Like a Hug on a Fork

15 May

Cartoons often have a character hankerin’ after a certain kind of food.  Have you noticed that?  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crave pizza (and poor dialogue).  Then there’s Dagwood and his monster sandwiches and Wimpy with his burger.  Then there’s Garfield with his beloved lasagna.  Can you blame him?  That big orange cat is on to something.

Ah, Kraft's Tangy Italian. Like it says on the box... "Classic"!

Pasta is amazing.  I’ve been wanting to write a post about it for some time.  Mainly because every site I visit in my research on Italy has something about pasta on it.  And why shouldn’t they?  Did you know that the average Italian eats 60 pounds of the stuff a year?  For comparison, your typical yankee scarfs down 20 pounds.  So besides the fact that there is a job involving weighing food, we also learn that the Italians really are serious about pasta.  It’s not just a stereotype.  In fact, they eat so much that they have to import the most of the semolina used to make it.

Another thing that these Italian info sites have in common is that they want to make absolutely, positively, definitely, unquestionably, affirmatively sure that you know Marco Polo did not introduce pasta to Italy.  This is important to them because the Italians have a long history of eating noodles and it started much earlier.  Try the early 800s.  And when you’ve been doing something for that long you get really good at it.  You allow it enough time to dry properly in the right heat, unlike most mass produced pasta.  And then you put butter and truffles on it or olive oil and garlic.

But things got really serious when pasta met the tomato.  Tomatoes were foreign to Italy and were brought over from the new world.  Initially they were thought to be poisonous as they belonged to the same family as nightshade.  When this bad press was corrected the tomato got cooking, literally, and the Italian love affair with the little guy is legend.  However, this love story only goes back to the late 1830s.  If you’re doing the math, then you know that a thousand years came and went where pasta didn’t have red sauce to mate with.  The Mister may have lived on as he’s a fettucine alfredo sort but I don’t know if I’d have made it to the ripe old age of 33 without marinara.  But enough about me…

The other thing that happened during Italy’s long pasta history was the different shapes we know today.  Some shapes are attributed to a certain region of Italy.  A bunch of thought was put into the design of each shape.  For example you may notice that some have ridges to hold onto the sauce.  It’s like someone got a hold of a Play Dough Fun Factory and got creative.  And delicious.  And you may find it interesting that spaghetti was originally called macaroni.  Or you might just be reading this to find out more about Garfield.  No dice.

I’m hoping that we’ll get to try a bunch of different pasta dishes while we’re in Italy.  I’m not going to wait until then to eat up though.  If you’re in the Twin Cities you may want to visit some of my favorites below.  Mangia bene!

Get Your Pasta On

Degidio’s – huge portions, á la Kid Bullets

Carmelo’s Ristorante

Broders’ Cucina Italiana – fresh pasta

Cosetta’s Italian Market-Pizzeria – cafeteria style

Jakeeno’s Pizza and Pasta – amazing red sauce

Amore Victoria

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