Barilla World Pasta Championship 2017: the world cup of pasta

Barilla Pasta World Championship 2017: the world cup of pasta

by Ollie Lloyd 11 October 2017

Ollie Lloyd travels to Italy to see the world’s greatest pasta chefs battle it out over three days. Learn more about the global competition and find out who took home the coveted trophy.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs. He has been experimenting in the kitchen since he was five years old. Never known for shying away from a challenge, he has taken on some of the most obscure cuts of meat and ingredients that he can lay his hands on. As a marketeer, he's worked in the US, South and Southeast Asia, always taking the scenic route that might involve food trucks, hawkers and elusive soup dumplings.

Our knowledge of Italian cuisine is constantly improving in the UK. While we know that the food you find in northern Piedmont is very different to what you’d see in southern Calabrian restaurants, it’s clear that pasta is the one food that brings Italy together as a country. That’s why the Barilla Pasta World Championship is one of the most exciting cooking competitions in Europe; it takes one of the most traditional, beloved foods on the planet and proves chefs can still innovate, experiment with and reinvent the simple combination of durum wheat and water after hundreds of years. I’d attended the championships in 2016 as a judge, but this time I was able to relax and enjoy the event from the stands. This year’s contest was bigger than ever before, so I had the chance to talk to some of the world’s leading chefs, food writers and bloggers over the three-day event, which included talks and demonstrations concerning everything wonderful about pasta. Of particular interest was Pietro Leemann’s speech about how well-suited pasta is to a vegetarian diet – see what we talked about afterwards here.

The scale of the competition is, quite frankly, massive. Hosted across Milan and Parma, a purpose-built amphitheatre was set up to house all the press and competing chefs. Barilla put so much time and energy into this event because they believe that chefs are the key to the future of food, looking to them for innovation and new ideas. It’s no surprise that this year’s theme was the future of pasta, which meant there were some seriously inventive dishes on show throughout the competition and even some 3D printed pasta (but that is a story for another day)! On day one, the competing chefs created their signature dish; on day two, they were tasked with recreating the iconic classic spaghetti al pomodoro, and the final day saw the three finalists cook for a very special panel of judges. The whole competition proved just how versatile pasta can be; the same packet of linguine can be used to create a simple midweek dinner in under fifteen minutes, or incorporated into a complex, avant-garde dish that pushes the boundaries of contemporary Italian cooking.

Pasta is a food that comes from the past. It has tackled every challenge posed by the times and changing lifestyles of people. From Italy it has spread worldwide, bringing with it all the pleasure of a delicious and nutritious food. There is no other dish like it; the mere mention of it makes people smile and puts them in a good mood. All of this has been achieved also thanks to the contribution of skilled chefs, who have interpreted it with recipes that suit every palate. Today, more than ever before, they are our best ambassadors.

Paolo Barilla, vice-chairman of Barilla

The chefs competing this year came from as far as Japan, Turkey, Israel and China, proving pasta truly is a global food
The judging panel was made up of some of Italy's most celebrated Michelin-starred chefs, including Lorenzo Cogo and Caterina Ceraudo

Contestants and judges

Twenty chefs from fifteen different countries across four continents made it to this year’s Pasta World Championship. All of them were under thirty-five years old, which meant there was plenty of enthusiasm, a willingness to push boundaries and break from tradition. But what interested me the most was the fact that these chefs came from all over the globe, often combining pasta with ingredients and flavours associated with their own countries. Even Italian-born chefs working abroad were offering something new; Leonardo La Cava, for example, now lives and works in Miami, Florida, and his dish of Cacio e pepe with red prawns, mango tartare and raspberries reflected that perfectly. Other contestants came from as far away as Japan, Australia and Sweden to showcase their pasta dishes, proving it truly is a worldwide phenomenon.

Throughout the competition, each of the young, talented contenders were constantly observed by an esteemed jury of Michelin-starred Italian chefs. The line-up featured Matteo Baronetto of Del Cambio in Turin; Caterina Ceraudo of Dattilo in Calabria; Lorenzo Cogo of El Coq in Vicenza; Alfio Ghezzi of Locanda Margon (two stars) in Trento and Roberto Rossi of Il Silene in Tuscany.

Turkish chef Tolgar Mireli's signature dish combined a spinach cream with a confit quail's egg yolk
Berliner Adrian Maximillian Augustin reimagined spaghetti carbonara, using dandelion and smoked eel instead of guanciale and cheese

Signature dishes

The first day of the competition saw each chef prepare their showstopping signature dish for the judges in Milan. These were recipes they’d spent many hours creating, tweaking and perfecting specifically for the competition. Last year, I’d been presented with some truly crazy inventions – pasta stuffed inside a crab, pasta dusted with prawn powder and even pasta with a wasabi mousse and Cognac jelly. This year, however, the dishes seemed more refined – although that’s not to say the chefs were playing it safe. Ingredients such as powdered clams, grouper fish, deer and squilla mantis – a Mediterranean shrimp – featured in the final dishes.

From Berlin, chef Adrian Maximillian Augustin presented his interpretation of spaghetti carbonara which included smoked eel and dandelion – a tribute to northern European flavours. Turkish chef Tolgar Mireli served up a vibrant plate of spaghetti with spinach cream and a confit quail’s egg yolk – a simple yet stunning dish. Switzerland’s own Sabine Possamai combined two Italian classics together by making mini arancini with orzo pasta and rabbit, while Greece’s Giorgio Spanakis turned pasta into a street food by deep-frying breaded cannelloni filled with lasagne and serving it with an Amatriciana sauce. Take a look at each of the signature dishes in our gallery for a taste of what was presented on the day.