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Pasta, Pasta, Pasta Discover Where Pasta Came From, How Italians Eat it & The One Thing Most People Get Wrong When Cooking Pasta

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The History of Pasta

The most widely recognized element of Italian food today is pasta. Pasta is a signature of Italian food in all parts of the globe. It is easy to store and prepare and therefore became the ambassador of Italian food to the world. Pasta has a much older history than other common dishes in Italian food like pizza and tomato sauce. There are many myths surrounding the time when pasta actually entered into Italian food. The most common of these myths is that Marco Polo introduced it to the country from his extensive travels. However, pasta was already a part of Italian food during Marco Polo's life. To get to the heart of the matter you must travel even further back in history. In fact the most accepted theory on the introduction of pasta to Italian food takes us back to the eighth century. During this time the Arab invasions greatly influenced Italian food and are the most likely start of pasta's life in Italy. Since the wheat used for this early pasta thrived in Italy, it quickly spread and by the 1300's dried pasta was immensely popular and found all over the country. The appeal of pasta to Italian food was its nutrition and its long shelf life. These factors made pasta a great candidate for long ship voyages and because of this it was one of the first Italian foods to be introduced to the world. By the time pasta made its world debut much advancement had been made and there were many different shapes and forms of pasta being used in Italian food. The Italians had also developed ways to make pasta faster and more efficiently, making it an integral part of Italian food and Italian life. The next important phase of pasta's development in Italian food was the introduction of the tomato of course. Today pasta and tomato sauce go hand in hand when thinking of Italian food, but the marriage wasn't made until 1839. Prior to this time tomatoes were just being introduced to the world from the Americas and many Europeans believed them to be poisonous. It took a long time for people to trust the tomato enough to eat it and include it in Italian food. However, once the tomato was accepted it was welcomed with open arms and took off in Italian food, especially in the southern regions of Italy. Today one only has to look at the numbers to see just how big a role pasta plays in Italian food. Italians eat over three times as much pasta as Americans. Their pasta consumption is over sixty pounds per person per year. It's no wonder that pasta is considered the cornerstone of Italian food. In fact, pasta is used so extensively in Italian food that Italy must import most of its wheat in order to keep up with the demand. This popularity of pasta and Italian food has caused pasta to be mass produced. This has lead to an inferior quality of pasta being used in American Italian food. The best pasta is still found in Italy where they stick to the same recipes handed down through the generations. A true Italian food lover must try some authentic pasta made in Italy if they want to capture the authentic taste of Italian food.

Types of Pasta

There are two main categories of pasta used in Italian food, dried pasta and fresh pasta. Right now there are over 350 different shapes and varieties of dried pasta being used in Italian food. Some varieties are common and others are specific to a certain regional area. The shapes used in Italian food can range from the classic tubes and strands to butterflies or bowties and even unique shapes such as tennis rackets. Italian food is taken very seriously in Italy and by law all dried pasta is required to be made with pure durum semolina flour and water. This standard is adhered to by most pasta makers all over the world and only this type of dried pasta is used in good quality Italian food. The reason that Italian food in Italy tastes different than the Americanized Italian food is because pasta makers in Italy take more care in making quality pasta. Dried pasta is meant to hold onto the sauce with which it is being served. After all, Italian food wouldn't be Italian without the sauce. The pasta is made with ridges or into complex shapes in order to grab onto the sauce. These ridges are formed during a process known as extrusion. This is the step in pasta making where the pasta is forced out of a copper mold and then cut into the desired length before being dried. The copper molds are the key. They are expensive and likely to wear, but they make the best pasta. Unfortunately, most of the pasta used in American Italian food is made with steel molds that make the pasta too slick to hold onto the sauce. However, more and more pasta makers outside of Italy are beginning to use the copper molds in an effort to make better quality Italian food. The drying process also greatly affects the quality of the pasta and the resulting Italian food. Pasta should be dried for a specific amount of time in a specific temperature depending on the variety. Pasta made in Italy is allowed to dry for long periods of time, up to fifty hours, and at relatively low temperatures. Companies outside of Italy typically dry their pasta at high temperatures in order to get it dried quicker. This method comes at a price and diminishes the quality of the pasta and the resulting Italian food. The other form of pasta used in Italian food is fresh pasta. All pasta actually starts out as fresh pasta but certain pasta recipes require that the pasta be eaten fresh and soft, not dried. Fresh pasta is often made with slightly different ingredients than dried pasta. In the northern parts of Italy fresh pasta is most often made with all-purpose flour and eggs. However, the southern parts of Italy make their fresh pasta with semolina and water. It should be noted that different recipes can call for different variations. These different recipes give a distinct flavor to the Italianfood of different regions. Some types of pasta are meant just to be eaten fresh, while others are meant to be dried. There are also some types of pasta that can be fresh or dried; it depends on what Italian food dish is being prepared. When a variation of pasta can be either dried or fresh it is sometimes argued that the fresh style is best. Making fresh pasta is a point of pride for many Italian households and is reflected in the quality of the Italian food that they prepare.

The One Thing Many People Get Wrong When Making Pasta

For many Italian food lovers and aspiring Italian food chefs, the first dish to be attempted from home is typically a pasta dish. Pasta is known as an Italian food that is easy to make. However, homemade Italian food dishes with pasta often end up falling flat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing pasta at home. First of all, your attempt at Italian food will only be as good as the pasta you use to make it with. When shopping for your pasta make sure you are buying a good brand that uses only quality ingredients. For instance, if buying dried pasta you should only buy brands that use just semolina flour. Any other type of dried pasta will taste like counterfeit Italian food. A good quality pasta will have a rough surface. The texture of the pasta will determine if it will be able to hold onto the sauce that it is served with. Smooth pasta is an instant indicator that you are dealing with an inferior brand. It is also important that the pasta be dense and heavy for its size. If the pasta is too light it will fall apart when it is cooked. You want to make sure to avoid the mass produced and cheap pasta; otherwise your Italian food will not be satisfying. When shopping for fresh pasta you want to make sure that you pay attention to the expiration date, unlike dried pasta, fresh pasta does not have a long shelf life. Take a look at the pasta and if it looks cheap then it is. If it looks to have a good quality color and texture and is heavy, then that is the pasta that will give you the best tasting Italian food. The best bet when shopping for pasta is to see if there is a bakery that specializes in Italian food. Many such bakeries make pasta fresh daily and the quality will far out do anything that you will find at the store. The best way to get authentic Italian food is to get it from Italians. Once you have bought your pasta you are halfway to enjoying good Italian food. The most important thing to remember when cooking pasta is to not overcook it. Mushy pasta is never good. For good tasting Italian food you want the pasta to be tender, yet firm to the teeth. Fresh pasta will take less time to cook than dried pasta. You want to make sure and use a large pot with an abundance of water. Bring the water to a boil and then liberally add salt. If you don't salt the water then the pasta will taste bland compared to the sauce it is served with. After you've salted the water it is time to add the pasta. If you have plenty of water that is brought to a vigorous boil before adding the pasta then you shouldn't have problems with the pasta sticking and it should cook evenly. Good Italian food sauce makes use of the water that was used to boil the pasta, so make sure to save a cup of it to add to the sauce. Also, don't ever rinse the pasta after you've cooked it, otherwise you will be stripping away the flavor of your Italian food. Hopefully these tips will help you make better Italian food. If you haven't tried preparing Italian food yourself then give it a try starting with the most fundamental Italian food, past

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The History of Pasta - Chris Christini is the owner of Christinis Ristorante Italiano in Orlando Florida, winner of the Fine Dining Hall of Fame Award and Recipient of the Restaurateur of the Year Award.

Types of Pasta - Chris Christinis is the owner of Christinis Restaurant in Orlando Florida, one of the most awarded restaurants in the country. Mr Christini is also the winner of the Restaurateur of the Year award.

The One Thing Many People Get Wrong When Making Pasta - Chris Christini, owner of Christinis Restaurant in Orlando Florida, has served celebrities, dignitaries and locals amazing Italian cuisine for over 50 years.

The History of Pasta  

The History of Pasta Discover Where Pasta Came From, How Italians Eat it and The One Thing Most People Get Wrong W...

The History of Pasta  

The History of Pasta Discover Where Pasta Came From, How Italians Eat it and The One Thing Most People Get Wrong W...