Mistakes and legends about Italian pasta
Today, I want to ask you a question: have you ever tried Pasta Alfredo? If so, did you like it? Do you think it is a traditional Italian dish? Well, I don’t want to be unkind, but we need to clear up a few untruths about authentic Italian cuisine. Alfredo sauce is practically unheard of in Italy! It is true that Alfredo existed once upon a time; he was the owner of a restaurant in Rome in 1914 and invented this super easy sauce made by butter, parmesan and a bit of cooking water for his wife. Yet few Italians have heard of him and Pasta Alfredo is not the most popular recipe in Italy!
Secondary, I guess you love Pasta Carbonara, as I do? Well, again I have to disclose you a secret. Pasta (alla) Carbonara doesn’t include chicken among its ingredients, it’s not made with ham, and the poor eggs aren’t added at the end, so that they remain cold and alone on the plate.
History of pasta
Now, after having swept away some mistakes, we can really get to the nitty gritty about pasta.
There is no exact date or place where pasta was born; so we can’t talk about when pasta was first “invented”. Rather, it seems to have been the spontaneous result of natural ingredients mixed together. Indeed, the origin of pasta can be moved back to the Neolithic era (8000 b.C.), when humans started grow grain, and then grind it, knead with water and cook or roast under the sun to store it longer.
We can find descriptions of pasta in the texts of Greek, Arabic, Etruscan and Latin authors, who spoke about it with different names and for diverse dishes. In De re cocquinaria (About cooking), the ancient glutton Apicio dedicates numerous pages to lagane, a dough of flour and water, stretched and cut in stripes, which is the predecessor of actual lasagna. Meanwhile the Arabic geographer Al-Idrisi describes Trabia, a Sicily village close to Palermo, as a place full of mills, where they produced a kind of pasta in the shape of filaments called itrya, which comes from the Arabic itryah meaning flat bread cut into strips. This is now known as vermicelli from Tria.
In the Middle Age, a new smart way of cooking was introduced. People started boiling pasta instead of simply cooking it in the oven and also drilled and filled pasta appeared. But we would have to wait until the wisdom of Giovanni del Turco, in the XV century, to discover the current Italian way to eat pasta: as a complete and single dish, not overcooked, but rather “al dente” (to the tooth). From that moment, the pasta production flourished in a wide number of Italian regions and it became a symbol of the Italian excellence around the world.
Apart from dried pasta, Italy is famous for fresh pasta or eggs pasta as well, which is made with a slightly different kind of flour, soft wheat flour instead of hard wheat, more water, a different method and, of course, adding eggs in the second version. Nowadays, Italians are the biggest pasta consumer with 28 kg per year consumed per person. Italy is also the still the biggest pasta producer with more than 3 million tons produced every year following strict methods which are governed by the national law. What else can I say? Pasta is something that matters in Italy!
Well, if you’re looking for some more insights about Italian pasta, don’t miss reading our next post.
For the moment, share with us some funny pictures about your pasta mistakes and poorly made imitation you’ve found in restaurants and together we can prevent other unaware tourists from bad experiences!