"I came up with this dish one day when I was hanging out with my nephew Giovanni. He was telling me about his vacation in Sicily and how much he loved the food. So, I was inspired to make this for him based on some of the ingredients I associate with Sicily.
"Wild fennel grows all over the place there, and Sicilians use a lot of it when they cook, especially in their seafood. Some of the best pistachios in the world come from Bronte in Sicily. And I love the way they both work with tuna. Because neither the fennel nor pistachios are really cooked in this dish, make sure they’re fresh."
1 lb (500 g) Barilla rotini pasta
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, QB (quantobasta, what you think is enough)
1 cup (250 mL) shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
DR: I’m a pasta freak! I could eat pasta every day. You just have to change your sauce and you get a whole different meal. But my favourite is Pasta al forno, a baked pasta which is so simple and delicious. Growing up, my brother and sister and I would always fight over the crunchy corners.
BCL: What are some of the most exciting recipes in your cookbook?
DR: I spent some time with a butcher by the name of Simone, who shared with me his incredible recipe for beef ragu with tagliatelle pasta. This recipe can be made with any type of noodle.
If you’re feeling like seafood, there’s spaghetti alle vongloe, which is a simple yet delicious dish of combining clams and spaghetti in a simple sauce of white wine, garlic, chili flakes.
BCL: Can you tell us any tips or tricks to creating the perfect Italian pasta?
DR: Always finish cooking your pasta in your sauce, and add a little bit of your pasta water. The starches will be released and make the sauce thicker and creamier, allowing it to really stick to the pasta. Choosing a quality brand like Barilla ensures you’re always getting that perfect al dente texture that Italians love so much.
BCL: What are some must-have ingredients to use while making pasta and pasta sauce?
DR: The best extra virgin olive oil you can find at the market, real Parmigiano Reggiano from Parma (not that pre-grated stuff!) and great Aceto Balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar).
BCL: Does it matter what type of pasta and sauce is paired together?
DR: Definitely! Certain sauces go better with certain dishes. Every noodle has a different texture and some pair better than others with the various ingredients you add. Certain dishes have traditional rules. For instance, if you are having muscles or clams you would typically use a longer skinny noodle like spaghetti or linguini—but in the end it comes down to preference and how much of a traditionalist you want to be.
BCL: How long should you cook pasta for?
DR: I like to always check the recommended time on the box, and remove it one minute earlier than that and finish cooking in sauce.
Click through for a rotini with tuna and pistachio recipe...
Gather the whole family and celebrate World Pasta Day on October 25th with traditional Italian recipes from David Rocco's latest cookbook
Celebrity chef, television personality and author David Rocco's new cookbook, Dolce Famigliaexplores traditional Italian family cooking, with recipes passed down through generations, and stories about the people who inspired him from a young age.
BCLiving caught up with David to talk about his latest cookbook, how to master the perfect pasta dish in honour of World Pasta Day, plus a delicious recipe you can try at home.
BCL: What inspired you to create your latest cookbook Dolce Famiglia?
DR: After years of doing shows and travelling all around Italy, I really wanted to celebrate all the families I met. This book is a tribute to them—my family and all the families that have influenced me, and have given Italian food culture to the world.
BCL: What kinds of recipes have you included in your cookbook?
DR: This book features lots of old Italian family recipes and secrets that have been passed on through many generations. Some are my own family recipes, some came from a few of the families I’ve met during my 15-year journey through Italian cuisine. From appetizers to mains, to pastas, and desserts... there’s a little bit of everything.
BCL: What do you love the most about Italian cuisine?
DR: The simplicity. Anyone can cook these recipes from the book and have incredible results. Once you have a basic knowledge of the foundations of Italian cooking, then you can take these recipes and put your own spin on them. You can create something completely new and different based on your own taste.
BCL: Food is a big part of Italian culture. What are some things you learned from your elders that you implement into your cooking today?
DR: From a very young age, I learned that food and mealtime has the power to bring people together. It’s the universal truth—we all have to eat. Food connects people unlike anything else. It’s important to have those moments where we unplug and unwind. To sit at the table and connect with your loved ones in that moment is hugely important.
Click through to find out David Rocco's all-time favourite pasta, plus the recipe for a mouth-watering rotini with tuna and pistachio dish...
Safeeya is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast Journalism program, and loves writing about all things fashion, pop culture and lifestyle. A professional dancer for over 10 years, she also finds joy in travelling, baking, Beyoncé, and exploring Vancouver with her camera and dog.