When you think about ordering food in your favorite Italian restaurant in New York, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? While pizza is the most common Italian cuisine, I’m sure most of you must have thought of pasta or at least a type of it. That’s because pasta is an inseparable part of Italy and its cuisines.
So today, we’ll discuss some surprising facts about one of the most important parts of Italian cuisine- pasta.
Pasta Originated in China Not Italy
The first point took you by surprise, didn’t it? We talked about pasta being the most important part of Italian cuisine only to realize that it originated in China.
But well, it’s the most popularly held opinion about the origin of pasta.
Italy is thankful to Marco Polo for introducing pasta in the country on his journey back from China in around 1271. Chinese were well known for consuming noodles, especially at the time Polo was in China.
Now, there’s also an opinion that pasta was already popular in Italy among the Romans and Etruscans and Polo helped rediscover this popular item. Some also believe that by the time Polo reached Italy, some parts of the country were already showing a growing interest in pasta. And the traveler just helped spread the interest.
So, if we go by the stories of the cultural endeavors of Marco Polo, pasta is indeed a descendant of Asian noodles. However, we may never know whether it’s true or not.
It is a Cultural Legacy
While a bowl of pasta may be a luxury for you, it is a staple in Italy. It’s been around in the Italian culture since the middle 12th century and continues to be one of the most loved and enjoyed parts of the culture. Since its discovery in the country, the people carried pasta with them to every new place they ventured and made it international.
Italians associate the pasta with love and their cultural legacy. Pasta for them is not just about the taste, it’s also about the entire process of its creation. In most traditional households, pasta is made from scratch using grains. And till the end result of a bowl full of deliciousness, Italians treat it as a symbol of togetherness and as a moment where the family or loved ones sit together and enjoy their staple food.
Also, most households have a special pasta recipe that they pass it down to the next generation.
There Are More Than 600 Shapes
How many pasta varieties can you name? 4 or 5? Maybe more if you have a knack for cooking or are Italian.
While spaghetti, macaroni and penne are the most popular types of pasta, let me tell you that the world knows more than 600 shapes of pasta and more than double that number of different pasta names.
Pasta can easily have a country of its own.
Now, if we go with the story of Marco Polo, pasta came into the Italian world as a noodle. But now, you can find more varieties than just a noodle. There’s pizzoccheri, fregula, orecchiette, farfalle and the list goes on and on. One thing is sure that Italians did not leave any stone unturned in experimenting with pasta and giving it their own twist by playing with shapes and ingredients to a point where we now have more than 600 varieties.
There’s a Shape for Every Sauce
Now, you may be wondering about the point of having such different shapes of pasta. What was the need to make more than 600 different shapes? The answer lies in the culture of Italy.
The people of Italy are very passionate about food. They enjoy the process just as much as they enjoy eating it. For the same reason, the different varieties of pasta mean different things in Italian cuisine.
Each different shape that you see perfectly fits a different sauce or preparation technique.
Here’s an example.
When you think about rich and creamy sauces, the choice of pasta would generally be ribbon-shaped pasta. The thickness of the same will depend on whether it’s a simple cream sauce or a rich sauce with a meaty texture.
And when you think of baked pasta dishes with creamy sauce, you go for small-sized tube pasta like macaroni or ditalini.
These combinations go on and on.
Spaghetti Bolognese is Not Traditional Italian
If you ever get a chance to dine in traditional Italian restaurants, you will realize that spaghetti bolognese, which is a favorite among Americans, does not exist in Italy.
In fact, this supposed Italian cuisine is not traditionally Italian.
Like we discussed in the previous point, every sauce is carefully combined with a specific pasta shape. So, in the case of traditional Italian cuisine, the bolognese sauce would be the Ragú and the chef will not combine the sauce with spaghetti. Instead, the choice of pasta would be gnocchi, tortellini or tagliatelle.
Pasta is Healthy
When consumed in moderation, pasta can in fact be a healthy addition to your diet. First of all, it is a great source of fiber. So your digestive system will thank you for it. Some studies also show that pasta in controlled portions can be beneficial for people suffering from diabetes.
There are all sorts of pasta out there varying from whole grain to gluten-free options. Choose your preference and try a few healthy tricks to make your pasta a nutritious meal.
Did you know these facts about pasta? Well, now you do. So, next time you visit Crispin’s Italian restaurant in New York, you’ll be more considerate when ordering your favorite pasta.