18 October 2023
power on the egg with sarah puozzo
La Cucina Italiana from the Big Green Egg
With Belgian and Italian roots, Sarah Puozzo’s love of food is in her blood. Among other things, Sarah shares this love with others as a culinary journalist and in the master classes at her own Pasta Academy. The match with Big Green Egg? The professional foodie explains all of that in person, in the following interview.
Food plays an important role in your life. To what extent were your Belgian-Italian roots an influence in that area?
‘I think I got the best of both worlds: the hearty dining from my Belgian mother and the use of pure ingredients from my Italian father. The intimacy of dining together is also very much part of the Italian food culture, though my mother always pays a lot of attention to table decoration as well. She’s always giving me fancy dishes and table decorations, because she knows that I also love setting a beautiful table.’
Meanwhile, you specialised in pasta preparation and earned the title Master of Pasta. What was your motivation?
‘From a young age, I was taught that you can play around with food and come up with a really tasty dish; this experience was just part of my upbringing. Pretty quickly, I discovered that you can make something delicious out of pure ingredients. That gnocchi does not grow on a Mama Miracoli tree, but that you can make it yourself from potato, egg and flour. As a child, I really wanted to learn how to do that. Preparing fresh pasta also means using your hands and creating little works of art. Of course, I had already done that with my family and on our trips to Italy, but I really wanted to turn it into my profession so I could learn even more. A pasta dish is more than just pasta on a plate. Pasta can tell you its history, can hint at its Spanish and Portuguese influences, can reveal whether it was made near the coast or up in the mountains. Each village, and even each family gives pasta its own twist.’
How have you perfected your pasta skills?
‘In Italy I took several courses – you can go on learning endlessly. I learned something different from every course. There is one more type of pasta I would really like to learn how to make: su filindeu. It’s a very thin pasta where they stretch the dough several times to create incredibly fine threads. Then, they put the threads on a round plate to let the pasta dry in the sun. There are only a few ladies in Sardinia who have mastered this technique. Making this type of pasta is a genuine art.’
In 2021, you started the Benelux Pasta Academy. Where did that idea come from?
‘With the Pasta Academy, I want to pass on what I have learned. Pasta is so versatile. Here, we explain how to make the various types of pasta from scratch. We take a really in-depth look at pasta; participants learn the techniques, including the stories and the anecdotes, and we stimulate the senses in different ways. For a moment, you may feel like we’re actually in Italy.’
You have also acquired a Big Green Egg. What was your first impression?
‘I bought my Medium Big Green Egg about eight years ago. Lighting that charcoal was a big step for me, though. I had experience with barbecuing, but mostly with grilling. For me, cooking properly on the Big Green Egg was another level. I wasn’t quite sure where to start untila friend of mine, who is also a chef, showed me how easy it is to cook using the Big Green Egg. He showed me various techniques using the ingredients I had to hand,including mozzarella and sprigs of dried oregano from Sicily. He put some oregano on the glowing charcoal to smoke the mozzarella. The flavour was fantastic, and it was incredibly simple. After that, I really got creative.’
Since then, how have you used the Big Green Egg for your creations?
‘With the Big Green Egg, you have tons of possibilities. You can, of course, use it to roast a tasty porchetta or grill arrosticini, a skewer of lamb from the Italian region of Abruzzo. But it’s just as much fun to showcase what else you can do with the Big Green Egg. When you think of pasta, for example, you might not immediately think of the Big Green Egg because you don’t use it to make the actual pasta. But you can use the Big Green Egg to cook the ingredients for the sauce or other ingredients to add to the pasta. It makes for great flavour, and it’s kind of rock ‘n’ roll. Plus: outdoor cooking really has that Italian lifestyle vibe.’
This time, you used the Big Green Egg to make a delicious Lombardy ravioli. What makes this a Lombard ravioli and why did you choose this dish?
‘It’s a type of pasta from the town of Bérgamo, in the Lombardy region. There, they make a cheese and bread-based filling, and fold the pasta in a particular way. They call it casoncelli. Many people think that making ravioli is laborious, but the method is very simple. The pulled beef and tomato sauce stuffing takes on an even more delicious flavour thanks to the Big Green Egg. Fresh spinach goes through the pasta dough, turning the pasta a beautiful shade of green. When the filling is ready, cut out rounds from the pasta sheets, scoop some of the filling on top and fold the pasta closed. The ravioli is then briefly fried in sage butter in the Big Green Egg. This dish shows that making a tasty pasta dish doesn’t have to be complicated, and the Big Green Egg really adds something special to the flavour.’
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