Nobody can really tell where pasta originated. Almost every country all over the globe has a version of this food. Wherever there is wheat, there pasta seemingly is – in some form or another.
The Japanese refer to pasta as udon, the Chinese call it mein, French people call it nouilles, those who live in Poland refer to it as pierogi, Germans say it is spaetzle, and the Siberians, pel’meni.
The Italians bravely claim that pasta is all theirs from the beginning since it has fed the poorest southern Italian regions for hundreds of years. The gentle texture of pasta is a great partner to all sorts of toppings, spices and sauces. It has also been attributed to a lot of unique names as the Italians cannot seem to resist giving the strings, ribbons and other shapes with different names.
A passionate Italian eater of long ago – whoever he was – blessed pasta with its first name – maccheroni which is a derivation from the words ma che charini meaning, “My, what little dears.”
Today, there are different kinds of pasta ranging from the humble snail (lumache), bridegrooms (ziti), little loves (amorini), to the one-of-a-kind kiss catchers (tira-baci). All these are flour and water mixtures reminiscent of Italian lifestyle and all can be paired with artful sauces.
You would be surprised that there are more than three hundred names for a hundred different shapes of pasta. This, again, reflects the expansive nature of Italians and how they love variety in all that they do. To them, it is not enough that there are farfelle or bow pasta. To give variety, there must also be little bows are what’s known as farfallette. The bigger bows were christened with the name farfalloni.
All these descriptive words for a single food is not surprising when it comes to the animated nature of the Italians. This is a nation that is known for its artistry and gusto for life. Just imagine how their government is changed at least once every year and you will have a good grasp of who they are as a people.
Only a few people outside of Italy would understand the dramatic variations in pasta from one region to another. History says a lot about this and so does the Italian temperament. In spite of the 1861 unification of 19 different regions, there remained individualism when it comes to cuisine and culture. The cliffside Sorrento restaurant is likely to offer spaghetti alle vongole because it is near the Mediterranean Sea. In Sicily, it is not uncommon to find raisins with your pasta since this region was dominated by the Saracens for about two hundred years.
Generally speaking, southern pasta was traditionally made with a mixture of semolina, durum wheat, and water. This transformed into the coarse flour that southerners are known for.
On the other hand, northern pasta is known to be smoother since their pasta is made from white flour and eggs. Luxurious toppings and sauces often come with this smoother version.