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Amazing recipes that will make you question everything you know about Italian cooking

Amazing recipes that will make you question everything you know about Italian cooking

by Ella Timney 31 May 2016

Think Italian food is all lasagne and creamy gelato? Think again! Ella Timney takes a look at some of the most striking Italian recipes challenging our perception of what constitutes contemporary Italian cuisine, demonstrating just how creative the country's chefs can be.

Say Italian food to most people and they’ll immediately think of big, homely dishes, things like lasagne, Ragu alla Bolognese or a delicious pot of gelato. At Great Italian Chefs HQ, we’ve been on a bit of a journey and had our expectations confounded by the weird and wonderful chefs currently at large in their Italian homeland. Cries of ‘what is in that ice cream?’, ‘oh, another sphere!’ and ‘is that… pasta?’ are all commonly heard around the office. We thought we’d share some of our most mind-bending recipes and discoveries about the weird and wonderful world of contemporary Italian cuisine.

Magical mystery tour

Viviana Varese may be one of our newest chefs, but she’s already caused a big splash with her stunningly playful creations. ‘Iris’ has become a big-hitter since it landed in the office, with its nu-rave coloured pasta concealing more traditional, homely elements of fish stew and shellfish mousse. We don’t want to show favouritism, but this chef has a real knack for plating. Check out her crescent-shaped meringue dessert known as ‘Mont blanc’ and her redder-than-red ‘Beautiful with soul’. It’s a magical culinary world.

An orb for all seasons

The ‘Sphere of Pandoro’ has taken on semi-mythical status since its publication. The golden, shimmering pearl rests in a bowl dusted with pink, with a giddying world of secret delights to be explored within, raising the important philosophical question – once you break the Sphere of Pandoro, is it no longer a sphere? This beguiling dessert will require sugar-blowing kit and a whole lot of patience, but can you really put a price on culinary nirvana?

Walking on eggshells

We didn’t particularly associate Italian food with spheres or eggs before launching this website, but soon after wandering down this fascinating foodie path we’ve noticed many chefs have a penchant for all things circular. Andrea Berton’s dessert proves the perfect intersection of these two pillars of modern Italian cooking. At first glance it appears to be your straight-up spherical dessert. Break the exterior and suddenly, you’re safely in the world of the ‘looks-like-an-egg-but-isn’t-really’ category. The best of both worlds, indeed.

Garden of earthly delights

Every budding fungus-hunter knows you should never eat a mushroom that you cannot identify. Giuseppe di Iorio flies in the face of this sage advice and tempts diners with his white chocolate creations, dotted around a mystical fairy ring of crumb, pistachio sponge and dill sprouts. We’re unclear as to what the white chocolate, cardamom and coffee domes would represent in this garden-inspired masterpiece, but we love trying to guess.

Shades of grey

After all of these vivacious dishes, Heinrich Schneider offers a slice of minimalist beauty. His Matured purple carrot recipe brings vivid green alongside a charcoal strike, a colour which Farrow and Ball should be whipping up right now for their colour charts. For more elegant dishes with a wonderfully subdued colour palette, check out his birch ice cream (yes, as in the tree) and grey-hued black bean pesto nestling alongside spindly blackened twigs.

Ice, ice, baby

As temperatures soar, you may be after new ways to keep your dishes cool in the stifling heat. Constructing an ‘egg’ of ice to encase your salad may not have sprung to mind, but this is exactly what Fabrizio Marino does in his ‘Tetsua egg’ masterpiece. Once you’ve felt the satisfaction of cracking an ice egg, refrigerators will seem straight-up boring.

It's pasta, but not as we know it

Some Italian chefs seem keen to pay homage to their pasta-packed roots but are somehow unable to commit to the egg and flour variety. We've seen 'pasta' dishes popping up that are made with everything from squid, squid and more squid (and cuttlefish) to carrot. If not creating whole new 'pastas' out of various bits and bobs, Italian chefs are hard at work adding weird and wonderful flavours to a basic dough. Ramp up your gothic credentials with some squid ink pasta, or get colourful with some herb spaghettini, pistachio fettuccine or cherry taglioni.

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