As I sit waiting for my flight to Rome, I dream of pasta in Italy, can’t wait to curl strands around the fork, covered with scrumptious sauce that grandmothers all over Italy learned to make when they were young. San Marzano tomatoes hot from the Mediterranean sun that seeped into the red orange skin, sweet and juicy from their birth in the rich Italian soil. Making it to the kitchen table via the house garden or from the the mercato, where Lorenzo, the wrinkled skinned farmer shouts out from his food stall, “Pomodori, rosso, san marzano, buoni prezzi, biologico.”
Tomatoes so red they sell themselves. And then cooked into rich sauces and stews. San Marzano tomatoes are just one variety of tomatoes grown. They are thinner and more pointed. The flesh is thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic than other tomatoes. I have some growing in my garden in Iowa, but they don’t taste like the ones I eat in Italy!
Like rice to the Chinese, dahl to those from India, pasta in Italy is a staple. Each shape of these pastas in Italy tastes differently, like various cuts of vegetables have a a unique flavor, awakening taste buds from different areas on the tongue.
Farfalle are butterfly-shaped pasta whose wings hold the sauce, like tiny hands full of deliciousness. Rigatoni with ridges hold the sauce in their little river-like indentations, intensifying the flavors. Angel hair, ravioli, fettucine, teeny pastina, and ditalini, fusilli, and orzo. This is only a few of the shapes! Each region of Italy produces different shaped pastas, maybe matching the personalities of the people. Parmigiana and pecorino cheeses add deliciousness to all of it.
Orrechini shaped like ears. Then the skinny tubes called penne, ravioli stuffed with lobster, or ricotta and spinach, or buttnernut squash, then bathed in a butter sage sauce.
Tortellini is like ravioli but a different shape folded like a tiny purse.
Corkscrews twisted. Then long strands of taggiatelle, or angel hair, or fettuccine. For gluten-free choices the Joy Brand makes a decent brown rice pasta, but nothing beats white pasta. Of course, the best is to make homemade pasta dough and work it through a pasta maker. I don’t use an electric kitchen aid, but the hand cranking one that hooks to the countertop and use elbow grease to run it through. In the old days, and even now, pasta can be made using dough, and then rolling it out with long round wooden rolling pins as thin as the #3 setting on the pasta maker. Light as a feather, cooking the pasta for 2-3 minutes in boiling water, creates a ready-to-eat to melt-in-your-mouth delight.
Well, this subject is endless. I am now in Rome and must do some pasta experimenting!
If you’d like a spinach ricotta ravioli recipe check out my youtube video from my friend, Kathleen and me.