The famous Italian film director, the late Federico Fellini (you’ve surely heard of La Dolce Vita?), once said “Life is a combination of magic and pasta”. Indeed, his father used to work in a pasta factory – imagine the dream! – and Fellini himself had some fun directing the TV adverts for a major Italian pasta brand in 1984. Thursday 25th October we celebrated World Pasta Day 2018, so read on for some interesting facts about this beloved staple food to get you started.
For the linguistically-minded among us, the current word derives from Latin and was used to refer to kneading a mixture of water and flour. It seems that pasta as we know it (I’m referring to plunging golden fusilli into a large saucepan of boiling water and watching them dance at high temperatures) became mainstream in the Middle Ages, with a great number of artisanal workshops popping up from the South to the North of the boot-shaped country, and in Northern Africa too. However, when it was still in its more hipster phase, at the time of the Greek domination of Sicily, it was referred to as “blessed food” and was interestingly served at funerals!
Filled pasta is an absolute favorite of mine. Just add a few basic ingredients and you have a rich dish. This is pumpkin ravioli with cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, almonds and parmesan.
The rest, as they say, is history. This divine food spread like wildfire from East to West; China were making their own filled pasta as well as noodles, the English-speaking world took maccheroni and gave us back mac ‘n’ cheese and in Germany, they made a pasta called Spätzle and continue to eat it as a side. On top of this, the world now knows oven-baked pasta, pasta salads, and many more…
But without further ado, here are some delicious – and most importantly, genuinely Italian – facts about pasta:
- Everyone makes and loves carbonara! Except wait, that sauce doesn’t look quite right… One reason for us to roll our eyes whenever we visit an “Italian” restaurant abroad is that carbonara is not in fact made with cream, nor – for the love of the Spaghetti Monster – garlic. Its creamy texture comes from a gentle mixture of raw egg yolks, parmesan, black pepper and pasta water. For obvious reasons, we recommend using very fresh eggs.
- Mac ‘n’ cheese is not a genuine Italian recipe. Neither is fettuccine Alfredo, regardless of the nationality of its inventor. Go to several towns in Italy and ask about Alfredo, they’ll most likely direct you to the local butcher’s, bakery, or even the post office, as Alfredo is a fairly common male name. In addition, we do not make spaghetti with meatballs.
- Maccheronico (literally “like maccheroni”) is an adjective in Italy that refers to a badly-spoken foreign language, such as the Inglese maccheronico spoken by so many Italians. It was first used in relation to people speaking “vulgar” Latin, meaning not grammatically correct.
- Struggling with spaghetti? Don’t reach for the spoon for help! Simply stab deep with your fork and twist a moderate but not overwhelming quantity around it. It’s similar to chopsticks in that practice makes perfect, plus it’s a good excuse to eat more pasta. No one in Italy – or at least, no one you should take seriously – eats spaghetti with the help of a spoon.
- Because of its high content of complex carbohydrates, pasta seems to be one of the best foods you can eat before physical activity, particularly for running or cycling. It can be eaten before and after your performance and helps with energy recovery. Our GlobaLexicon running team tried this at the last Winter Run we took part in and achieved great results!
Ridged pasta is great for retaining sauces, such as in this recipe with cream cheese. If it's got holes then it also helps with ingredients chopped in cubes (courgettes and speck ham pictured above)
We hope you enjoyed our personal contribution to spreading authentic pasta news and tips! What’s your pasta story? Have you got a killer recipe that wows your friends or that your partner fell for, or are there perhaps any curious pasta shapes that are local to your country? We never get tired of talking about pasta, so comment and let us know!