Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
August 16, 2023

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Leonardo Maurelli III’s cooking style artfully weaves together both his family’s rich Latino and Italian heritage, accentuated by the influences of the South where he has made his home for many years. “As a chef, our goal is to establish a voice. Mine comes from being a Latin-Italian American raised in Alabama,” says Maurelli, who serves as Managing Partner of Culinary Operations, Ithaka Hospitality Partners, and Director of Culinary Operations for The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center in Auburn, Ala. “Although each of these food cultures—from Panama, Italy and Alabama—are vastly different, there are ways to find the lines that relate to each other.”

Pasta serves as a canvas for his singular style of global mash-ups. With creative flavor combinations and seasonal touches, Maurelli crafts pasta dishes that are both surprising yet familiar. He sources Barilla for his banquet kitchens, adeptly catering to parties ranging from 15 to 1,000 guests. “Consistency and quality at high volume is imperative. I know I can rely on Barilla,” says Maurelli.

Here, we feature three of Maurelli’s pasta dishes. Each offers a unique flavor narrative, with pasta serving as the familiar, comfort-centric foundation.

Photo Credit: Barilla for Professionals


Maurelli’s Pasta Fagioli with Alabama Collards and Barilla Pipette brings in a sense of place with the addition of local smoked ham hocks and collard greens. “In Alabama, the seasons provide a bounty of quality ingredients. I wanted to take this traditional Italian dish and marry it with the flavors of the South,” he says. Smoked ham hocks introduce a distinctive richness, giving this classic a signature spin.

Photo Credit: Barilla for Professionals

For his Chickpea Rotini With Wild Mushroom Ragout, Mushroom Garum, Lemon Confit and Toasted-Herbed Bread Crumbs, Maurelli sources Barilla Chickpea Rotini, a gluten-free product made with only one ingredient—chickpeas. Featuring a medley of roasted wild mushrooms and a robust tomato sauce, the chickpea pasta offers up a wholesome, plant-based profile. “The meaty mushrooms work well with the texture of the pasta, and the smoked mushroom garum deepens the flavor—the garum makes the flavor pop, similar to adding vinegar to tomato sauce,” he says. “This is a rich, umami-forward dish. Slivers of lemon confit brighten the pasta dish, adding another tone.”

Photo Credit: Barilla for Professionals

Maurelli’s Panamanian and Italian heritage meet in his Orzo Con Pollo, a clever take on the Latin staple, arroz con pollo. “Rice and pasta are different but the bones of the dish are represented. The orzo is a nod to my Sicilian side,” he says. Housemade adobo seasoning (kosher salt, cracked pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and dried thyme) provides a big flavor hit while bloomed saffron lends its signature color and delicate floral undertone.

For more recipe inspiration, go to www.barillafs.com/recipes



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