Spaghetti has become as ubiquitous as your typical burger and fries fare in the menu of Saipan restaurants, but Hyatt Regency Saipan executive chef Gabriele Colombo says the only authentic Italian spaghetti served on island is the one he makes at Giovanni’s.
Colombo got a chance to showcase what makes Italian food different from other cuisines last Tuesday when he personally cooked spaghetti al dente with tomato sauce and fresh basil.
It was part of the Garapan landmark’s celebration of the International Day of Italian Cuisine set from Jan. 17 to 31.
“What makes spaghetti an authentic Italian dish are of course the ingredients. That’s the most important. It’s so simple and so easy to make but the key are always the ingredients. The pasta has to be al dente. There should be a bite to it.”
To do this, Colombo usually lops off a minute or two from what the cooking instructions say at the back of the pasta carton. “So if the instructions say 12 minutes, I usually cook them for about 10 minutes.”
For Tuesday’s cooking demonstration, he used De Cecco brand of wheat Italian spaghetti.
To make the sauce, Colombo said it is always important not to overpower the flavor of the spaghetti’s star ingredient, the San Marzano tomato.
Imported from Italy, the richness of the land that surrounds Mt. Vesuvius, where this type of tomato is grown, gives San Marzano tomatoes its unique flavor, he said.
Instead of chopping the garlic, Colombo crushes it gently and sautés it using only extra virgin olive oil. He cautioned not to burn it unless you want a bitter tasting sauce.
“Never burn the garlic. Just crush the garlic. Cook for only a minute. Don’t need powerful flavor. If sliced it will overpower the tomato,” he said, adding that unlike American spaghetti with its over-reliance on onions and other herbs, authentic Italian spaghetti uses only garlic.
After lightly browning the crushed garlic, Colombo then added the tomatoes and cooked them 8-10 minutes in medium heat.
For the demonstration, Colombo used canned San Marzano tomato complemented by fresh tomatoes and Tuscani Extra Virgin Oil.
After the pasta and sauce were done, Colombo then composed the dish by tossing the former with the tomato sauce and cooking them together for 1-2 minutes, again over medium heat.
Colombo then added some fresh basil leaves into the dish—direct from Hyatt’s own garden—while it simmered.
The dish was garnished by fresh basil leaves, a few drops of virgin oil and, depending on the guest’s preference, grated Grana Padano cheese.
“We want to introduce the real authentic al dente dish to our customers and guests around the world. We want to show them the authenticity of making a simple spaghetti dish,” said Colombo,
He said Giovanni’s way of making Italian cuisine tends to lean toward the country’s northern part. Italy is divided into 20 regions and each region has its own cuisine. Giovanni’s represents a lighter way of making Italian food, which he said appeal to the Asian palate.
“As much as possible we want to maintain the freshness of the ingredients and the quality. This [International Day of Italian Cuisine] is an opportunity for people [of Saipan] to see original, authentic flavor of Italy at Giovanni’s.”
For reservations, call Hyatt at 234-1234.