Saturday, February 4, 2023

A Passionate Ode to Pasta: Two Experts on the Beautiful Simplicity of the Nation’s Favourite Food

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Kelly Bertrand gets a little too excited about pasta. Standard stuff, really.

(Brought to you by HelloFresh)

Let’s talk pasta.

It’s hard not to without a big smile on your face isn’t it – the simpleness, the rustic-ness, the familiarity of a good plate of pasta has been bringing people together for thousands of years.

And of course, it fed you during those tough student years when you thought mixing some penne with tomato sauce and calling it a day was a vibe. (These days I’ve upgraded to stirring BBQ sauce through it. Bougie, I know.)

It’s always been there for you like a comforting hug, even when food trends hurtle through low-carb, low fat, low fun cycles. For some reason, we always come back to the start – and that’s been great news for Christchurch producers, Pasta Vera (otherwise known as Phil Bennett and Linda Murphy).

Phil and Linda, founders of Pasta Vera

If I’m honest, chatting to two pasta experts – IMAGINE being a pasta expert – is actually quite exciting. Can they give me tips on the best sauce combinations? (Yup – keep reading). Will they finally make me understand what pasta shapes go with what sauce? (Also yup).

“The bigger and wider the cut, the chunkier the sauce,” Phil tells, latching on to what might be a touch too much enthusiasm on my part about different pastas, but hey it’s the right crowd.

“The best thing about pasta right now – especially in New Zealand – is that we’ve learnt that pasta is so much more than just a fettuccine carbonara and a macaroni and cheese,” Phil continues.

“The only real limit to it is your imagination. There are traditional rules around it in Italy, but in my opinion, it’s all open to interpretation.”

Phil and Linda (no, they’re not Italian) decided to start a pasta business more than 20 years ago. They’d just started a family and wanted the flexibility and security having their own business would provide, and they shared a love of pasta.

Building on Phil’s background as a baker – he’s a true champion of carbs – they began building their business with just one employee (who is still with them today).

“It’s massively a family business,” nods Linda. “Our staff are incredible. Just incredible.”

Before Covid, their business model centred around providing restaurants with fresh pasta. Then the pandemic hit, their customers closed their doors, and Phil and Linda realised they needed to diversify – fast.

“We were at home twiddling our thumbs, like everyone else,” says Phil. “So we started thinking – and then we gave HelloFresh a call.”

It’s a bold move, calling the biggest food home delivery service and pitching your products, but Phil and Linda figured hell, it’s now or never.

“We’d started supplying pesto with HelloFresh, but we hadn’t done fresh pasta because we didn’t have the capability to pack it in the smaller packs you’d need – hopso pack sizes are bigger, you see,” Linda tells.

“So we had the six weeks off to think about what we wanted to do and invested in the machines we needed to do the packing.”

The new diversification of the business means life’s a little more complicated right now, but Phil and Linda love it – and there’s a silver lining to having their fresh pasta winging its way up and down the motu.

“Partnering with HelloFresh has meant so many people have maybe tried pasta they’ve never had before,” Linda says, smiling.

“A lot of people aren’t used to cooking fresh pasta – and then there’s a beautiful recipe that goes with it? Mind boggling. We love that, and we realised how important that is to us.”

So, what’s their most popular product? Yup, you guessed it – fettuccine. But consumers are really digging their filled pasta at the moment – the spinach and ricotta and pumpkin and ricotta ravioli are flying off the shelves.

And, as true passionate pasta people, how do they have their own pasta? “Simply,” answers Phil.

“Lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan. Or fry off some mushrooms, a little cream, some pesto. And of course, in a HelloFresh recipe!”

Collaborating with Pasta Vera has given HelloFresh the opportunity to provide Kiwis with authentic Italian recipes that come to life with the products they supply. HelloFresh offers eight delicious Pasta Vera products in their meal kits, from your classic combo of Beef Lasagne through to plant-based options like Basil Pesto. *chef’s kiss*

A pasta dish of Creamy Bacon & Tomato Fresh Fettuccine with Tomato Salad

Creamy Bacon & Tomato Fresh Fettuccine with Tomato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • 100g diced bacon 
  • 30g garlic paste 
  • Pinch of chilli flakes 
  • 400g tomato sugo/tomato passata  
  • 125ml long-life cream 
  • 325g of Pasta Vera fettuccine 
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 cucumber
  • 30g baby spinach 
  • 25ml Balsamic & Olive Oil Dressing (combine: 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 2 tbs olive oil and a pinch of salt, pepper and brown sugar)
  • 30g parmesan cheese 
  • 13g Garlic & Herb seasoning 

Method:

  1. Boil the kettle. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over high heat, then cook bacon, breaking up with a spoon, until browned (three minutes)
  2. Add garlic paste, a pinch of chilli flakes (if using) and cook until fragrant, (one minute) • Add tomato sugo/ tomato passata, cream and seasoning (1/2 a sachet for two people // 1 sachet for four people) and cook until thickened, (two-three minutes).
  3. Pour boiling water into saucepan over high heat. Season generously with salt  Bring to the boil, add fettuccine and cook until ‘al dente’, (three minutes)
  4. Add ‘al dente’ fettuccine to frying pan with a dash of pasta cooking water and toss.
  5. Meanwhile, chop tomato and cucumber. In a bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, mixed leaves and dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Divide pasta between plates, topped with parmesan and torn herbs. Serve with salad alongside.

Want more dinner inspiration? Check out our book club series with HelloFresh, where we pair a delicious recipe with a book you can’t put down.

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