We know around 600 different types of pasta
Spaghetti were known in China back in the II century BC. Marco Polo, the famous explorer from Venice, allegedly saw Mongolian cooks preparing them and decided to bring them to Italy at the end of the XIII century, after which they spread to Europe and the rest of the Western world.
Historical resources indicate that these ‘wheat strands’ were cooked in Sicily already in the XII century. In the XV century pasta was known in some regions of Italy as vermicelli (literally ‘little worms’), and in Sicily as maccheroni, which is now a generic name for tubular pasta all around the world. Currently, we know about six hundred different pasta shapes.
Italian pasta can be generally divided into two main categories: industrially produced pasta, made from wheat flour and water and commonly known as pasta secca, and fresh-made pasta based on wheat flour and eggs, the so called pasta all’uovo – also pasta fatta in casa, which literally means ‘home-made pasta’.
While it has been long thought that pasta is a calorie bomb, some hard-to-digest ‘empty’ food that just makes us put up weight, pasta ‘chefs’ have been making wholewheat pasta for some time now.
Wholewheat pasta is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamin B, iron and fibers, moreover it contains only small quantities of fat.
In order to enhance even more its nutritional value, during the preparation process wheat flour is mixed with vegetal proteins, such as corn, soy, amaranth and legumes – more precisely beans or lentils.
Modern-day pasta is then richer in minerals, vitamins and fibers, and you can always add some herbs and spices to literally spice up its flavour.
Italian cuisine: a melting pot of flavours and cultures
Italy is well-known for its countless pasta-based dishes, as well as for pizza, but each of its twenty regions has its own typical specialties.
In the north we more frequently eat potatoes, rice, corn, sausages, pork meat and many different kinds of cheese. We love stuffed pasta, risotto and polenta.
In Liguria, whose main town is Genoa, fish and other seafood are often on the table. Here, basel, rosemary, nuts and olive oil are often added to spice up the flavour.
The neighbouring Emilia-Romagna smells of prosciutto, sausages and salami, as well as of truffles, Parmigiano Reggiano and tomatoes.
The traditional cuisine of central Italy is based on tomatoes, meat, fish and pecorino, a hard full-fat cheese made from goat milk.
In Lazio you will get in your plate pasta all’arrabbiata, prepared with tomato sauce, garlic and dried red chili peppers, while Toscana and Umbria offer a wide range of cheese, cold cuts and red wines.
The more southern you go, the more you will find recipes including olives, artichokes, peppers, aubergines, zucchini, sardines and capers – and plenty of delicious fried foods!