A month in Italy has rekindled my love of pasta. The joy of eating in Italy’s smart restaurants, family trattorias and casual cafés is the eclectic range of pasta shapes, styles and sauces

Spaghetti with sea urchin + 2014 Vino Quantico Etna Bianco DOC, Sicily, Italy, A$56

Marzamemi is a picturesque fishing village on Sicily’s south eastern tip. The village has an Arabic feel, indeed the restaurant I ate at (twice) was called Cortile Arabo. Sitting on its sunny deck with the crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea lapping against the rocks was heavenly. I ate swordfish for the first time and spaghetti with briny fresh sea urchin the next. We had visited Mount Etna just days before and to reprise our visit to Vino Quantico, I ordered its Etna Bianco. Perfecto.

Agnolotti stuffed with wild boar ragu + 2013 Cerretto Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy, A$123

The Piedmontese wineries are at the top of their game, none more so than Cerretto where Australian winemaker, Dave Fletcher manages the cellars. Funds in Piedmont seem ample, so it’s no surprise that the Cerretto family own a couple of restaurants in Alba. I ate at their three Michelin-starred Piazza Duomo a couple of years ago but, as I was paying this time, their more modest La Piola was a worthy alternative, especially if you ask for the Piazza Duomo wine list. I ordered the most minuscule agnolotti I’ve ever eaten, stuffed with a wild boar ragu in a puddle of umami-laden jus. A Cerretto Barolo was mandatory.

Duck egg ravioli filled with spiced duck and shiitake mushrooms + 2015 Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, A$38

The only other time I’ve seen such fine, stuffed pasta was at Moorooduc Estate many years ago. Jill McIntyre is a dream cook and the dish is definitely hers, but it was up to her husband, Richard to make the ravioli. Richard’s talents run to all things yeasty – think wild-ferment wines, fabulous sourdough bread and pizzas to rival those of Naples. To watch Rick’s delicate (surgeon’s) fingers form the wafer-thin pasta into plump ravioli was a joy, equally so the end result paired with the McIntyre’s ‘house wine’.

Pici pasta with pesto + 2017 BK Wines Ovum Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills, A$35

My wife had pici pasta with pesto near the Ballaro markets in Palermo. A rich textural white seemed the go – at hand Brendon Keys’ Ovum Pinot Gris. This concrete ‘egg’ fermented white had the depth and structure to work with the basil pesto, the trace of phenolic grip sopping up the richness of the sauce.

Linguini cacio e pepe + 2017 Spinifex Lola, Barossa Valley, A$26

After tramping around the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps a late lunch was in high demand. We stumbled upon Ristorante Trattoria Tritone 1884, a traditional, old-school spot with a leafy enclosed outdoor area. Linguini cacio e pepe was on the menu – it was simply delicious. The cheese was pecorino, the Romans prefer it to parmesan. I had an obscure Campania white that day, but paired it with Peter Schell’s unctuous Spinifex Lola when making linguini cacio e pepe back home. I did use pecorino.  

Cannelloni + 2014 Corzano e Paterno Terre di Corzano Chianti DOCG, Tuscany, Italy, A$40

Cannelloni was on the menu at Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia in Rome’s Jewish quarter adjacent to (yet another) ruined temple. My daughter was unsure whether to order it until I said it’s similar to lasagne. She loved it and now I’m regularly stuffing cannelloni tubes with pork and veal mince. The savoury
flavours of a Chianti bring back happy memories of our Roman holiday.

Made to order

We have a pasta machine at home and we regularly make fettuccine. Our Italian adventures have seen my daughter experiment with her pasta making. She’s just mastered the hand-rolled pici pasta. When time is short, dried pasta is the go. Experiment with different shapes to find what sauce suits which pasta.