So which Italian chef is behind it?
They’re actually Spanish. Atavi has been created by Albert Adrià who, together with his older and more famous brother Ferran, created legendary Catalan restaurant El Bulli. Between them, the pair developed many key modernist techniques that are still used in kitchens across the world today. The former World’s Best Pastry chef’s current restaurant portfolio includes Enigma in Barcelona - which is a spiritual successor to El Bulli (which closed in 2011) serving lengthy tasting menus of research-driven avant-garde cuisine - and the much-better-than-it-sounds Cakes & Bubbles in London. Atavi has been developed by the chef in collaboration with Italian food giant Barilla.
What’s so innovative about it?
Adrià uses processes that aren’t usually associated with pasta making including fermentation, nixtamalisation and smoking to create new flavour profiles. The product is shaped like and billed as tagliatelle, which is a little odd as it doesn’t contain egg. The range includes Atavi Umami (100% durum wheat ‘remastered’ via koji fermentation); Atavi Smoked (100% durum wheat that has been toasted and smoked over wine canes); and Atavi Sourdough (durum wheat ‘enhanced by natural leavening’) – although none of the pastas are flavoured as such. All of the interest comes from how the wheat has been treated with the exception of Atavi Umami, which contains a small amount of aspergillus oryzae (AKA koji mould) as well as powdered wheat gluten.
How much does the pasta cost?
It’s a somewhat punchy £20 for 280g, making it one of, if not the most, expensive dried pastas in the world with a per gram price that’s more in line with wagyu and lobster than carbs. According to an Atavi spokesperson, the price reflects the ‘time-intensive approach’ to making the pasta. Each pack says it serves four, which is a little ambitious in our view. It appears Adrià and Atavi are looking to sell the products to restaurants as well as consumers - the website has an area for professionals which encourages chefs to register their interest.
It’s probably not something to mindlessly fork into your mouth while on the sofa, then?
Not really. As one would hope given the involvement of one of the world’s greatest chefs, the products are well-made, the culinary logic behind them is sound and they genuinely are innovative. It’s a nice product to work with too. The rough edges do a good job of holding onto the sauce but be warned, the pasta cooks surprisingly quickly (it seems some of the processes used break down the wheat). The flavours are quite subtle across the board, the Sourdough variant in particular. With this in mind, strongly-flavoured sauces are probably best avoided - think butter and perhaps a little Parmesan rather than amatriciana or puttanesca. At a launch event held in London earlier this month, Adrià partnered the smoked variant with a ‘revised’ version of Milanese sauce involving acidic saffron butter, sour cream and saffron-Parmesan espuma (the latter being one of the brother’s most famed contribution to the culinary world). The smoky pasta was our favourite. According to Atavi’s website, it has a floral fragrance with notes of tobacco and marzipan and tastes of smoked tea, exotic wood, malt cigar leaf, bay leaf, whisky, preserved papaya, mace and white pepper.
I’m not sure if I should boil it or dab it behind my ears. Where can I get hold of the stuff?
Atavi officially launches tomorrow (23 September) and can be purchased direct via the brand’s website. It is also understood to soon be hitting the shelves at a number of upmarket retailers including Harrods and Selfridges.