For a long time, Barilla pasta has been my pasta of choice. I have a number of favourites: penne lisce, penne rigatone, bugatoni any my all-time favourite – bavette. Barilla had a pasta for every kind of dish, from a range of spaghettinis and capellini to thick bugatonis and even thicker tubular spaghetti just perfect for a rich ragu.
Penne lisce is great for a simple pasta with tinned tuna, chopped rocket, grated lemon rind, some chilli (or instead use Sirena chilli tuna), capers and of course, garlic. You just mix all this together in a bowl including the oil the tuna comes in, and add some lemon juice and then fold through the penne. Easy and delicious.
Penne rigatone is more suitable for a tomato-based sauce and goes very well with a rich ragu. I sometimes make a very plain tomato sauce putting a bit of oil into a saucepan and adding a couple of cloves of smashed garlic, a couple of small red chillis just split in half to the stem and some basil and let it all infuse. Then I add a tin or two of tomatoes, some chopped anchovies and a beef stock cube and voila. 5 mins and its ready to eat. All you need to do is extract the basil, garlic and chili and then mash up the tomatoes with either a fork or a potato masher. Sometimes I add chunks of egglplant that I’ve sauteed and for an even richer sauce, pork and fennel sausages, either cut into small slices or just extracted in little chunks from the casing. The sausages get cooked in the tomato sauce and again, this only takes a matter of minutes. Remember to mash the tomatoes before adding the eggplant and sausages. I don’t like to use passata because I think the tinned tomatoes have more flavour and give a better consistency. I always look for tinned tomatoes that don’t have any additives or sugar or salt – just tomatoes and water. Bavette is another great pasta to have with this sauce. Its somewhere in between linguine and fettucine and is my favourite.
Spaghetti bolognese calls for something thicker that you can slurp up with the sauce. Bucatini is my pasta of choice for this dish. Thicker than spaghetti and just perfect for a quick and easy bolognese. I make a spaghetti bolognese that’s very fast: garlic and chilli and basil and anchovies in some oil and then I add a tin of tomato paste and 2 tins of tomatoes and then throw in the beef mince and let it cook quickly so it doesn’t get all dry and overcooked, in this mixture. My secret ingredient for this dish is bacon cubes – you’ll be surprised what a difference the flavour makes, it becomes rich and delicious withot having to cook for hours. Its also relatively fat free. Fresh ground pepper, grated parmesan and basil to serve.
For a dish such as spaghetti pangrattata, made with fresh breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil and anchovies and chilli, I like a very fine pasta but not quite angel hair – capellini – which I find too fine for the pangrattata (but perfect for a crab pasta). Barilla used to have a great range of pasta and their packaging was clever because there was a plastic window on each box which showed you what the pasta was. Now the packaging has a small dot and line to indicate is thickness. But I can’t tell the difference and I can never remember which way the sizes go: is No 3 finer than No 7 or is it the other way around?
Used to be that Barilla was availabe in all good Italian delicatessens and grocers and in most supermarkets. Now I can’t seem to find it so readily and when I do there are very few varieties. What happened? Why is this brand no longer being stocked? I dislike the other supermarket pastas and I particulalry dislike the “organic” ones – they just don’t have the same texture.
So what’s happened to Barilla? Why is it so unavailable? I stopped eating a lot of wheat products and carbs – bread, pasta and rice – in an effort to get healthy so I very rarely now cook pasta but when I do I’m always disappointed that I can’t find the pasta I want. So many pastas, so few choices.