A Taste of Italy, Top Chef cooking compeition with Grana Padano

A few weeks ago I was excited to receive an invite from Grana Padano to take part in their Top Chef competition.  The competition is to be judged by Francesco Mazzei renowned Italian Chef.  For round one Francesco has set us the challenge of creating two dishes, either starter and main or main and dessert using a range of key ingredients selected by Francesco.  Francesco will then pick the top five to attend a day cooking with him, eek no pressure then! 

I love a challenge and the chance to get creative in the kitchen so I was thrilled to have this opportunity.    We  were provided with this brief for the challenge:

Must capture the true taste of Italy!

§  Must include the star ingredient, Grana Padano Riserva 24 months

§  Must be two courses (either starter/main or main/dessert)

I’ve spent the last fortnight brainstorming and trying out some ideas for my dishes but finally decided on my dishes.  So here they are, my entry.  I have opted for a starter of Bruschetta Parma and a main of Wild Mushroom and squash pasta. 

Bruchetta Palma


Baguette – cut into 1cm slices

Garlic – one clove cut in half

Olive Oil

Parma Ham

Plum Tomatoes

Seasoning – Salt and Pepper

Grana Padano Riserva 24 months

Fresh Basil – two sprigs


1. Toast the slices of baguette either under the grill or in a toaster.  They will only need a minute or two.

2. Wash and chop the tomatoes up into quarters, removing the core and place in a bowl.

3. loosely chop up the fresh basil and add to the tomatoes.

4. Drizzle with Olive oil and add seasoning to taste.  Mix through gently to ensure the tomatoes are coated with the Olive Oil.

5. Cut the garlic clove in half.

6. When the baguette slices are ready take half a garlic clove and rub it over one side of each slice of baguette. 

7. Add about a teaspoon of the tomato and basil mixture on top of each slice of baguette.

8. Take a slice of Parma ham and roll up then place on top of the tomatoes and basil mixture.

9. Finally grate a generous amount of Grano Padano Riserva 24 months on top of each baguette slice.

bruchetaNow enjoy your Bruschetta Parma


Bruschetta Parma

These proved to be huge hit with everyone here, the flavours of the garlic, tomatoes, basil, Parma Ham and Grana Padano Resirva work so well together.  They were very moreish and as soon as we finished them I was asked if I could make more! 

For my second dish, Wild Mushroom and Squash Pasta you will need:


Dried pasta allow about a cup per person – I used Fuseli

Olive Oil

Dried porcini Mushrooms


Butternut squash

Fresh Basil

Onion – diced finely

Grana Padano Resirva 24 Months


Plum tomatoes


1. rehydrated approx 20g of the dried Porcini Mushrooms in a bowl with boiling water.  Leave for up to 30 minutes.  I left mine for 20 minutes, then drained them.

2. Place the Fuseli in a large pan with boiling water and boil until cooked.

3. Chop the butternut squash up, removing the outer peel as you go.  Then place in a pan and cover with cold water.  Then place on the hob and boil until tender.

4. Finely chop the onion.

5. Wash and chop the tomatoes up and set to one side

6. wash and chop up the basil and set to one side.

7. With a little Olive Oil in a frying pan warm through then add the diced onion and pancetta and cooked gently.

8. When the butternut squash is tender take off the heat and drain.

9. In another pan gently cook the porcini mushrooms in a little butter.  Then add the tomatoes and basil, cook for a couple of minutes.  Then add the butternut squash.

pasta10. Add the butternut squash, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms. Then finally stir in the onion and pancetta.

11. Serve up the pasta into dishes then add the mushroom and butternut squash over the top.

12.  Finally grate Grana Padano over the top.


Wild Mushroom and Squash Pasta

The nuttiness of the butternut squash along with the Porcini Mushrooms works so well with the juicy tomatoes and salty pancetta.  With the Grano Padano Riserva 24 months adding depth to the dish, a real treat for your taste buds! 

So there you go, my entry for the Top Chef competition.  You can find more entries if you search for the hashtag #GPTopChef on twitter

5 thoughts on “A Taste of Italy, Top Chef cooking compeition with Grana Padano

  1. The pasta looks delicious! Love bruschetti too. Yum! #GPTopChef

  2. Oooh, what a fun competition! It all looks like restaurant food but sounds so easy to make when you break it all down! x

  3. Alana says:

    Oh wow, these both sound amazing! I love Italian food and bruschetta is my favourite starter. Good luck!

  4. Oh wow!!! All these recipes look absolutely delicious!!! Thank you for sharing, I am going to rush off and make the Bruschetta Parma x

  5. Madara says:

    I love to make a good bruschetta for a starter. Will have to try out your recipe! However, the best Italian food is made only in Italy. It just doesn’t taste the same back home.

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