When Sicilian chef Agostino D’Angelo of the renowned Oliviero Restaurant at Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, calls, you go. Recently in town to do a masterclass at The Oberoi Mumbai‘s Vetro restaurant, Chef D’Angelo demonstrated the basics of pasta-making and also gave an insight into how he makes his world-famous pyramid ravioli. Not only did the interaction shed new light on different kinds of pastas (did you know Sicilian pasta is made without eggs?) and the best way to make enjoy homemade versions, but also answered why Indians love eating Italian food.
Could you share more on the kind of pasta you’ve created?
One of my specialities is the pyramid-shaped ravioli stuffed with goat cheese. This particular shape was inspired by one of my trips to Sweden, by a man who used to make pyramid candies. I serve the ravioli with a mix of spring vegetable puree to remind you of a Frittedda, a typical recipe from Palermo (it’s essentially an omelette with spring vegetables like peas, artichokes, and asparagus). You can make it with traditional Italian fresh pasta (with and without egg) and the dough has to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature to be rolled out into a thin sheet and cut into different shapes.
You combine international flavours with traditional Indian cuisine. What elements do you like playing around with most?
Although Indian and Italian food cultures may seem so different, I found the Indian cuisine very interesting especially in the use of spices and I like to mix them in my Italian recipes trying to find a good balance among ingredients. Then I discovered that Sicilian caponata was perfect on warm Indian naan! The important thing to bear in mind when mixing different culinary traditions is the respect for the other. It means not imposing one’s ingredients or way of making a dish.
Three key things to keep in mind when chefs bring together two different cuisines in one dish?
Respect the different culinary cultures and embrace others’ traditions; select top quality ingredients, and balance the combinations of tastes
A secret to cooking great pasta?
Pasta risottata. This is cooking the pasta for half of the time with rice together in the pan with the rest of the ingredients, while adding water in smaller measures throughout. This method helps to make the pasta creamy and also makes sure it’s well-blended with the sauce.
The best way to enjoy fresh, handmade pasta?
I think that spaghetti with tomato sauce and fresh basil is the most iconic and tasty way to enjoy pasta.
Italian has been a favourite cuisine among Indians. Why do you think that is?
I think it is a favourite for its ingredients that have a genuine taste, especially fresh vegetables. Also, Italian cuisine reflects our culture: For us, food is of main importance and cooking for loved ones is taking care of them. I think Indians love the way Italians take care of them with food.
The food industry is becoming more global by the day. Your thoughts?
The real difference is in local ingredients that are the key to making unique dishes: The pesto sauce I taste in Liguria will never be the same as the one I make in Sicily. I think people look for real genuine tastes and they can find them only if they physically visit places.
How has your experience of coming to India and working here been?
I am learning much about the flavours of Indian cuisine and how to combine them with our ingredients. Our guests travel more and more and have a refined palate – many look for the local tradition but appreciate the mixture of flavours and innovations. We are looking forward to hosting Indian chefs from The Oberoi soon at Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea by creating an Indian Cuisine Week.