All Pasta is Not Created Equal

As busy families search for healthy, satisfying, easy to prepare foods, Italian pasta has always been a top choice. But don't be mislead - not all pasta is created equal. In fact most pasta found on the shelves of your typical American supermarket lacks the culinary and cultural essence of an authentic Italian pasta.

Italians are passionate about their pasta. Their feelings for making, eating, cooking and buying pasta are defended with strong emotions that run as deep as the Medici-Pazzi rivalries of Renaissance Italy. It must be done right and regionally appropriate. Shape matched to sauce. Sophia Loren once said everything you see I owe to spaghetti and like all Italians took making and eating pasta seriously.

Most pasta today isn’t skillfully made or properly dried and ends up being a soggy accompaniment to a sauce when in reality both should support one another. I happen to think that dried pasta is the epitome of pasta making. Not that certain types of filled pasta made fresh don't fall into the best-thing-I-ever-ate category. Many do and are spectacular. Like the Cappellacci di zucca in salsa di nocci o burro e salvia (pumpkin ravioli in walnut sauce or butter and sage) from Trattoria La Romantica in Ferrara. It would be worth a trip to Italy just to eat that. However most often artisan made dried pasta is my preference because of the powerful combination of the subtle aroma of the grain and the toothsome texture of the finished product. The perfect porosity of the noodles soaks up the proper amount of sauce.

Sauce in Italy is regarded as a condiment. It is to be used as a "seasoning" rather than serving the pasta drowning in a plated pool of sauce. In Italy just enough sauce is added to coat the pasta, with a spoonful on top, so diners can see the beauty of both (the exception to this is lasagna, like a sandwich with more filling than bread). Many restaurants choose to showcase fresh pasta and if done right it can be very good. However the choice of serving fresh vs dried pasta is more often due to the impatience of diners who cannot wait for a properly made dried pasta to cook. Restaurants find it logistically impractical to prepare dried pasta for service in the limited amount of space in the time needed (8-15 minutes for dried versus 2-4 minutes for fresh pasta). If they choose to serve a dried pasta it is often overcooked and over sauced.

Choosing a dried pasta can be overwhelming. Isn't spaghetti, well spaghetti? There are many opinions and points of contention on how to determine the quality of pasta. In other words, how do you buy good pasta? My friends from Perugia, Pinota and her son Luigi who has a doctorate in agronomy gave me my best lesson yet on pasta. Not all pasta is created equal. Good quality pasta is roughly textured because the rougher the outside of the pasta the better the sauce will adhere giving a more uniform and consistently delicious flavor to each bite. In addition a toothsome and lively pasta depends on the fresh, full-bodied ingredients used to make it. The water and the grain, the air and extrusion process. Artisan pasta makers seek to preserve the traditional ways of making pasta by using perforate bronze plates (dies) that mold the pasta and allow for slow drying times. Using a single origin grain, a single mill with minimal processing to form a dough that retains the full character and soul of its ingredients.

Born at 1000 meters Mongrano Felicetti pasta available at CosituttiMarketPlace is made in the Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol region of Northern Italy from a single origin grain grown and dried in the mountain air of the Italian Dolomites. Made with water from the surrounding Val di Fiemme to produce an aromatic and singularly flavorful pasta with the raw aroma of a sunny summer day in a meadow, farm fresh milk and creamy mashed potatoes, sweet buttery breadcrumbs and a note of sea salt. A pasta that has no equal.

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