Pasta throughout the World and Ages

pastaPasta is one of the best-loved foods in the world, and practically all cuisines have their way of preparing it. Several dishes made with pasta count among the most popular comfort foods, and as the world becomes more interconnected, it is a sure thing that more and more people will develop a passion for spaghetti, macaroni, and the forms of pasta.

The Origins of Pasta

It is generally considered Italian food, but its origins are believed to be rooted elsewhere. A popular belief holds that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from his travels in China, but not everyone agrees.

In an article of The History Kitchen entitled “Uncover the History of PastaTory Avey says “A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century. In his book, “The Travels of Marco Polo,” there is a passage that briefly mentions his introduction to a plant that produced flour (possibly a “breadfruit tree”).”

“The Chinese used this plant to create a meal similar to barley flour. The barley-like meal Polo mentioned was used to make several pasta-like dishes, including one described as “lagana” (lasagna). Since Polo’s original text no longer exists, the book relies heavily on retellings by various authors and experts. This, combined with the fact that pasta was already gaining popularity in other areas of Italy during the 13th century, makes it very unlikely that Marco Polo was the first to introduce pasta to Italy…”

The Pasta of Today

Regardless of who brought pasta to Italy, the fact remains that the Italians have fine-tuned its production and its use in various dishes. Pasta today is vastly different from the noodles that graced the tables of China centuries ago. It is now usually made of durum wheat which gives  a higher gluten content and a longer shelf life. There are more than 300 kinds of pasta today, and expert cooks will tell you that different sauces require different sizes and shapes of pasta.

Today the world is able to enjoy fresh and dry pasta. It can also fall under different categories. There is long which includes (among others) bucatini, fetuccini, spaghettini, and of course, spaghetti. There is tube pasta which includes pene, ditalini, macaroni, manicotu, and a host of others. Then there is soup pasta, pasta for stuffing, and the special shaped pastas.

Wine Pairings with Today’s Pasta

Some dishes are complex and rich, but most pastas can be cooked quickly with a minimum of fanfare. One such dish is spaghetti alla puttanesca, pasta with a sauce of anchovies, tomatoes, olive oil, capers, and garlic. Take note that the authentic version of this dish contains no meat and no cheese.

In “Best Pairings for Food and WineFiona Beckett says that the sauce for puttanesca is pretty hard to handle, and she cautions that  the main point is to match the wine with the sauce, not the pasta. She recommends “Sicilian and southern Italian reds such as nero d’avola, negroamara and primitivo.”

Another simple favorite is Carbonara, a classic Roman dish with a sauce made from eggs, Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and “guanciale”, a cured meat traditionally made from pork cheeks.

In “6 of the Best Wine Matches for Spaghetti Carbonara”, Fiona Beckett writes she would go for a dry, crisp Italian white. Among her examples for a good match are “Pinot grigio – there’s so much ropey Pinot Grigio around it’s easy to forget its virtues as a crisp, clean, immensely food-friendly white. Look out for ones from the Alto Adige region; Pinot Bianco (aka Pinot Blanc) would be good too; Gavi di Gavi – another very popular Italian white for those who like a fuller, slightly smoother white…”

Anna Teresa Callen of Food and Wine talks about “The World’s Best Pasta” from Abruzzo, a small town in Italy where “a handful of legendary factories produce extraordinary dried pasta.” She also mentions that for special occasions, fresh pasta would be the best option.

The stronger flavored meat-and-tomato sauces are best paired with reds, the pastas with white sauces go well with whites. With a really good plate of pasta, however, you can always ditch the rules and go with what you like. After all, there are a thousand and one ways to tweak your sauce.

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