One of the most popular foods in the world, of which Italians were the first consumers, is undoubtedly – pasta!
It’s a universal love, a common denominator for all international cuisine, served and enjoyed in very different ways depending on the country, and for us, a tasty plate of pasta, dressed just as we like, can be a thing of poetry. When lunch hour rolls around, and we are all comfortably seated in front of a delicious plate of spaghetti, it is just like an Englishman with his precious cup of hot tea.
Pasta is a real cult; every single day of the week, at least once each day, we savor this scrumptious meal that, in addiction to being a healthy and delicious daily habit, is very simple to prepare.
It also serves a socializing function. We often improvise fast and intimate dinners in our homes, inviting our friends and relatives to spend a beautiful evening around a good plate of pasta. Often I tell my friends, “Shall we eat two spaghettis?”
Pasta has become, for us, a way of life. It is in our DNA. We start eating it as soon as we grow our first tooth and it becomes our food of life.
But where does pasta come from?
With the Arabian conquest of Sicily, in the eighth century, Muslim soldiers brought dried tagliatelle, made from durum wheat, and Italians made some changes to the food.
Using a durum wheat high concentration of gluten, they created a more malleable paste that could be molded into various shapes and sizes. Then they combined it with sauce, of course, the most famous being tomato sauce. In later centuries – the 1900s – in southern Italy, poor and not yet industrialized, pasta became a main course, both for its economic and its high nutritional value.
Following the great emigration, when Italians fled from poverty to other nations, they took huge amounts of pasta with them, and it became a global success. Nowadays, in places like Amalfi Coast, the Sardinia, Sicily, many tourists come to enjoy our most famous food.
To suit all tastes, there is a rich variety to choose from; over 300 types, including dry pasta, fresh pasta and with eggs, and these are usually cooked in about ten minutes. The most famous is spaghetti, followed by “Penne” and “Fusilli.” All are cooked and served with tomato sauce, although the seasoning varies according to region.
In Rome we can savor the “Spaghetti cacao e pepe” (cheese and pepper), or “carbonara,” while in Naples and all cities of the sea, including our beautiful islands, the main dish is spaghetti with clams and seafood. In Genoa and throughout the region of Liguria, you can have ”fusilli” with pesto sauce, while in Emilia Romagna (in the city of Bologna), we eat Tagliatelle alla Bolognese.
With our ancient traditions, rich flavors, the genuineness of our ingredients and skilled chefs, we have developed, over the years, an incredible array of sauces to accompany our pastas, with the creation of numerous recipes. It ranges from the simplest tomato sauce, prepared with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil, to the most refined and sophisticated ragù (sauce) of meat, game or fish, yet allowing for our unique and individual creativity to create our personal pasta recipe.
Another great Italian tradition is that of fresh stuffed pasta, a real art that comes in different sizes and varies from region to region.
In Parma, the home of parmesan cheese and ham, they are known for their famous “Ravioli,” Ferrara for its excellent “Cappelletti,” while in Mantua you will find “Agnolini,” and in my town Cassino we enjoy, usually on Thursdays, “Gnocchi.”
For us, cooking pasta is a true legacy handed down from our mothers, aunts and grandmothers. I remember when I was a little girl, I would observe my mother preparing them – with patience and lots of love. She would cook all morning, and our kitchen would be a mess of pots, utensils and flour scattered everywhere. I also remember, with nostalgia, my grandmothers in their country houses, creating handmade Fettuccine, with fresh eggs and flour, cooked with tasty gravy.
To enjoy a good plate of pasta, you should follow some basic rules:
- To avoid the risk of eating a sticky pile of mush, it is necessary to respect the cooking time. Pasta must be always be “al dente,” otherwise, it will absorb too much water and difficult to digest.
- No ketchup or similar sauces, and no cappuccino; pair it, instead, with a glass of wine or water. A few years ago, when I was visiting abroad for the holidays, I was shocked to see pasta served in this way.
- It’s a big mistake to eat spaghetti with a spoon; instead, leave a bit of space on the side of your plate and roll a small amount of spaghetti at a time.
Every mother teaches her daughter that love is in the kitchen, at the center of it all. So what’s better than a nice plate of pasta prepared with lots of love and passion and sharing it with those we love?
Enjoy your meal!
Ciao from Italy.