Well you guys, I just returned from the most delicious work trip I’ve ever had the privilege of writing about. Like, I’m almost afraid to say  it, because I don’t want to rub it in. But, here goes (just don’t hold it against me).

The Pasta World Championship. Yes, that’s a thing, and yes, it was in Paris for the first time ever this year. Barilla hosted the 2019 edition at the famed Pavillon Cambon Capucines, where 14 renowned chefs from around the world faced off to be named this year’s Master of Pasta.

Paris was a natural choice for this year’s theme, The Art of Pasta, which celebrates the careful balance of taste, beauty and design that goes into creating a truly masterful pasta dish.

When the invite crossed my desk several months ago, I jumped at the chance to continue our partnership with Barilla and be part of this incredible event. And the setting did not disappoint: Pavillon Cambon Capucines was transformed into a modern gallery where artists interpreted the idea of pasta through their medium of choice, including musical performances, visual arts, and illustrations.

I loved the creative idea behind the “Art of Pasta” theme:

Every piece of pasta is an opportunity to combine beauty and taste in a new, reinterpreted form. It is an essential part of nearly every culture’s cuisine, and is the foundation for endless creativity. And boy was that creativity on full display at the Championship.

The fourteen chefs participated in three different challenges that allowed them to interpret their cooking style and skill through the lens of pasta.

First match: The Masterpiece.

In this challenge, the chefs created and presented their signature dish. Of course, I was front row to cheer on Team USA.

Chef Sean Turner and I had met previously at the semifinals back in the spring, and I was so impressed with his consistent yet masterful cooking style when I first tasted his pasta. Sean is the Executive Chef at Louie in St. Louis, where he serves up modern Italian food inspired by his background cooking in New York. His signature dish was this incredible Bucatini Pistachio Pesto — which has become a new favorite pasta dish for me to make at home. Barilla’s bucatini from the Collezione collection is my favorite pasta shape to cook with; it has that perfectly al dente bite that tastes like handmade and clings to sauce.

Aside from pasta, Sean told me that his at-home kitchen staples include really good olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic, so it’s no surprise that his dishes come through as simple and unfussy with layers of intense flavor. I had intended to have just a couple bites of my tasting plate (knowing I had a big day of eating ahead), but before I knew it, I’d polished off every last strand of bucatini.

Second match: The White Canvas.

In the second match, the chefs were asked to embrace a new perspective by using the “better-for-you” pasta types, combining creativity with a holistic concept of well-being. Barilla, as an Italian family-owned brand, is built on the tenets of the Mediterranean lifestyle, of which I’m a wholehearted fan. In addition to incorporating healthy grains, nourishing fats like olive oil, and lots of vegetables, it’s a lifestyle that’s centered around the idea of togetherness and bringing an awareness to our meals. 

Each chef created their innovative take on this more wellness-focused pasta, then presented to the 5 judges (a mix of chefs and artists) who assessed each pasta dish as a work of art, evaluating its overall level of craftsmanship.

Four Chefs Made It to the Gran Finale.

The final match began by asking each chef to create their piece de resistance; the dish by which they’ll be remembered. This dish was to be a reinterpretation of the Masterpiece from their first challenge, by adding an unexpected twist.

It was a nail-biter, where all chef competitors were both skillful and determined as they set out to cook their most masterful pasta yet.

After winning the final round, Japanese chef Keita Yuge earned the title 2019 Master of Pasta with his Penne Gorgonzola Profumo Giapponese. Presented in an artfully unexpected metal bowl that garnered praise from the judges for blending Italian and Japanese culinary tradition, the dish was at once unexpected and simple, delicious and conceptual.

Congrats Chef Yuge, and to all the finalists! Now I can’t wait to get home and experiment with some new pasta creations of my own. Thanks to my friends at Barilla for such a delicious and inspiring few days in Paris.

*This post was sponsored by Barilla.

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