Pasta: Italian v. French
Pasta is one of my favorite food groups. I’m pretty sure I could live my life like Garfield and eat lasagna all-day every-day, what’s not to like? So let’s jump right in. Italians are who we need to thank for the creation of pasta, however at some point, the Italians taught the French how to make pasta noodles and then the French turned a simple pasta dish into pure elegance by adapting the recipe and style.
Last summer I had the privilege (honeymoon!) of traveling to Italy, touring all the main towns (Venice, Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast) – if you haven’t done this yet you need to add it to your bucket list, you’ll thank me later. During our stay in Florence, Husband and I took a day trip to Tuscany, we visited a winery, learned how olive oil is made, and then ended the day making pasta at the home of an Italian family. We had hands-on experience learning how to make pasta the Italian way, it was messy and a ton of fun. We drank wine, made pasta and then ate all of it, we were uncomfortably stuffed. It was the best day.
The other night, I had another privilege (culinary school!) of learning how the French make pasta and tomato sauce. In class, this time, I made pasta with the help of a food processor, and used a different ratio of eggs to flour. I wasn’t sure if this was an adaptation made by the French or Chef J, either way it made the dough a little less delicate, making it easier to roll out smoothly. In class, we rested the dough to let the gluten settle back down (I don’t think we did that in Italy). The real difference between Italy and France is the tomato sauce.
The tomato sauce was made to be sweeter than the average marinara sauce. We flavored it similar to the way we flavor just about any soup, stock or stew with mirepoix and a bouquet garni. We used olive oil instead of the handy go-to butter. The end result was more of a tomato soup consistency than a thick sauce I’m accustom to. Using pasta water as a tool to help coat the pasta noodles with the pasta sauce (all I can do is hear Rachel Ray’s voice – here’s why), we gently coated the noodles without smothering them in sauce. We topped it off with some pesto that Chef J made and Parmesan cheese – it was delicious! I could have eaten four bowls of it.
Because of the change in sauce, the dish seemed lighter and less filling. I learned that the French like to just coat with a toss keeping the pasta the highlight of the dish. As long as there is pasta and sauce (and I wouldn’t turn away soft warm garlic bread) I’m a happy girl. When my friend is done with his Italian Culinary schooling, I might suggest a cook-off.