found.
These folks then create the pasta using pure mountain spring water and organic, locally grown semolina utilizing traditional techniques, then cut it on 100-year-old bronze dies. That process creates - as far as I'm concerned - the best dried, packaged pasta that I've ever eaten. After boiling, it was restaurant quality - something I simply can't say for most other packaged pastas.
For anyone who's frame of reference is a $2 box of Barilla, the $10.50 price tag here may be a bit of a shock - just as it was for my Father-in-Law who commented on how good it was and then when I told him the price tag, he just about lost it.
This is a premium product though, and frankly as Americans we too often focus on finding cheap solutions that leave us feeling empty after the meal is finished. I'm not talking about still being hungry ... but too often I find that mass-brands just lack soul. Here though, while Giadzy pasta is higher quality ... it's also more fun and inspires you to be a little more creative than you might have otherwise been.
For me, tonight that meant that I decided to switch things up from my classic Chicken Rotini Alfredo.
Instead, I decided to use her Paccheri pasta as the base for a "California Inspired" Sausage and Roasted Jalapeno Alfredo topped with Sun Dried Tomatoes creation. This is a sort of Italy meets California fusion and it tastes great!
I chose this pasta for tonight's creation because I wanted to have a solid foundation for what was going to be some otherwise heavy flavors from the creamy sauce and sausage but where the flavor of the pasta would still come through even when punctuated by the smoky spicy nature of the roasted Jalapenos and slightly acidic garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.
- 1 Box of Giadzy Paccheri Pasta
- 16oz Ground Sausage
- 1 Bottle of Alfredo Sauce (this pasta deserves you making your own - but I cheated ... sssssshhhh!)
- 1 TBS minced Garlic
- 4-5 Sun Dried Tomatoes (bring the jar to the table so everyone can add more on top)
Boil the pasta in a large pan - I like to add olive oil and salt to the water as well.
While the water is coming to a boil, pan roast the jalapenos using medium/low heat till the skin becomes soft and you start to see brown marks forming. Try to avoid burning the skin but we're trying to create a bit of smoky flavor. Once you've reached a stage where the peppers are soft and the skin has been roasted nicely, take them off the pan, wipe it out with a towel as you may have some charred pieces of burned skin remaining.
Then place the sausage in the pan and proceed to brown it.
While the sausage is browning, slice the peppers open and scrape out the seeds - we're going for a gentle smoky spicy flavor here, not specifically a HOT profile and seeds that remain will cause a bite to go from delicious to unexpectedly sharp.
Drain some of the fat / oil that has been rendered by sausage by using paper towels or another method since we want to avoid mixing that into the pasta dish.
Chop the jalapenos and place in the skillet along with garlic and the browned sausage and cook a little more till the peppers are all nice and soft while also flavoring some of the remaining liquid with the peppers and garlic.
Drain the pasta, place into a large serving dish and add sauce as well as the sausage mixture and top with some sun-dried tomatoes.
Now that the dish is finished, it's time to serve it family style and bring out a small dish with extra sun-dried tomatoes so everyone can have some on top!
Is this recipe "authentic Italian" ... absolutely not. But I think it falls in line with what Giada was trying to create with this pasta line. Food should be fun and a chance to explore new combinations of flavors and textures. However ... without a solid foundation of good quality pasta with the perfect texture ... well ... what's the point?
Giadzy Pasta can be purchased on her website in a variety of styles.