THE TRUTH ABOUT PASTA


I think we can all agree that there is something comforting about pasta. I knew it as macaroni or noodles while growing up, but after my daughter and then a grandson married into Italian families, I found there are many other ways to use this versatile product.

My late son-in-law’s mother was convinced that I would be happier if I learned to speak Italian, so I could cook like a native speaker. But son-in-law and an Italian friend did not speak the language, and both were excellent purveyors of spaghetti and related products. In fact when I requested their translation of a recipe, they both reminded me that they did not speak Italian.

You might be surprised to learn that they were making lasagna in ancient Rome albeit not quite the same as it is made today. Dried pasta seems to have been invented in North Africa, and was useful on a camel trip through the desert. It was also a staple for sea-farers on long ocean voyages. It was probably brought to Sicily by its Muslim conquerors. In 1154 there was a thriving manufacturing industry near Palermo which exported its products to Muslim and Christian countries alike. By 1785 Naples had 280 pasta shops.

Tomato sauce was not added until comparatively recently. The tomato. which almost surely came from Spain, was viewed with suspicion by many, including my father-in-law who said “it just doesn’t look good to me.” Of course he put sugar on scrambled eggs. The first mention of tomatoes being used in a recipe came at the end of the seventeenth century.

How do I know all this? I confess I read it in a book. After collecting a shelf full of Italian recipe books, I became Italian. It was comparatively easy, starting with putting enough salt in the cooking water–sort of like sea water, to having enough water in the kettle to let the pasta roam around. My son-in-law’s mother said he never used enough water. I never told him, and his pasta was just fine.

Contrary to what I knew before I became Italian, pasta doesn’t always come in long strings; and the flat kind lends itself to all kinds of wonderful dishes besides lasagna. We make a lot of our own pasta, but some time ago I picked up what I thought was a long box of spaghetti and found buccarini, a fat spaghetti with a hole in the middle ready to grab the sauce. I keep learning as I go.

I am easily pleased, but Dr. A is convinced that it isn’t spaghetti unless it has red sauce.

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Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

18 thoughts on “THE TRUTH ABOUT PASTA”

  1. Pasta is essential to love and living. I feel ill when a week goes by without pasta. Lately I have started adding fresh cream and mustard to the sauce. Of course, one can eat pasta without sauce. Just some garlic and oil make a wonderful pasta.
    My mum even used to cook pasta and rinsed the red sauce bottle out if she had run out of Tom sauce. Dr A would approve of that.

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  2. It’s a while since I made pasta carbonara, so thanks for reminding me! I love pasta, but I find as I grow older, that I can’t tolerate wheat products very well. Still, I indulge every one-in-a-while, and dismiss the consequences!

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    1. One of my daughters can’t tolerate wheat either, so she buys gluten free and seems to be OK. Periodically I don’t seems to be able to handle tomato based things. Crazy when those are the things with flavor. Another failure of aging I suppose. At least we are aware of things which make us uncomfortable, so there is an upside.

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  3. I’d forgotten pasta carbonara, too. I’m going to have to do something about that. I’m a great fan of pasta salads in summer: not those mayo and cheddar cheese chunk horrors, but good salads, with olives and feta and peppers and such. A little ham, maybe. Chicken. Since I don’t demand a different main course every day, I can whomp up a big bowl of it and be happy for three or four days. It certainly makes it easier to come home from work. Add some fresh fruit, and it’s all good.

    We’ve recently found a little place called Ivette’s Italian grill just down the street from me. It’s a family-run place, with dad doing the cooking, and it is fabulous. Osso bucco, for heaven’s sake. Veal. Pasta with a dozen sauces, not all of them red. And the prices? My last lunch there, it was seven dollars for a great salad and some chicken parmigiana, with a side of spaghetti. I took home enough for another meal. Sometimes, we get lucky.

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    1. Can’t believe anyone can turn out a meal like the one you described and only charge seven dollars. Amazing. We need places like that. Your pasta salad sounds amazing. What kind of pasta do you use? I find this hot weather isn’t conducive to either fixing or eating at dinner time, but we need a little sustenance.

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      1. I like tri-color Barilla rotini. It holds sauce well, and doesn’t absorb so much that you have to keep adding more. There’s a grocery store here that packages its own individual containers of sauces that are just the right size for a pasta salad. I like their sweet chili sauce, and one that’s cilantro/cotija — both are nice and fresh. The chili sauce is good with additions like shrimp, shredded carrot and cucumber, etc. I like the cotija with cubed chicken, olives, walnuts, etc.

        Now I’m hungry.

        That restaurant’s dinners are more expensive, but the range is still less than what many charge in this tourist area. Look at this — I found the menu!</a.

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    2. Boy what a menu! Those prices are amazing. Judging by two restaurants I go to, they are much better. The different pastas sound great and I wish we had someplace which had appetizers like those. I usually like an appetizer for lunch, although yesterday we both had pasta. In this hot weather which seems to be everywhere, I like your salad, thank you for sending.

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  4. Just your description of pasta makes me desire it. I remember, however, on a trip to Italy 5-6 years ago, I had homemade pasta twice a day for ten days. It took me over 3 months to get that off my belly. God! Pasta is so heavenly but those carbs (as in cabonara) stick….maybe we should have pasta tomorrow! See you around 11:00 am.

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    1. I’ll admit that pasta, potatoes, bread and a few dozen other things pack on the carbs, but oh how good t hey all are. Even our big Italian Dick, cut way back on them. We eat a bit of all the previous, but we eat such small amounts it doesn’t seem to show.

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