Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Great Pasta Throwdown of 2012

There can be only one!

Saturday night, Kevin and I began the journey to accomplishing my life's goal of winning Cupcake Wars by competing in my first ever cooking competition. The pressure was running high, as I didn't want to disappoint my myriad fans (read: my mom and the 3 others). Would Kevin and I emerge victorious from the Pasta Throwdown or would we retreat to our house with our tails tucked between our legs? 

For our entry, we went with the popular blog post Sausage & Mushroom Cannelloni (with zucchini!). We knew this was a winner, so we confidently walked into the kitchen stadium that is Jake and Pauline's ridiculous kitchen of my dreams and prepared to take on some of the fiercest foes ever. If we were going to have any chance, we were going to have to come up with a spectacular sauce to bring our delicacy to life.

Kevin's Special Pasta Sauce
Servings: Enough for 16 cannellonies

Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, mushroom
12-16 cremini mushroom, destemmed and sliced
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
Jalapeno, minced and seeded
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Oregano to taste
Fresh basil to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
24 Campari tomatoes, quartered

  1. Sauté the onion, garlic, mushrooms, zucchini and jalapenos in olive oil until tender, stirring frequently.
  2. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Add in the campari tomatoes and simmer over medium heat to reduce. 
  4. If desired, brown any meats then toss in to the already reduced sauce.

Store bought sauce may be quick and easy, but nothing beats the results you get from a little extra effort. This tomato and basil packed sauce really brings everything together and makes sure that every bite of cannelloni is as amazing as possible. 

But enough of the boring recipes. It's time for the throwdown!!

The All-Star Cheftestants:


Reigning throwdown champion Sandy (who won a taco throwdown with her heart-shaped seafood filled tortillas) once again showed the world what presentation points are for with her ridiculous dinnssert to start the evening. The wonderfully unique dish consisted of bow tie pasta tossed with strawberry, mandarin oranges and basil then glazed with lemon poppy seed dressing served in an adorable yet powerful dark chocolate cayenne bowl garnished with shrimp (and love). It was clear from this intricate course that we were not going to win the throwdown lying down. 
Dinnssert is served (and crazy good).
Just in case you were wondering how one makes chocolate bowls.

For the second course, the judges were treated to an unbelievable crab ravioli topped with corn. This resplendent dish got my pick for taste winner of the night and quickly had Kevin and I shaking in our metaphorical boots. The dish was some inspired combination of Italian cooking and a crab and corn chowder for the perfect storm of deliciousness.
Garnishing with a basil leaf! Who would ever do that?
Resident foodie extraordinaire Steve presented a ninja like dish. What at first seemed like a standard tomato and basil pasta dish quickly proved to be anything but ordinary. From perfectly cooked noodles to one of the most flavorful sauces ever, this entry exceeded at every level. But what really brought it over the top was the mini caprese skewers serving as the world's ultimate garnish. Also of note, Steve entered the competition that afternoon after another cheftestant bowed out. Despite short notice, he delivered one hell of an entry to cement the notion that none of our competition could be taken lightly in this war of flavors.

It should be noted that the pasta isn't actually skewered too, so therefore this is cheating.
The Heartthrobs
I've never seen a picture more accurately capture our majestic bromance.
The ultimate bad boys of the kitchen (I have a goatee, so I technically qualify for boy band bad boy status) came together to serve up a revamped version of one of the signature dishes of this blog: Sausage and Mushroom Cannelloni. We heard about the competition right after kicking off Easter with this splendid foray into Italian cooking, so we were extremely eager to bring it into the thunderdome. Aside from some homemade sauce mentioned above, the only real change we made from the previous recipe was to add fennel to the sausage for some extra pop to the dish. Our homemade noodles were the star of the plate and perfectly encapsulated the inner cheesy goodness to complete a hearty meal that we were incredibly happy with. The third time was definitely the charm as this was the best this has ever come out.
Ok, we might garnish with a basil leaf. But there are two of them, so it's therefore prettier and more garnished.

The Judges Table
Our fantastic judges consisted of esteemed food critics Mimi, Princeton, Auris and Isabel. They were faced with the toughest task ever-resisting my many charms to fairly critique the food. Somehow, they managed to overcome the law of diminishing returns and fight off stuffed bellies to render a verdict...

The Champion
I'm not saying it was rigged, but IT DEFINITELY WAS RIGGED! (If you have any evidence of PastaGate, please call our toll-free hotline 1-800-TK4EVAS
After all the hard work everyone put in to a night of fantastic eats, it was finally time for a champion to be crowned. Following careful deliberation based on taste, technique, plating and creativity, the judges decided on the following order:

4th: Alice's Crab and Corn Ravioli
3rd: Sandy's Insane Dinnssert
2nd: Kevin and My Cannellonis
1st: Steve's Spaghetti de Awesomeo

Sure we were a little disappointed that we didn't win, but ceding the title of champion to any of these stellar courses was easy to live with. Everyone truly brought their "A" game for one hard fought competition we were so proud to be a part of. Just wait until there's a baking challenge. Just wait.
I offer my sincere and heartfelt congrats to Steve.
The Hosts
I would like to end things with a very big thanks to our awesome hosts Jake and Pauline. Everybody had a great time invading their house, but now I feel sad whenever I use my kitchen that is vastly inferior to their behemoth.

No comments:

Post a Comment