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It's coming -- the Eldorado Great Italian Festival -- celebration of all things pasta is running Oct. 8-9 in downtown Reno.

Chef Ivano Centemeri -- a native of Monza, Italy, where he began his professional culinary career as a teenager -- brought his talents to La Strada in 1995, where he serves as executive chef. He gave us a few tips for cooking Bolognese and marinara sauce:

Fresh ingredients

“Start with fresh ingredients. They’ll give you the best flavors,” Centemeri said.

Cook properly

How you cook them is equally important — when sautéing garlic in olive oil for the marinara sauce (there’s no garlic in Centemeri’s traditional Bolognese sauce), cook it just until soft to avoid bitterness. To preserve its flavor, fresh basil is added to the marinara only after the pasta is started. Although you’ll add salt and pepper during the early stages of cooking, keep it to a minimum — when the sauce reduces, it can become too salty. Salt to taste at the end.

Star ingredient

While fresh vegetables and herbs star in the sauces, other ingredients play equally important roles. As might be suspected, olive oil is key.

“Use a light, high quality olive oil for sautéing,” he said. “Save the stronger flavored oils to finish the sauce. They can be overpowering if used during cooking.”

For Bolognese sauce, both butter and olive oil are used to cook the vegetables — butter adds necessary dimension. Bolognese meat is a blend of high quality ground beef, veal and pork. Sweet sausage (no fennel allowed) enhances the mix, about a quarter pound for each pound of ground meat. Wine is used in both sauces, a dry red for Bolognese, and white for marinara. Marsala, a sweeter wine, is also an option for marinara sauce — Centemeri says it’s a matter of personal preference. However, when it comes to tomatoes, there’s only one choice.

“San Marzanos are the best,” he said. “Use whole tomatoes, and at least a third should be so ripe you wouldn’t put them in a salad. There’s no need to peel — skins add nice acidity.”

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