I have some exciting news! I recently partnered with Barilla to be one of their Blogger Ambassadors; what this means is I will be attending a number of events around the city sponsored by them in their Summer of Italy – a six week celebration of authentic Italian food and culture, finishing with the first-ever stateside Casa Barilla, which will be held in Central Park – sharing my experiences with my readers (that’s you!), and alerting you to events that you can attend as well. I’m really excited about this – Barilla is definitely the main pasta choice in my household. I love the variety of shapes; recently I’ve been really into the ditalini (tiny tubes that cook very quickly, and are great for soup, pasta salads or quick sauces like I make with cream cheese), and piccolini (the wheel shape), which I just think is fun.
As such, the first event I attended: Barilla Spaghettata. Sounds like frittata, right? Well, as soon as I walked in, I was handed a glass of prosecco. It was a hot summer day – last Thursday – so I quickly drank a little too much, haha.
Menus at each of our seats to let us know what was coming.
A bright summer salad with slivers of parm and asparagus; nice and bright.
Then we were ushered into the kitchen to listen to Barilla’s Executive Chef, Lorenzo Boni. First, he explained that spaghettata could be likened to the American barbecue/grill out; an informal gathering of people to eat, socialize, and just hang out. I like that: a spaghetti lunch just for fun. I used to throw pasta dinners with my friends at my mom’s house when I was in my early 20s/late teens, but it got to be a lot of trouble and too little appreciation… I should start that up again! (But not at my mom’s house.)
He also led us through making the next course: pistachio herb pesto. Here are the ingredients laid out for us.
I mostly let everyone else get in there and cook, since I like to just observe. Here’s Blondie watching Nicole (whose blog name I didn’t catch, sorry!) pour the pesto over the pasta.
They took turns tossing the pasta – first with the pesto, then with chopped fresh tomatoes.
I’m not sure whose bowl wound up at our table, because the transition from the kitchen back to our tables was a bit confusing (there were a few big tables and a few small tables, and I didn’t pay attention to which bowl was ‘ours’), but I accidentally served myself too much. It was really good though – nice and fresh, bright flavors without overwhelming. I’m definitely one of those people who tends to eat less pasta in the summer, because I tend towards heavy sauces and that makes me think of pasta as a heavy dish… but this really changed my mind. I’d totally make this myself – lovely flavors that were just enhanced by the hot pasta. I might make it a touch saltier though, but that’s probably because I love salty things.
Our other pasta course, spaghetti with sausage and leeks, I was worried might be too heavy as well. It looked and felt very creamy in my mouth, but surprisingly, it wasn’t very heavy either. The leeks were super flavorful, and the sausage added a nice meatiness to it. I would actually also like to make this soon – I just received leeks in my CSA, so I may make this in the next few days…
And of course, both pastas were cooked perfectly al dente… I love pasta with a bite, though I know some people prefer it with less of one 😉
And too soon, it was time for dessert: a bowl of berries was placed in front of us. Had I not looked at the menu, I might have just started eating the berries alone.
Since I had, I knew to wait for the marsala zabaione promised by the menu. Zabaione (French: sabayon) is basically a whipped custard, very light and airy, flavored with different things though commonly with marsala. I asked the person serving me about it, and I guess he got distracted and filled my bowl to brimming with the super airy custard… unfortunately, I think someone was a little heavy handed with marsala, so it was a little too wine-y for me. It was incredibly fluffy though, I was somewhat surprised until I remembered that he’d said they used a Kitchenaid to whip it, so it wasn’t done by hand – that would kill your upper arms! Or give you a really nice workout, anyway 🙂
Lunch was delicious, and I happily made my way out into the hot day carting the goodies bestowed upon me.
I’m super excited to share my experience in the upcoming weeks with you. Aside from enjoying Barilla at home, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the charity tied in with their Summer of Italy. Food Bank of New York – an organization I’ve worked briefly with in the past, and I wholeheartedly support their efforts; afterall, as food lovers and/or bloggers, we have access to such a wealth of foods, it’s not right that anyone should go hungry – will be the main beneficiary of Barilla’s efforts.
For example, the next event, A Meal for a Meal, involves not just distributing meal kits for YOU to enjoy, but for every meal kit distributed, $1 will be donated to the Food Bank of New York. $1 feeds FIVE people. And it’s not even YOUR dollar! Check the link for details – I’ll be reminding you of this event when the date comes closer!
The next event I’ll be attending is that one, and also cooking classes at Eataly sponsored by Barilla! The events seem to mostly be filled up right now, but click here to be put on the waiting list (the classes are listed with “Barilla” in the name). The menus sound yummy, and I’m looking forward to learning more from Chef Lorenzo.
For full details of all the events available, check out the official Summer of Italy page. It has all the details about every event.
Ooh! I almost forgot: stay tuned here because I will be giving away TWO PAIRS OF VIP TICKETS TO ANDREA BOCELLI’S CONCERT IN CENTRAL PARK ON SEPTEMBER 15th. Yup, that’s right: four tickets, two people will win those before the Summer of Italy finishes… so you’re going to want to stick around for that, aren’t you? 🙂
I hope you all enjoy reading about my experience as a Blogger Ambassador as much as I anticipate I will enjoy being one.
PS Let me know if you want recipes for either of the pasta dishes!
Please note that I attended this event courtesy of Barilla. I want to thank them for their hospitality, and while I am obligated to post about this event and future Summer of Italy events, I assure you that I will continue to uphold my responsibility to my readers to always be honest and forthright about what I eat and what I like or don’t like.