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In recent years, a growing number of Hollywood stars have approached Italian cuisine, entering in a prestigious way on the world of restaurants.
Sting: winemaker and Italian cuisine lover
The list includes top names such as Francis Ford Coppola, Sting, Lady Gaga, Robert De Niro, Danny De Vito, Sylvester Stallone, Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and others that would be too long to list: other than and exotic food, ethnic restaurants or fast food, Hollywood, at least in the kitchen, rewards the Made in Italy.
But if in Italy cuisine is so important, the undisputed queen on the table of every Italian, the first dish par excellence and cult approvated unanimously by kids and adults, is without a doubt the pasta that, in all its countless formats and condiments , has for the Caesar’s descendants an incomparable appeal than any other dish.
The Italians are known as “mangia spaghetti” and, in fact, pasta is one of the most widespread Italian gastronomic symbols in the world and the fresh one is the flagship of numerous national dishes.
The many sizes and innumerable stuffings give life to a multitude of different pastas spread in each region. Tagliatelle, tonnarelli, cavatelli, lasagne, orecchiette, paccheri, fusilli, gnocchi, cannelloni etc but also stuffed pasta such as ravioli, culurgiones, agnolotti, tortellini, cappellacci etc.
The common denominator in all types of fresh or dried pasta is given by the wide spectrum of flours that can be used for the doughs, ranging from soft wheat flour (from which milling is obtained integral flour, flour type 2, 1, 0 and 00 – usually used for home-made pasta -) to the flour of durum wheat from which milling are obtained whole wheat flour, semolina flour and semolina flour remilled) passing from the chestnut flour, spelt flour, buckwheat flour, burnt wheat, etc, while the variables are water or eggs as well as dyes such as spinach, cuttlefish ink, tomato paste, carrot concentrate, etc.
The stuffings, instead, are related to the territory and seasonality, but can also be the result of imagination or personal taste.
Pasta is not just a dish for gourmets or to eat for goodies (of course that helps), but if consumed within certain quantities and with the right seasonings, becomes an absolutely balanced and complete dish, a healthy feeding included in the Mediterranean diet.
The success of a good pasta is not simple, has some unmissable passages, skipping one makes the difference between a quality pasta and a crap. The good pasta must be rigidly composed by a wheat of excellent quality, in defect, even the best pasta maker, has no hope of a positive results. That said, the the task of pasta maker is creating the dough, giving it the appropriate shapes and sizes and properly dried it. Do all above seems easy, but for those who propose themselves in the pasta’s market with excellences products, it is extremely complicate.
Take for example Gragnano, the place par excellence of dry pasta obtained EXCLUSIVELY with bronze extruder. To achieve those results is necessary to know perfectly the products, use, I repeat, bronze extruders, that are the only ones able to guarantee the porosity of the extruded pastas that become perfect, once cooked, to collect the seasoning sauces, but it is also (and especially) in the duration of the drying times and the controlled temperature values that the goodness of the pastas is decided: by varying them, the obtain products are completely different for consistency, flavor and the ability to keep the texture in cooking. Slow drying at a moderate temperature enhances the goodness of the product to the detriment of the ability to keep the texture in cooking which, instead, is obtained by fast drying at high temperatures. Most of the crap pastas are “cooked” twice: the first time from 90 to 115 ° C in the pasta factory during the drying phase and then around 100 ° C in the pot at home. Incredibly, the drying temperature is greater than that of the cooking water. The drying systems called HTSt (High Temperature-Short Time, VHTs (Very High Temperature-Short Time), or even AT and AAT (with or without steam injection), allow to reach very high temperatures, thus reducing the processing time thus saving noticeably on costs, but in the other way it changes nutritional value and arouses some perplexities among nutritionists.
What is the difference between bronze and teflon estruders? The drawing process is the same, however the quality and the goodness of the product derive from the choice of the material. The bronze estruders exert a traction on the mixture that produces on the surface micro lesions which, as a result of the drying process, give the pasta that typical rough and porous character, while the teflon estruders , common used for the fast production of cheap pastas, makes the surface of the dough smooth with the consequence that the condiments are not retained as the dough is “slippery”.
This explains the difference between two kind of pasta: those of Gragnano are a bit more expensive not because of the brand but for the highest quality of traceable products in the doughs, the use of bronze extruders and a meticulous care in the phase of drying; the cheaper pastas, probably well presented and sold at popular prices, are composed with untraceable products, processing and drying in the fastest and most profitable way for the producer.
Cheaper or expensive? This is a personal decision, I prefeir to eat pasta one time per week… but a highest quality pastas.
This is the Chef time who must know both the product purchased from pasta makers and its origin. In Naples (but almost everywhere in the world except for some countries allergic to good cuisine 🙂 ) it is used to cook the pasta in boiling salted water, in the proportion of 1/10(100 g of pasta 1 litre of water). To understand if pasta is “al dente” there is a universal method: drain, for example, one macaron, open it with a fork and, if in the section there is a very thin white line, is cooked “al dente”; of course, following the personal taste, can be decided a shorter cooking, but if pasta is cooked more long the recommended time, can not talk about pasta al dente and in Naples it would directly thrown into the garbage bin.
Seasoned or creamed
If we were to season the “Mandilli de saea” (translated means silk handkerchiefs), sheets of lasagna seasoned with Genoa pesto sauce should be seasoned away from the fire, it is unthinkable to cook parmesan and pecorino cheeses (contained in the pesto) to avoid an indigestible sauce. But if we want to season the same pasta with a meat sauce? I would say that it is advisable creaming it. During cooking, the pasta yields its starch, seasoning it in a pan with the sauce allows the pasta to yield part of its starch which being a natural thickener, goes to make the sauce more dense which, added to a little cooking water makes it creamy and goes perfectly seasoning all the pasta. Obviously the pasta must be drained 3-4 minutes before that one indicated in the package since the creamy will start in the pan where the pasta, with little cooking water (just the one necessary to not stick to the bottom) will its starch, after which it will be added to the selected sauce to arrive at the end of creamy when it is still al dente and not over.
What kind of pasta?
For the Neapolitans, great pasta masters and more, connections like “candele spezzate” (translated means broken candles) and Genoese sauce (its the famous ragu of Naples), are absolute and indissoluble, but I think about the choice, unlike other factors come into play, first of all is the taste for one format instead of another: for example, I do not like the pasta called butterflies (its shape is similar to the famous lepidopter), a very popular format in a lot of other italian restaurants. I like all the kinds of pasta, first of all the one coming from the pasta factories of Gragnano, for which I have an indescribable passion, but not even the butterflies of Gragnano could change my mind.
Along with the pasta is accompanied by “la scarpetta“, a typically Italian gesture with which the goodness of a course is honored by collecting liquids from the dishes with a nugget of bread. Loved by many and detested by the maniacs of the “Galateo” (etiquette) that absolutely does not prohibit it, but relegates it only to informal occasions “and using the fork, “la scarpetta” has now clearly regained dignity, so feel free to try it: you will like it and no one will be amazed.
What do we mean with “la scarpetta“? Translated mean “the tiny shoe”, but the etymology of the term is still uncertain.
Obviously speaking only about pasta is reductive, moreover we will talk about it in the next articles
Enjoy your meal
“If it is true, as Alexander Dumas (father) says, that the English live only by roast beef and pudding; the Dutch by baked meat, potatoes and cheese; the German by sauer-kraut and smoked lardon; the Spanish by chickpeas, chocolate and rancid lardon; the Italians by macaroni, there will be no wonder if I return often and gladly by them, also because I have always liked them; indeed i was very close to gain the title of Mangia maccheroni.” (Pellegrino Artusi)
https://www.aromi-diversi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.png00Robbiehttps://www.aromi-diversi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/logo.pngRobbie2018-10-24 14:47:472018-11-22 06:54:14Italy has conquered the three Michelin stars with pasta
In my article I will only write about Italian cuisine because is my job but without wanting to do wrong to all the other wonderful worldwide cuisines.
Classic example of fake italian restaurant
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Abroad (but in many cases also in Italy), many restaurants denominated “Italian” are fake as a three euro coin, id est they have a cook who is not Italian and, when he is italian, comes from a completely different profession.
It is estimated that in about 60% of the cases in these fake Italian restaurants, staff of low manpower depicted as “Chef” is not able to transform Italian raw materials into traditional dishes to which they should be inspired.
All this creates a certain confusion in the customers who, convinced of spending an evening in the name of Italianity, receives dishes that have nothing to do with Italian cuisine.
One of the master characteristics (but below we will go to see the many others too) of this type of restaurant is the falsely nostalgic appearance, usually the one that includes checkered tablecloths, classic (and uncomfortable) wooden chairs , in short, a way to give the impression of entering a postcard of the past as in a dream. You will wake up from this “nightmare” in the moment you go to the tasting: too often the dishes are cooked too long, dry, little seasoned and with absolutely alien ingredients when we talk about Italian cuisine.
Cooking is like loving: you completely abandon yourself or you give up
It is also true that, on some occasions, we let ourselves be guided by prices, but if a very high price of a dish does not guarantee its goodness certainly a price too low is synonymous with rip-off: below a determined prices you can not have a good product neither a good Chef nor a good service becuse from the compendium of these three items you obtain the price of the dish ordered. A very high quality of beef tenderloin tartare can not cost 3 euros even if you are in friendship with the restaurateur and you can get a discount, unless you do not accept to eat a meat part of a cut of inferior quality, hard and nervous, in short disgusting. The same judgment is good for any dish you order, you need to learn to distinguish the term “expensive” from the term “value”: we are in an era in which we know the price of everything but not its value. For example, the weigh of meat multiplied the cost per kilo give back what everyone pays from the butcher, but for eat the mentioned tartare in the restaurant must be added the work of the Chef and the Kitchen staff who transform in tartare a piece of meat, the products to seasoning, plateings, decorations, service, tax ecc… in short, a long chain of costs that can not and must not be left to the restaurateur but charged from the customer.
One of the most popular cuisines in the world risk to be questioned by these pseudo-restaurateurs who take advantage of the fame that derives from the italian food and open fake Italian restaurants offering dishes that make you shudder.
For example, on the beautiful Langkawi in Malaysia, and I speak for cuisine experience and knowledge of the place, spread everywhere around the island you can find countless fake Italian restaurants. In fact not one and I repeat no one is Italian, all are managed by Indians who open these places with the names of popular italian restaurants. But starting from the manager to the scullion, passing for the kitchen staff, all are Indians. Would be nothing wrong if they cook real italian dishes instead disgusting concoctions that have nothing to share with the italian dishes.
It is commonplace that when during the travel it is a must to eat local food and I would personally agree with this thesis, provided that who agree have to taste everything and not just the three dishes “eatable”, this is anything but not an immersion in the local culture, it is enough to see in Thailand the disgusted faces of foreigners who see the sale of insects and more. In any case we feign to believe the story of the cultural immersion , sometimes can be difficult to conciliate the food products offered abroad with our eating habits (especially those of Italians who are very demanding and with all the reasons for it) too different, too “audacious”, too spicy, but also far from the idea of hygiene in western countries restaurants . However, after a few days of “immersion” (you can believe me, I have customers who testify what I write) foreigners and especially Italians, enter the phase that I define: “I want to eat something good!” With all the respect the local cuisine (which has delicious dishes) it’s time to smile in front of a plate of pasta or a pizza, something that is cooked without too much garlic, without soya sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, coriander, curry ecc …, in short, something that has a natural flavor and if it happen in the right restaurant the good mood appear.
But what happen if we go in the fake italian restaurant? I think that would be not necessaryd even to mention them, unworthy places to define Italians, traditional dishes emptied of anything original and revisited in the worst ways, prepared with products that in Italy are not only unused but even unknown, crap that give body to the “false italian recipes” for which, when those who come for the first time in a “real Italian restaurant” are amazed at the difference, sometimes they can not even understand what there is in the plate. Certainly having eaten a “carbonara” with bacon, egg, parmesan, mushrooms, onions and parsley as well as cream that goes to season a poor quality of overcooked pasta will be unprepared when he will receive a plate of pasta “al dente” seasoned with a cream of egg yolk and pecorino cheese, melted just with cooking pasta water as in the tradition and of crispy guanciale. No Bacon, no mushrooms, no onions, no parsley, no wipping cream!
TripAdvisor and various social media are useful as long as you do not accept reviews of travelers for two reasons: the first is that, unfortunately, not all reviews are authentic travel experiences but packages purchased by some dishonest; the second is given by the fact that in Italy we still rely on the dear “tam-tam” that usually works while the use of social networks has not had the same fortune that abroad, its why the reviews are often made by foreigners who in reality do not know authentic Italian cuisine. The reviews on social networks should be interpreted: a restaurant with 1000 positive reviews without any complaint is not credible; if the reviews are all made by foreigners, the opportunity to enter a restaurant should be attentively considered, as an Italian I tend to trust the opinions of an Italian. What then I would not entrust my savings is very different, but as regards the kitchen we tend to be reliable.
Spaghetti with meatballs
Here are some tips, a sort of manual to try to avoid restaurant’s scammers. Obvious that there is no perfect formula, it is clues, but as Agatha Christie teached “a clue is a clue, two clues are a coincidence, but three clues are an evidence!”
And exactly as Agatha Christie would have done, we to start from outside of the restaurant ad if stands too much Italian colors, it could be a deceptive way to attract customers.
Nobody speaks Italian in the restaurant. If it is an Italian restaurant, an Italian must be there, as long as it is not temporarily absent for various reasons. To avoid risks, just ask if there is an Italian, can be it the owner, the Chef, the manager, there is no Italian restaurant without Italian management. If the answer is positive well, otherwise the only acceptable answer is that the Italian will arrive within a certain time, but at that time, if you come back, you will have to find it.
We browse the menu but there is something strange: in Italy no one dreams of proposing spaghetti with meatball (absolutely not an Italian dish, where meat and pasta are served with different courses except for Neapolitan and Genoese ragu). But the mistakes do not stop, we begin to read that they serve pasta marinara souce, which actually exists in Italy but it is different from that proposed by the fake italian restaurant, it is just tomato sauce, a wrong way as foreigners call pepperoni the salami.
The courses are listed or described in a different order from the standard Italian cuisine and among the appetizers is included garlic bread: in Italy the slices of bread grilled and rubbed with garlic (eventually added of tomato sauce or pesto saue) is called bruschetta, just the foreigner call “garlic bread” but not the italian in the menus.
If you are in an Italian restaurant it is obvious that all the ingredients are local. When the adjective “Italian” is used next to the name of a dish and an ingredient as corroborating, an attempt to condition the customer’s perception is often underway. Italian pasta, Italian dressing, for example, are very precise signals to pay attention.
Carbonara with cream and poached egg
Carbonara with cream: I mentioned it before, no thank you, this is a huge scam. Those who followed Chef Jamie Oliver make the same mistake. In his website describes carbonara as a classic delicious condiment made with cream, bacon and parmesan. Sorry Jamie, the carbonara is completely different.
The dressing set is another important clue. The vinaigrette obtained by mixing an unknown oil and vinegar, is not typically Italian. But even the mania of dusting any dish with fresh pepper, including salads, is not a typical Italian culinary habit.
Fortunately abroad, there is not lack of Italian restaurants and pizzerias where is possible eat well. Sometimes it may be difficult to find them, as mentioned there are too many restaurants that have only the Italian name in a special way where it is more widespread trade in Italian food imitations, products similar by shape and very close by name to authentic Italian products.
To help you avoid rip-offs in Italian restaurants abroad you can download the Authentico app, enter the city where you are and discover the list of real Italian restaurants and authentic pizzerias. Just one click!
And now a bit of joy with Italian grandma who taste strange dishes abroad.
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The goodness of the innumerable typical Italian products, most of the dishes and the Mediterranean diet itself has gone beyond the national borders obtaining many awards and continuing to gather followers. Italy is a country that can boast a thousand culinary excellence, a compendium of the ancient rural wisdom that has been able to evolve and pass on to the centuries old traditions that stand the test of time, but some legends that accompany them are inventions that took shape during the industrial crisis of the 70s. It was then that Italian farmers and entrepreneurs decided to combine their efforts and start to completely invent a false but credible millennial tradition of our food and the subsequent storytelling to support it.
So we find out that the word “Italian cuisine” is just a semantic matter, as digging in a very recent past we discover how much marketing has been used and still strives to maintain the amazing status quo of the Italian gastronomic industry. To confirm this, a very authoritative and uncomfortable investigation conducted by Alberto Grandi, Professor of Business History in Parma, in his book “Denominazione d’origine inventata” (Invented denomination of origin) points the finger on the untouchable myth of Italian food and wine and unveils many of the countless tales about the so-called typical products; it is an absolutely authoritative publication that will make people angry – but perhaps also to think – all those who are fideistically in love with the great myth of Italian typicality, going to reconstruct the events that have led some of the most famous and titled products typical Italians to become a symbol of our cuisine and our country in the world, highlighting paradoxes and distortions of a system in which the denominations of origin multiply at a fast pace and where the protection consortia are struggling to date the history of the product at the dawn of time.
But why use these unworthy means? Well, probably because most of the people do not love or have studied the history little except if do not talk about a so snobbish story as that of cooking and the idea of having at table, for example, a vegetable whose seeds come from prehistory and to be able to boast, is a bit as having an antique furniture: even if it is full of woodworm and is inconvenient to use, will always be able to find accommodation and use to demonstrate their cultural wealth, asserting that it is , in any case, it is an indispensable furnishing component. The dishes we are fond of would have been randomly put together by Pellegrino Artusi, “without paying too much attention to their authenticity”. Moreover, it would not have been possible to do otherwise, because, Alberto Grandi re-proposes: “until the second post-war period we were a starvation country”.
But let’s go into the matter and start with a question: where was Italian cuisine born? Obviously in Italy, it seems the logical answer suggested, but would be better “depends”. Until March 17th 1861, Italy was only a geographical expression, only later it will become a nation as we know it today. So the second question is: is Italian cuisine born that day? For this question the answer is an absolute “no!” Even if the inhabitants of the country known today as Italy had been eating for a long time before that date, it is also certain that what is today called “Italian cuisine“, even though with all the approximations of the case, was born about a century after.
And now let’s move on to some striking examples: the wine with a Controlled Denomination of Origin (CDO) Marsala produced in Sicily, mainly Marsala from which it takes its name, was invented, marketed and produced on a large scale by a British merchant who added alcohol to wine for the sole purpose of keeping it better during transport to the motherland.
Panettone never really existed, it is a well-thinked invention of 1919 by Angelo Motta, today taken by pastry Chefs. Different than “pan de Toni”. In 1937 Alemagna inaugurated its industrial line in a former spinning mill. The artisanal production began in the 80s, with the decline of major industry.
Parma ham seasoning
Italy has 10 protected ham. Modena,s people sustain that it was invented by the Celts, the Parmesans from the Romans and over more. In reality, from Friuli to Sicily, as in Europe, the pork leg has always been processed, salted and seasoned. However, the travel guides of the beginning of 900 tells of Tuscan ham and not that of Parma, whose fame dates back to the second half of the century. The Consortium was founded in 1963, two years after that of San Daniele, but has the market record with 40%.
The pasta made with Canadian wheat, the one that has a firm texture, until to 1945 was consumed mostly in Naples where it was produced. Senatore Cappelli’s pasta is the result of crosses of many varieties of different grains, in particular one coming from Tunisia. Italian pasta has long been more African than Italian, and even today most of the grains come from abroad.
Modica chocolate was born in the early 90s from an invention of pastry chef Franco Ruta: do not separate the cocoa butter from the seeds and work at low temperature to leave the sugar granules intact. The Protection Consortium instead is from 2003.
Seasoning of the real “Traditional” Balsamic Vinegar made in Modena
Without the balsamic vinegar made with caramel, no one would know the precious one, to which only afterwards was added theappellation “traditional”.
Olive oil has always been an industrial product, then the denomination came and today in Italy there are 52 PDOs and 10 new candidates.
Pachino’s tomatoes are a hybrid patented in 1989 in Israel. In the absence of seeds that guarantee the same characteristics continuously, growers buy new plants every year.
Parmigiano has a thousand years of history, but the one mentioned by Boccaccio does not look anything like the current product: it was much smaller and in Parma it was not even of great quality.
The “lardo di Colonnata” (Colonnata’s lard) did not exist, at least not until the 80s. It was lard as it is everywhere. The denomination is dated 2003, the interest for the pork fat matured in the marble basins begins in the 90s. There are no explicit references to the product as we know it in the historical documents.
Parmesan more similar to the one created centuries ago by the wisdom of the Emilian monks is the one produced in Wisconsin, USA.
And all that trouble to define the CDO, PDO or PGI wine on the basis of alleged and ancient traditions of the vineyards? A noble intent but it is forgotten that in the second half of the 1800s a parasite destroyed all the vineyards in the Italy and European territory. Having to start from scratch, our winemakers necessarily used non-native grapes and various grafts.
Spaghetti Bolognese originally did not exist, but now they are on the menu even in Bologna. They are a typical product, just like Nutella.
The master question is: why today we still need to bother the Celts to say that a cheese or ham is good? Is it perhaps not time to stop believing this new gastronomic religion that admits such amount of heresies?
The valid products exist, it is up to the Chef to make these excellences art… but on this we will reason in another article.
Alberto Grandi (Mantova, 1967) is an associate professor at the University of Parma. He teaches History of Businesses, History of European Integration and has taught Economic History and History of Food. He is the author of about forty essays and monographs in Italy and abroad.