Delicious World Pasta Day is upon us, an open celebration of what is quite possibly (definitely) one of the top 10 things ever created. And since today is the best time to show appreciation for the diverse Italian-born food, we thought it best to have a quick chat with Aussie chef Dario Manca (well known as the former Senior Sous Chef from Sydney fav Pilu at Freshwater) about all things pasta. Manca is over in Milan at the moment gearing up to represent the country at the Pasta World Championship, which he explains below, as well as gives out some solid tips on our best Italian restaurants, and how to prepare an authentic Italian pasta dish at home.
Tell me a bit about the Pasta World Championship, what was involved and how did you prepare for the competition?
The Pasta World Championship is hosted each year by Barilla and is a chance for 18 young chefs to compete to be the ultimate Master of Pasta. There are three rounds, the first round is our signature dish, the second round is a mystery box and the final round is a reinterpretation of Spaghetti Pomodoro. I’m fortunate enough to be representing Australia this year after winning the preselection competition earlier this year at Casa Barilla. Every year there is a different theme, this year it is Eat Positive so to prepare I’ve been creating different types of healthy mystery dishes with fresh, quality ingredients. I’ve also been practicing my signature dish and Spaghetti Pomodoro under competition settings and time limits.
Australia has no shortage of incredible Italian restaurants, what are some of your favourite?
Where do I even begin, some of my favourite Australian Italian restaurants are Lucio’s, Bar Machiavelli, Otto, A Tavola and of course Pilu at Freshwater [all Sydney]. There are so many great restaurants out there with outstanding dishes so it’s hard to pick.
Is there any kind of pasta you feel is underused in Australia that you’d like to see on more menus? Why?
I think Orecchiette is underused in Australia but is actually one of my favourites as the unique domed shape makes it perfect for scooping up hearty sauces and fresh vegetables.
What are some tips for home cooks on how to best create an authentic Italian pasta dish?
Simple, fresh, quality ingredients are the key to any authentic Italian pasta dish so this is always a great place to start. Another tip a lot of home cooks should remember – pasta continues to cook even when it’s out of the pot, so take out the pasta 2 minutes before you think it’s ready and let the cooking process finish whilst it’s combined with all the other incredible flavours in your dish.