At last! At last! National Pasta Day is here and I can muse happily on one of my favorite subjects. But before musing in a general sense, I will share something pasta-specific with you from Dungeekin and that is his latest culinary triumph known, here at TransAtlantic Towers, as “Linguine Alla ‘Damn, That’s GOOD” – and was it ever! Behold – salmon and prawn linguine!
Good, right? You want some now, don’t you? I thought you might and so I recommend you hurry right on over to his food blog and get started. It is not a difficult dish but it is a bit of an assembly project since he was balancing a lot of flavors as delicately as possible. So, the quickest it may not be. But worth it? Oh yes.
But it’s not all about Dungeekin’s cooking – it’s also about pasta in general. The thing is – I bet you think you KNOW about pasta already. But do you?
Are you one of the millions of people who think Marco Polo brought pasta back from his travels in the Far East? If so, you are in good company. You’re wrong but you are in good company. How do we know you (and your fellow millions) are mistaken? Easy. Paperwork. And legal paperwork at that. According to the Italian Culinary Foundation, the will of a man named Ponzio Bastone included a barrel of macaroni amongst his belongings and this document pre-dated Polo’s Asian adventures. It is also – as it happens – the first mention of macaroni. (*) So you see – always check the paperwork. Of course, pasta pre-dates Signor Bastone as well. The Romans ate it but their paperwork is notoriously hard to pin down.
Other things you think you know about pasta but you might well be surprised to hear you’ve gotten a hold of the wrong end of the lasagne:
- Fresh pasta is better for you than dried. Nope. It’s faster to cook – in which case, if you happen to be on the verge of starvation, you might consider that to be better. But from a nutritional standpoint (for those without egg or wheat allergies), they are exactly the same. If you have egg allergies, go for dried (which are basically water and wheat) and if you have issues with wheat, go for fresh (flour and eggs).
- Using a bit of oil in the water is how to keep your pasta from sticking together. No, using enough water is the way to keep pasta from sticking together. If there’s not enough water, all the oil in the world won’t make a difference. The only reason to use oil is to use a flavored one to impact some flavor to the pasta. And even then – there are better ways to do it.
- Sauce is sauce is sauce. Well, sauce may be sauce but you get a much better result if you pair lighter, oily sauces with thinner strong like shapes and chunky sauces with chunkier shapes. Also – don’t DROWN the pasta. Less is more, people. It is as true in pasta sauce as it is in fashion.
(*) I note that the ICF disclosure of this fact v. myth includes mention of the Spaghetti Museum. Note to self – next time I am in Italy, I am going to the Spaghetti Museum.