I'm really shocked by what's about to come out of my mouth. I didn't think it was possible but...I am getting a little tired of pasta. Gasp! I know, that's blasphemous. Don't worry, I smacked my own hand and sent myself to bed without dinner. In all seriousness, I could never really be tired of pasta but it's definitely weighing on me, literally and figuratively. Too bad for me because we're moving into learning about pasta with regional sauces which are some of the best recipes that I really love.
I keep talking about the regions of Italy. If you're like me before school, you have no idea what I'm talking about when I speak of them. Yes, I knew Italy is divided up just like any other country, but I honestly had no clue it was by 20 specific regions that completely define the whole country. I felt like an idiot on my first day of school, I'll just say that. From these regions, you get different provinces and there can be anywhere from 1 to 12 of them within that region. It's pretty cool and definitely far reaching when it comes to food. I can't even tell you how fascinating it is to learn about how one town a mere mile from another town can differ so greatly in their cuisine. It gives me so much to look forward to when I finally get to Italy and start exploring. To help deepen your understanding of all this, I've listed all 20 regions below, alphabetically just to be easy:
Emilia-Romagna (the region my school is in!)
Friuli- Venezia Giulia
I've also talked a lot about how each region has specific dishes they're known for that have become super popular globally, especially here in America. Some of these said dishes make me just want to kiss all the Italians and thank them because my life is better because of things like spaghetti carbonara.
We dealt with a few of the most common dishes the other day that have become widespread in popularity. Lucky for me, or much to my demise rather, I completely love each of them. I don't know many people who don't. We made spaghetti alle vongole, rigatoni con melanzane (eggplant), spaghetti alla carbonara (hooray!) and orecchiette con cime di rapa (broccoli rabe). With all of these dishes, we used pasta secca (dried) because you need a solid structure to build a base on with "chunky" ingredients like clams or eggplant. For the vongole (clams) dish, we had some really fantastic Manila clams that were a touch sweet and a perfect pairing with the base of white wine. Forgive the presentation photo, clearly Chef had tasted it already before I got to snap the picture:
Bryan, I really know the way to your heart now. That's for sure.
The rigatoni is one of those dishes I could eat day in and day out. When you're lucky enough to find amazing ingredients, the sparkle of fresh eggplant and basil is just awesome. This dish comes from southern Italy, particularly Sicily, and it uses rigatoni which comes from the word 'rigato' meaning ridged. The ridges in the pasta collect the sauce and cheese beautifully so each bite is pretty perfect:
On to the carbonara, mmm. This truly is one of my favorite pasta dishes but I never eat it. Frankly, it's just awful for you so it's definitely one of those treat or special occasion dinners. When Allison and I were in Rome last year, we sat down to our first real Italian dinner and I saw carbonara on the menu. I looked no further. It was the most delicious carbonara I've ever had. Well, guess what I learned? Carbonara originated in Rome, ha! No wonder. It's said to have originated at the end of World War II when American soldiers in Rome brought eggs and bacon to Italian friends, such as coal miners (carbonari), and they turned it into pasta sauce. Add in some heavy cream, parmigiano, pecorino and a few other treats, and you have carbonara:
The orecchiette was such a bomb, ugh. We used the pasta we made the other day for it and it was just awful. Some parts of the pasta cooked to mush and others stayed hard as a rock. I did not take a photo of this dish. That's that.
Ok, gotta run. My arteries just asked me to drink a cup of lemon juice in hopes it'll eat away at some of the cholesterol rapidly building up.