Vieni fra le mie braccia! Come to me!
With a circular wave of arms and an asphyxiating hug, one could only feel at home even in foreign lands.
What would the world be without Italian hand gestures, cheese, wines and pastas? A country having a history as rich as ours, it is no wonder that their food too, like ours, speaks for itself and has gained immense popularity the world over . He came, he saw, he guzzled and gorged. For food made with the best cheese, the best wines and the best meat proved irresistible, even to the likes of Julius Caesar. Pasta has taken the world by storm and with such a variety available, it has gone to suit even the Indian palate!
“It will be maccheroni, I swear to you that will unite Italy.” Exclaimed Giuseppe Garibaldi, but little did he know that it was out to unite the world.
Pasta as a dish has a history quite contrary to common belief. Marco Polo is said to have brought pasta to Italy in 1200 AD, but then macaroni in Italy goes back to the time of the Ancient Romans who gave the credit to the ‘Gods’. A common legend states that pasta was invented by the Greek God of fire. Pasta is made from a paste (hence the name) of wheat flour and water. It is given the shape similar to thin noodles and then dried. This dried pasta is boiled in salt water to cook and expand until it is tender and slightly hard to bite. This now forms the base of the dish and can be cooked with broccoli or a rich cauliflower and cream sauce. This is what, I feel, gives the dish such an international appeal. To personalise and to cook it with ingredients which suit our palate and locally available ingredients. Top it all up with an even richer pasta sauce, be it a tomato and vegetable sauce or a cream and butter based sauce.
To accompany this dish we have the never ending list of Italian wines. Cognoscenti (a connoisseur) will tell you that the ultimate in fonduta con tartufi (cheese fondue with white truffles) is made around Alba in Piedmont and served with a local Dolcetto. Sicily’s rare pasta con le sarde (with sardines and wild fennel) is at its best around Messina matched with a white. Needless to say that these delicacies go best with locally produced wines. But if this is too much for us “I have no clue which wine to pair” people to handle, keep one rule in mind, any oily or fatty dish is to be paired with a good red, since its tannins balance out the fat of the dish. To nibble along the way and to complete the Italian experience, there are hundreds of Italian cheese to choose from. The commercially available mozzarella is a fine accompaniment to wine. Then there is grandma’s recipe to meatballs and spaghetti which can never go wrong. But even if it does, there’s always good old pizza to bank on.
In its earliest forms, pizza was made from crude bread baked beneath the stones of a fire and later seasoned and topped with local herbs and ingredients. Since then, pizzas have come a long way to find place into our daily diet. But it essentially remains the same with a million and one variations to its toppings. Even though it has a rotten reputation of increasing many inches around the waist, it has gone on to become one of the world’s most popular fast foods. But as long as Italian cuisines are there to scintillate our palates, Buon Appetito!
Amanjit Singh Khanna
[image courtesy: http://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/40196721/sizes/m/]