Italian Pasta - Gourmet Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Italian Pasta is a staple food in the Italian diet. Dried Italian Pasta is most often made from durum wheat flour and water, although today whole wheat, Kamut and gluten-free varieties are gaining popularity. Though there are many theories on the origins of dried Italian Pasta, there is evidence that the Greeks and Romans had a food similar to pasta called "lagane", which was baked in an oven. It is believed that by the 8th century, Arabs introduced dried pasta made of durum wheat to Sicily. Sicilians created the term "macaroni" which describes forcefully making kneaded durum wheat. By the 1100s, Palermo, Italy was producing large quantities of pasta and exporting it to areas in southern Italy. Italian Pasta was valued not only for its nutrition but also its long shelf life which made it ideal for extended ship voyages. By 1400, pasta was being commercially produced in Italy but was very costly, due to the time and labor required to make it, as each piece of Italian Pasta was cut by hand and hung to dry.

New technologies were soon developed which allowed Italian Pasta to be made faster and subsequently at a more reasonable price, yet it wasn't until 1839 that the first recipe appeared which combined tomatoes and pasta. Today, pasta is so treasured in Italy that on average each Italian consumes over sixty pounds of pasta annually, which far outweighs Italy's durum wheat production. As a result, Italy must import much of the wheat that is used for the Italian Pasta industry. Italy utilizes age-old methods, techniques and recipes which contribute to their high quality pasta that is exported worldwide.

Italian Pasta is available in dried or fresh forms. While dried pasta is made of durum wheat flour and water, fresh pasta most often replaces the water with chicken eggs, which contributes to a shorter shelf life. Other ingredients added to pasta may include olive oil, milk, wine, vegetables, herbs and spices or even squid or octopus ink.

There are over 300 shapes and varieties of Italian Pasta, all falling under three main cut categories. Long cuts, such as spaghetti, linguine, and fettucine are ideal for simple sauces such as pesto or olive oil. Short cut Italian Pasta, such as rigatoni, ziti and penne, is good for thick and chunky sauces, since the sauce sticks to the holes and/or grooves in the pasta. Soup cuts, such as ditalini or stellette, are made in small sizes so that they easily fit onto a soup spoon. Bronze or Teflon dies may be used to make pasta. Bronze dies are preferred, as they cut the pasta in a way that leaves the pasta surface rougher which allows the pasta to hold sauces better.

Italian Pasta should be cooked until it is al dente, or firm "to the tooth". Italian Pasta is best when cooked in a large pot with plenty of salted water and shouldn't be rinsed in water unless making pasta salad. Rinsing will remove starches and salt, important ingredients that flavor your pasta.

Made from premium quality durum wheat using traditional bronze pasta making equipment, our Italian Pasta line includes the following types: Farfalle, Tri-Color, Five Color, Penne Rigate, Fusilli, Cavatelli and many more. Only this kind of Italian Pasta has the rough texture needed to keep the pasta sauce from sliding off. We also sell imported Gnocchi, an Italian Pasta made from potato and vacuum sealed for freshness.

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