More often than not, the first thing that comes to mind when referring to Italian cuisine is, of course, pizza. After it, almost without a break in popularity, pasta follows. Let's find out what this mega-popular dish is all about. The history of pasta is much more ancient than pizza or tomato sauce, which are an integral part of Italian traditional cuisine.
According to one legend, the Venetian merchant Marco Polo brought pasta to Europe from his trip to China, but historians have denied this version.
Researchers believe that the history of the appearance of pasta goes far to the Neolithic. Just when people learned to grow cereals, and a little later to grind cereals into flour, the appearance of pasta became only a matter of time. The first pasta was just flour mixed with water and dried in the sun. In appearance, it, of course, was very different from the modern one.
Historical excavations have confirmed that somewhere in the first century, broad noodles called lagane were made from durum wheat. From there the name of modern lasagna appeared. At that time, such noodles were not boiled, but baked in ovens. And so it went on for several centuries.
Around the eighth century, during the invasion of Europe, the Arabs had a very strong influence on Italian cuisine. The dried noodles they brought to Sicily became the main ancestor of the pasta. In the original dish, a lot of oriental spices were added to the dough. Maybe that is why in Sicily there is still a tradition to add cinnamon, raisins and other spices to the pastry dough.
The new product turned out to be so good for the climate of Italy that it quickly spread from the island to the mainland.
The evolution of pasta cooking
The word pasta, translated from ancient Greek, means - "flour mixed with sauce." As the name of the dish, this word began to be used somewhere in the early 14th century.
At this time, the dish has already spread throughout the peninsula. By the 15th century, dry pasta became even more popular due to the possibility of long-term storage. For the same reason, pasta has become a welcome dish of travelers and sailors. And new geographical discoveries helped her spread around the world.
Methods of making pasta began to improve. Now it was not only baked, but also boiled. In addition to the noodle-shaped, the paste began to acquire a wide variety of forms. An important stage in the history of the development of pasta is considered the 18th century. Until that time, pasta was the food of commoners who ate with their hands. About like pilaf in the East. Aristocrats, despite the excellent taste, could not afford to delve into the food with their hands. But everything changed when a fork was invented at the court of the Neapolitan king. A four-tooth cutlery made it possible to elegantly wind the pasta and put it into the mouth without dirtying the hands.
If at the beginning of evolution the pastry dough was kneading with your feet, then by the 19th century everything had changed a lot. To increase production and reduce labor costs, the Italian engineer Cesare Spadacchini invents a mechanical machine that simulates the movement of the legs. It was a real breakthrough in pasta history. Mass production has become more convenient and hygienic.
The first recipes for making pasta by our ancestors were radically different from modern times. Even after they began to boil the pasta instead of baking, they did it in milk, seasoning it with butter, sugar and cheese.
Sometimes broth was used instead of milk. It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that the culinary revolution separated sweet and savory dishes, and helped pasta meet sauces.
Despite the fact that tomatoes came to Europe immediately after the discovery of America, a lot of time passed before they were eaten. After all, tomatoes are a nightshade family. And the fact that nightshade is poisonous was believed until the mid-19th century.
It was at this time that a culinary specialist was found who dared to add tomatoes when cooking pasta. After that, the use of tomatoes in cooking became ubiquitous, and the combination of pasta and tomato sauce became a classic.
The very first pasta recipe
The author of the first documented pasta recipe is Martin Korno. He was a true master in his kitchen and worked for the highly respected patriarch of the Catholic Church. The book, in which a unique recipe was published over a thousand years ago, was called "The Art of Making Sicilian Pasta and Vermicelli". According to a medieval recipe, pasta should be boiled in almond milk and seasoned with sweet roots.
According to statistics, the average Italian eats about 26 kg of pasta per year. Italy on this indicator easily overtakes any other country in the world. For example, the average American eats only about 7 kg of pasta per year. However, the country's ability to grow high-quality durum wheat cannot fully satisfy the Italians' love for this wonderful product. In this regard, Italy is forced to import additional quantities of grain for the manufacture of a national product.
Currently, the Italian industry produces pasta in both dry (secca) and raw (fresco) forms. One of the problems was the ability to fully satisfy both local and global demand. But, despite the mass and ubiquity, the Italian product is still made with the preservation of centuries-old traditions that guarantee its excellent quality.
Dry pasta is pasta dried for long-term storage.
Classic Italian pasta is made only from durum wheat and water.
The largest producers of pasta always adhere to this golden rule. However, dry paste made from soft varieties with the addition of eggs is no less common. The secret components that give the Italian pasta a unique taste are the process of extrusion or extrusion and the drying method.
Any Italian pasta, and especially more complex forms, is ideal for grabbing and holding sauces on their surface.
Almost all tubular products for this purpose have beards on the surface. They are created during the extrusion of the test through the nozzle. After extrusion and cutting, the paste is dried at a certain temperature.
In this aspect, the classic Italian method of drying outperforms mass production in terms of the resulting taste. Industrial drying occurs at very high temperatures to reduce manufacturing time. In the traditional method, drying is carried out at a lower temperature, but can last up to 50 hours. Ready pasta is packed in company packaging.
If you look, then any pasta is born fresh. And only a small part of the resulting product immediately goes to the kitchen. Fresh pasta must be used on the day of manufacture, so as not to lose their taste. Preparing a fresh product requires more attention than dry, but it is considered a subject of special pride. In fact, dry pasta is no worse than fresh. Just use them in different situations.
How to choose the right paste?
Whatever pasta you prefer, fresh or dry, when choosing it, you should focus on well-established brands. It is they who use the best quality ingredients.
Classic dry pasta is made from durum wheat flour. When choosing, give preference to rough products, they will hold the sauce well. Another indicator of good quality is the small volume of the product with a large mass. It is such products that are difficult to digest, so they are poorly digested. Having opted for fresh pasta, it is worth paying attention to the appearance and date of manufacture indicated on the package. Such pasta should be dense, have a nice texture and color. Many Italian bakeries sell fresh home-made pasta. This option is always much better than shopping at the supermarket. In addition, you can learn the secret of making a good sauce according to a family recipe.
Do not forget that buying a product of mass cheap production, you can very easily lose a delicious lunch or dinner.
Forms and types of pasta
Today, the market has more than 350 types of various forms of pasta. Moreover, their amazing variety can vary from classic tubes to tennis rackets. Almost any significant event in the world can tell paste manufacturers a new form. For example, there is a paste in the world of car brands, alphabet letters and the Eiffel Tower. We want to tell you more about some forms in our photo guide:
Acini di pepe or pepper grains
As the name implies, this is a very small paste. It is mainly used in salads or soups.
Agnolotti - Agnolotti.
This is a small stuffed pasta. Small pieces of dough can be stuffed with spinach or cheese or meat. In appearance it resembles vareniki. Served with sauce.
As the name tells us, these are small letters from the dough. Especially popular among children. After all, with such pasta, lunch becomes much more interesting.
Anellini - anellini.
A small paste in the form of miniature rings. It is used as an additive to salads and soups.
Bucatini - bucatini.
Translated from Italian "bucato" means full of holes. This long pasta looks like a straw. Amatrician with loin and tomatoes is considered to be an ideal sauce for bucatini. Although with other sauces, it is no less tasty.
Campanelle or gigli - Campanella or lilies.
Short flower paste similar to small bells or lilies. Served with thick cheese or meat sauces. It can be used in salads and soups.
Cannelloni - cannelloni.
A paste resembling large tubes in appearance. Designed for stuffing with meat or cheese and baking with sauce. After cooking, they look like stuffed pancakes.
Cappelletti - chapellets.
A small paste, most often with a filling, but can be without it. In appearance, they look like hats or small dumplings. They are served with or with broth, or with sauce, or simply with cheese.
Capellini - cappellini.
Long and very, very thin (about 1 mm) paste. Translated from Italian, "capellino" is a hair. In addition, there is a paste even thinner. It is called di angelo drops, which means angel hair. These pasta are usually served with light delicate sauces.
Cavatappi - kavatappi, which means corkscrew.
This fun pasta looks like corkscrew curls. It goes well with simple sauces. And due to its shape, it finds its application in salads.
Conchiglie - concilia, which means a mollusk shell or just a shell.
A familiar name, isn't it? But how different the taste of real Italian concilia is from ordinary pasta, we are sure you will definitely feel it. Due to their shape, they perfectly retain any sauces.
Conchiglioni - large shells.
The same shells, but much larger, are called conciglioni. They are used for stuffing and baking in sauce.
Ditalini - Ditalini, which means thimble.
This is a small paste in the form of very short tubes. Used in thick soups and stews with vegetables.
Elbow macaroni - Elbow Macaroni (horns).
Macaroni in the form of small hollow tubes slightly curved. Traditionally used for making pasta with cheese. Can be used for casseroles and salads.
Farfalle - farfalle, which means butterflies.
The paste form, which also resembles bows, appeared around the 16th century. At that time they were made manually. For this, the dough cut into rectangles was squeezed in the middle of each. Farfalle bows with bright tomato sauces and vegetables are served.
Fettuccine - Fettuccine, which means ribbons.
Such pasta is also called noodles. It is a long thin stripes 1 cm wide. Fettuccine is prepared in the same way as a linguine. Serve ribbons with tomato or fish sauces.
Fideo - fidio.
Macaroni in the form of thin, slightly curved threads. It can be used as soups, salads, and in main dishes.
Fusilli - Fusilli.
Often also called fusilini - this is a curly paste 4 cm long in the form of a spiral. Larger and more curved spirals are called rotini. The bends of the spirals hold the sauce perfectly. It goes well with pesto sauce.
Gemelli - Gemelli, which means twins.
Macaroni in the form of two flagella of twins intertwined with each other. This paste combines meat and fish, and cream and vegetable sauces.
Gnocchi - gnocchi or small dumplings.
They are made from dough with semolina, spinach, potatoes or cheese. Served with tomato sauce and grated cheese.
Lanterne - lantern.
Small pieces of this ribbed pasta, bent around the edges, blend perfectly with the thickest sauces.
Lasagne - climbing.
Wide, flat and long pasta. Thin plates come in many sizes. In addition, they have straight or wavy edges. Lasagna is designed for baking in the form of a cake, acting as a biscuit. Instead of cream, it is layered with various fillings (meat, cheese, vegetables, seafood) and sauces (bechamel, bolognese). It is considered one of the most popular types of pasta in Italy.
Linguine - linguine, which means tongues.
Macaroni is very similar to thick spaghetti, but longer and flattened. Served with tomato or fish sauces.
Maccheroni - pasta.
This pasta is probably the very first representative of the pasta family in our country. And it was this pasta that gave the name to the whole class of pasta. The cavities inside the pasta allow light sauces to get in and become juicy.
Orechiette - orekte or ears.
A small round paste, with a diameter of not more than 2 cm, looks like cute ears. It is added to soups and salads or prepared as an independent dish.
Orzo - orzo.
Unusual pasta in size and shape resembling ordinary rice. Most often added to salads and soups.
Pappardelle - papardelle.
Very wide and long pasta, reminiscent of fettuccine. Served with thick sauces or as a casserole.
Pasta colorata - colored paste.
Almost any paste can be colored. Moreover, only natural ingredients are used for staining. Such as spinach for green, tomatoes for red, pumpkin and carrots for orange, beets for pink. The resulting color does not affect the way the paste is prepared.
Penne - foam.
Pasta in the form of tubes with beveled edges that look like feathers for writing. Indeed, translated from Italian "penna" means precisely "feather". The pasta does not exceed 4 in length and 1 cm in width. Foam with thick hot sauces is served. Very similar to foam, but longer and wider than Manicotti. They are used stuffed with a variety of fillings and baked in a mold.
Radiatori - radiators.
Corrugated paste with deep grooves. It goes well with creamy sauces. Can be used in casseroles and salads.
Ravioli - ravioli.
In appearance, the paste is very similar to our dumplings, only square. The main difference is not the shape, but the filling. It can be either meat or fish or cheese or even chocolate. Ravioli is boiled until fully cooked and served with simple sauces that do not interrupt the taste of the original filling. Can also be used for baking.
Rigatoni - rigatoni.
Pasta in the form of short tubes with a corrugated surface.Thanks to the wide opening, it perfectly holds the sauce on the surface. In addition to an independent dish, it can be used in salads and casseroles.
Rochetti - Rochetti or reel.
Short unusual pasta that has found application in stews, salads or as an independent dish.
Hotelle - wheels.
Round paste in the form of small wheels with knitting needles. It goes well with thick sauces, keeping them inside.
Rotini - rotini or spirals.
Pasta in the form of small short springs. Previously, such pasta was made by wrapping stripes of dough around a knitting needle. Served with meat and vegetable fillings.
Spaghetti - spaghetti or small ropes.
The most common type of pasta. If it is thicker, it is called spaghetti, but if it is thinner - then spaghettini. Tastes especially good with tomato sauces. But the cooking and serving options are countless.
Stelline - stellini.
The smallest paste in the form of a pentagonal star with a hole in the center. Commonly used in salads and soups.
Tagliatelle - tagliatelle or egg noodles.
A long and flat pasta, similar to fettuccini, but already. It holds sauces well due to its porous structure. It is combined with mascarpone, bolognese or spicy fish sauces.
Tortellini - tortellini.
Round pasta in the form of rings with filling. The filling can be cheese or vegetable. In addition to the classic serving with sauces, it can be served sprinkled with olive oil and sprinkled with pepper, garlic and parmesan. You can also serve tortellini in the broth.
Tortiglioni - tortilloni.
Short pasta in the form of medium-sized tubes. Served with simple sauces.
Tripoline - tripolini.
A small paste in the form of a bow tie. Used in salads, soups or separately with simple sauces.
Tubini - tubini.
Pasta in the form of simple tubes of medium size. It is distinguished by the possibility of cooking using quick frying.
Vermicelli - vermicelli.
Translated from Italian, "Vermicelli" means "worms." In appearance, it is similar to classic spaghetti, but thinner and shorter. Served with light sauces.
Ziti - ziti.
Paste in the form of short tubes, curved by an arc. Similar to elbow macaroni, but longer and wider. Use in casseroles and salads with thick sauces.
Even the highest quality pasta needs to be able to cook properly. The most popular pasta preparation in the whole world is considered to be cooking to the state of "al dente", which means "by tooth". At the same time, the middle of the paste retains a small hardness.
One of the secrets of cooking is the use of large volumes of dishes. This helps keep the pasta from sticking together. Some housewives for this purpose add olive oil to the water. However, the Italian chef will never do so, due to the deterioration in the interaction of the surface of the paste with the sauce.
Another cooking secret is never rinse pasta after cooking. This simple procedure can kill the taste of even the best product.
So, the basic steps for making the right pasta are:
- Fill the pan with water at the rate of one liter for every 100 grams of dry product and bring to a boil;
- Add salt to boiling water at the rate of one tablespoon without a slide per liter of water;
- Dip the dry paste into boiling water and mix well to avoid sticking to the bottom and sticking together;
- One minute before the end of the full cooking time, remove a piece and check for readiness;
- Fresh pasta is cooked until tender 3-5 minutes, and dry durum wheat is prepared from six to fifteen minutes, depending on the thickness;
- If in the middle of a broken paste you can see a thin white dot or line, then it has prepared to the state of al dente;
- Ready pasta must be quickly thrown into a colander, add the sauce and serve.
An indispensable seasoning and an integral part in the process of cooking pasta is basil. It has a spicy taste and strong aroma. That is why it is so often used in Italian cuisine. In addition, the addition of a small amount of garlic gives dishes with basil a particularly wonderful taste. Basically, Italian chefs use basil in the preparation of sauces, without which it is difficult to imagine real Italian pasta. It is important when using basil in cooking not to cut it with a knife, but to tear it with your hands and add to the dish at the very end. At the same time, seasoning preserves the maximum of taste and aromatic properties.
Parmesan Cheese is the best Italian cheese for the best Italian cuisine. The cheese has an intense spicy taste and a very delicate aroma. To make one kilogram of parmesan, 16 liters of whole milk are needed. The maximum taste of cheese is revealed when melted under the influence of temperature. Therefore, most often parmesan is sprinkled with an already prepared hot dish.
And now we want to bring to your attention one of the classic Italian pasta recipes.
Roman buccatini (recipe for 6 servings)
To prepare this dish you will need the following ingredients:
- Spaghetti pasta - 600 gr.
- Ripe tomatoes - 800 gr.
- Mozzarella Cheese - 200 gr.
- Red onion - 2 pcs.
- Green olives - 3 tablespoons
- Caper - 2 tablespoons
- Oregano leaves (fresh) - 10-12 pcs.
- Parsley (chopped) - 2 tablespoons
- Garlic - 2 cloves
- Olive oil - 90 gr.
- Parmesan Cheese - to taste
Cut mozzarella and onion into thin slices. Coarsely chop olives. Peel the tomatoes and seeds and grind them with a blender with oregano leaves. Peel and flatten the garlic with the wide side of the knife. In a separate bowl, mix prepared vegetables and cheese. Salt the resulting mixture, pepper, season with olive oil and mix. The sauce is ready.
Meanwhile, you need to properly boil the paste. When ready, discard it in a colander and add to the resulting sauce. Gently stirring, immediately serve to the table. Fans can complement the finished dish with grated Parmesan.
And in conclusion, I would like to share some interesting facts from the life of pasta.
Pasta to improve your mood
Serotonin or the hormone of happiness is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for our well-being and helps to overcome stress. Tryptophan has a direct effect on its concentration in the body. Tryptophan belongs to amino acids that cannot be produced by the body on its own, but must come with food.
To increase serotonin levels, it is necessary first of all to increase the intake of tryptophan-containing foods. These include asparagus and other leguminous plants, sunflower seeds, pineapple, bananas, spinach, turkey and, drum roll, pasta. Therefore, using pasta (preferably from durum wheat), we improve our well-being and tolerate stress more easily.
The nutritional value of pasta
A traditional serving of pasta (100g.) Consists of: 75% complex carbohydrates, 12% protein, 3% fiber, vitamins B1, B2 and PP and mineral salts. During cooking, some of the nutrients go into water, and some decompose under the influence of high temperature. These are mainly carbohydrates, protein, vitamin B1 and phosphorus. Given the fact of the amino acid imbalance of the protein contained in pasta, it is optimal to use pasta together with products containing another protein to increase the nutritional value of the product. That is why the use of pasta with vegetables and sauces significantly raises the nutritional value of pasta.
Rome has the world's only pasta museum. In 11 halls of the National Museum of Pasta there are original machines that were used for pasta production. On the walls are photographs depicting the process of making pasta from growing wheat to the final product. In a separate room for specially invited guests, seminars are held on the art of production and use of pasta, for example, in nutrition. The museum also has a library with invaluable culinary recipes.
- Official website of the pasta museum: www.museodellapasta.it