Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Bring on the carbs!
Here in Italy, the pasta capital of the world, I am in heaven. An avowed maccheroni-muncher, I cannot fathom how anyone can survive on the Atkin’s diet. No carbs? No risotto? No spaghetti? No thank you! I once read that the average Italian eats sixty pounds of pasta each year. Obviously with such consumption, the Italian nation has perfected the stuff.
There are entire aisles at the grocery store, one devoted to packaged pasta and another one for the fresh, refrigerated noodles. The dried stuff with which we’re so familiar is called pasta asciutta (dried pasta) and is extremely convenient, not to mention inexpensive. For about 65 cents we can buy a pound of good quality penne rigate or linguini and keep it in the pantry, ready to go. Whole grains such as farro, barley, and mixed grains are readily available, too. The shapes are limited only by the space available in the particular store.
But I have come to develop a passion for fresh pasta. It’s readily available in pre-wrapped packages, but I prefer to go to the local shop. Yep, a shop that only makes and sells fresh noodles, and such a storefront is called “pasta all’uovo” or egg pasta. The one I’ve chosen to frequent is only about a four minute walk from our apartment. Each day the owner puts out a sign describing the fresh-made offerings. There are no-pre-cooking necessary lasagna sheets, manicotti leaves, spaghettini or fettuccini strands, as well as tiny squares called quadrucci all shining golden behind the glass. Then there are the real tempters…the filled pastas. Tortellini, agnolotti, and - my favorite at this particular pasta all’uovo - plump ravioli. The ricotta is so fresh it tastes like just-milked cream. Bryan loves those, but also approves heartily of the gnocchi which are the traditional, served-on-Thursday pasta, the little potato-based nobs tender and creamy. A couple of good handfuls of gnocchi, enough to serve two, costs about two euros. A small stack of manicotti sheets knocked me back a whopping 60 cents.
Owned by a couple of ladies who are passionate about pasta and ready to serve, they always know exactly how much I need of a particular type based on how many people will be dining. I mean, exactly. Nothing goes to waste and we’re “just-right” full at the end. I’m happy to have found this little store. I tell you, if Dr. Atkins had encountered this store and tasted this type of pasta, I think even he wouldn’t have given up carbs.
copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider