Pasta Makes the World Go ‘Round: as Proven by Fernanda Baggio

Pasta can be many things to many people, but to Fernanda Baggio, it’s everything. Perhaps that’s a bit hyperbolic, but pasta has carried Fernanda through tough times and provided the means for an internationally successful career. Her effusive praise for this grain-like food is understandable when you consider that Fernanda has taken the tradition of making pasta and infused it with her own creative stamp. Hailing from a part of the world not necessarily identifiable with pasta, Fernanda’s unique dishes exist in a place where authenticity meets innovation. Noting her immense respect for long established forms of pasta, she’s committed to “what if,” rather than resting on “what has been.” Fernanda reflects, “My grandmother’s cooking fascinated me because it simply made people happy. I wanted to be like her… to have that ‘superpower’ that made so many people happy. We used to have Sunday lunches at my grandmother’s house, and for me, it was the best day of the week. I think that’s why I love my Sunday mornings so much. We lived for grandma’s polenta, tortellini in brodo, homemade biscuits topped with sprinkles, peanut nougat, and a homemade Italian salami that she smoked with eucalyptus wood.”

  For Fernanda, embarking on a longtime dream was the direct result of quelling anxiety during the pandemic. Advised by her grandmother (her cooking inspiration) to keep herself busy making pasta, Ms. Baggio started an Instagram page and subscription service. The outcome was a sizable international following which would eventually lead to her current position as Research and Development Sous Chef for Acquerello in San Francisco. Presently, Fernanda is working with both Acquerello’s Chef de Cuisine, Mr. Seth Turiansky, and the Chef de Cuisine of Sorella, Ms. Denise St. Onge, on pasta ideation. She describes, “The creation and development of new dishes begins with an exchange of ideas between Sous Chefs and the Chef de Cuisine. This might begin with ingredients in the kitchen that can be repurposed. Take our duck pasta as an example. We serve only the duck breast as a main course, leaving us with an abundance of duck legs. This led to the creation of our duck confit Caramelle, in order to make use of all parts of the animal. After thinking about what we must utilize in the kitchen, we consider ​​what we have in season or coming into season soon. An idea never comes fully formed, it is a constant work in progress.” In 2023, Acquerello was awarded “tre forchette,” which is the highest award given to a restaurant by the prestigious Gambero Rosso Italian restaurant guide. Ms. Baggio’s influence at Acquerello was a key contributing factor in this recognition.

Food is about connection. Ms. Baggio has always had a keen perception of this, and those around her feel it intuitivelly. Maringá’s (her home city) Canal 6.1 “Programa da ju” recognized her talent and hired her as a TV presenter. Partnered with host Juliana da Rocha, Baggio taught recipes that were adventurous but simple to the one-million average viewers of this program. Fernanda recalls the highlight for her wasn’t the public notoriety, but rather being able to host the Mother’s Day show with her own mother. She notes that her journey as a chef has always been centered on family. Her grandmother’s reassuring prompt to find solace in making pasta provided comfort to her while also offering it to others. That project, titled “All You Need is Pasta,” made Fernanda a recognizable name to people all over the world during a time when they could not connect in person with their own extended family. By taking such a simple thing as pasta and pouring her heart and creativity into it, Fernanda Baggio has found her own greatness.

Writer: Sharon Howe

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