What sparked your romance with Italian cuisine?
When I was a child, we went on many holidays to France and Italy, and I fell in love with Italy during a trip to Venice when I was a little boy. I remember as if it was yesterday, how beautiful and also how lively it was: lots of people shouting in Italian with such passion; the beautiful boats on the canals.
What keeps you passionate about Italian food?
Italian cuisine has so much diversity. It is all about seasonality and simple, but delicious, flavours. Italian cuisine is healthy and each region has its own style but what is apparent is the passion for food. It doesn’t matter what background you come from, good food is a must for every family. I am always inspired by my frequent visits to Italy. It could be an ingredient, a restaurant or a producer — I always find something that makes me love Italian food even more.
How does travelling and eating around the world inspire your cooking?
Travelling is probably the best way to be inspired as you are always seeing something new or different. Eating local cuisines and understanding the habits of other countries is always a good source of inspiration as you see food or people in a different way. The best way to see this is to go to a market, as you get a concentrated view on how important ingredients are to every type of cuisine and also to feel the passion from the people that produce and sell them.
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I remember going to this trattoria in Rome called Matricianella many years ago where I ate a delicious plate of tagliarini with artichokes. It was so beautifully made with the artichokes and the pasta having the perfect al dente bite. The artichokes from Rome are always amazing and the simplicity of this dish made me think that adding something sweet and slightly salty would be a perfect addition.
I don’t like to over-complicate dishes but I thought that juicy little sweet brown shrimps would take this dish to another level. With a squeeze of lemon, chopped parsley and a little butter, it is a lovely combination. This dish has become so popular it has been on my menus ever since.
What should I look out for in recreating this dish?
Make sure you cook the tagliarini so it is undercooked and you can finish the cooking with all the other ingredients. Add a ladle of the pasta water first and this will make the tagliarini emulsify with the artichokes, brown shrimps and butter.
4 violet artichokes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
75g unsalted butter
1 dried chilli, ground
100g brown shrimps, peeled
2 tsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
250g fresh tagliarini (or dried egg tagliarini)
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes and peel the stem so that there are no tough bits. Cut off the top of the artichoke and scoop out the tough part, then cut the artichoke in half. Lay flat on a board and slice lengthwise so you have very thin pieces of artichoke.
2. Put the olive oil in a hot saucepan and soften the garlic, then add the artichokes with a cup of water and a squeeze of lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cook for 5 minutes with the lid on or until soft. Set side.
3. In a hot non-stick frying pan, add half the butter, a pinch of dried red chilli, chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Add in the cooked artichokes and any liquid left from cooking them.
4. Finally, add the brown shrimps to cook and adjust the seasoning. Keep warm but do not fry.
5. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the fresh pasta for 2 minutes until al dente (or cook according to packet instructions for dried tagliarini). Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water.
6. Add the pasta to the brown shrimps and artichokes in the frying pan. Add a few spoons of the pasta water and the remaining unsalted butter. Turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, tossing the pasta so it absorbs the sauce. Adjust the seasoning and serve.