HOW TO EAT PASTA LIKE AN EXPERT
Ever heard of this famous saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do"? Of course you have. One thing
you probably didn't know (or did) is that Italians are quite intense and very particular about some of their cultural values; especially when it comes to upholding dining etiquette while enjoying traditional delicacies such as pasta. This includes simple things like how to eat your pasta - whether at home or in formal settings like in restaurants or company dinner parties.
So how do you eat that pasta like a true Italian? How do you chow down on your long wiggly pasta like an expert without making a mess or embarrassing yourself?
Now, we all prepare our pasta dishes in varied ways, and I have to agree, we all enjoy the different delicious outcomes in our own unique ways so I'll not be arm twisting you into trying some of my awesome recipes (though I still think you should...) or tell you that you're preparing your pasta all wrong. No, we can tackle recipes and exchange ideas later. The problem here is that most of us DON'T know how to eat pasta at all!
Some of us still enjoy slurping especially when it comes to eating long types of pasta like fettuccine or spaghetti. If truth be told, that only looked cute in "The Lady and The Tramp". Sucking on your pasta is quite disgusting and it's a definite no -no when eating pasta around other people. Eating pasta like a pro requires some level of finesse.., some pizzazz!
Contrary to what you're used to, there are certain rules that you should follow when enjoying your pasta. It starts with the correct matching of your pasta to the sauce or soup or cheese you prepare it with all the way to how you should serve it or handle the actual eating. Your friends and family may not be bothered by your unpleasant pasta eating habits but other people will not tolerate such nasty behavior. The following 6 tips will have you eating pasta like an expert in no time.
Lesson #1: It's All About The Fork!
A fork is the only tool you are strictly allowed to use when dismantling your mound of pasta. It's all about the separation, the attack, and finally, the twirl. So here's how to use the fork on a spaghetti dish like your last name was Ferrero or Giovanetti.
- *Hold the fork firmly with your active hand (whichever hand you use to eat with...) and approach the dinner plate from above, vertically.
- *Pick a few strips (3-5) of spaghetti or tagliatelle in between the fork prongs (tines). You can lift them off the plate with the fork facing sideways (horizontal) and shake them loose from the rest of your pasta if they're stuck together. This mostly happens when the spaghetti is not prepared "al dente" — in other words, when the spaghetti is overcooked. Slow and steady up and down bounces or jerks will be sufficient.
- *After getting your few strands of pasta freed up, set your fork back on your plate while it's still facing sideways so that your strands of spaghetti don't fall off and start twirling the strips of spaghetti into a bundle by twisting your fork in-between your fingers. You can continue reeling in your catch with the fork still at this position or slightly at an angle with your fork tips lightly touching on the sides of your plate for support. This helps you avoid losing your spaghetti and it also helps build a nice even bundle of spaghetti.
- *Make sure that you wind the long strips of spaghetti into a nice bite -size bundle with as little hanging strands as possible. The reason why you pick a few strands of spaghetti from your mound is because they roll up into a small bundle that your mouth can comfortably accommodate and allow you to chew without choking. This also reduces the chances of you making a mess on the dining table or on your clothes.
- *Lastly, if the bundle of spaghetti you end up with on your fork turns out too big to fit in your mouth in one bite, drop everything back on the plate and start all over again. The pasta should go into your mouth in one swoop without the need to slurp.
Lesson #2: Start Form the Side, Never the Middle!
- I know, I know... you're probably thinking, "Hey, I can still manage to pick my two strands of pasta from the middle... what gives?" Well, the truth is, while this is still very possible, digging into your plate of spaghetti from the center is the perfect recipe for a goof. More often than not, you'll end up picking up more than you can chew... literally. Furthermore, although it's not a written rule, pasta connoisseurs have always eaten from the sides moving in towards the center. Starting a plate of pasta from the side is considered as one of the most important rules of engagement (etiquette) for expert pasta eaters.
Lesson #3: To Spoon or Not to Spoon?
- If you ask any Italian or any pasta expert out there, they'll tell you that spoons are for kids (and Americans...).
- Remember, the fork is the only piece of cutlery you should use when eating spaghetti so the answer to
- whether you can use a spoon is a resounding NO! A spoon is not allowed anywhere near a plate of pasta.
- However, there are a few instances where a spoon might be acceptable. It is not unusual to see an Italian in Bologna or Sicily enjoying a bowl of linguine with the help of a spoon. So where can you use a spoon?
(a) Some pasta like angel hair is strictly meant to go with a nice broth and never with chunky sauces of meat or sliced sausages. In this case, or in the case where you're serving your spaghetti in a soup, a spoon is necessary for only ONE reason. You need the spoon to act as support when twirling the spaghetti with the tips of the fork properly placed in the curved inside of the spoon to help you wind the spaghetti without splattering the soup all over the dining table. Please note that your fork should be in your active (eating) hand while the spoon should held in the other hand. Another important thing to note is that the fork and spoon should be lifted directly over the plate when working on your spaghetti so that everything stays on your plate.
There's a twist here though... Instead of delivering the spaghetti to your mouth using the fork, you should use the spoon! This is because you have to accompany the bundle of rolled up pasta with some soup.
(b) The other time that a spoon appears next to a plate of spaghetti is when it's provided in a restaurant.
Well, most restaurants (especially in the US...) will also include a knife but that doesn't mean any of them are necessary or that they should be used at all. The spoon in this case should only be used to toss up the pasta and get it to mix properly with the sauce. That's it! The rest of the job is done using the fork.
(c) Lastly, the only other time you can get away with using a spoon is if you're a kid who hasn't mastered the delicate art using the fork! However, the kids are thoroughly encouraged to outgrow the spoon as soon as possible.
Lesson #4: Don't Mutilate Your Pasta With a Knife!
There's a good reason why pasta such as spaghetti was made that long and that's how it should be consumed. That's the beauty of it. Cutting your pasta with a knife is a crime that would have you earned a short painful date with lions at the coliseum in ancient Rome. While cutting pasta is a common American thing, it is terribly considered unprofessional and very un-Italian when it comes to eating your spaghetti.
Never cut your pasta!
Did you know that some pasta in Italy is a yard long?
Lesson #5: Plate or Bowl?
Although you can serve your pasta in either of them, the bowl is only considered ideal when your pasta is swimming in some nice soup. Otherwise, the proper way is to serve pasta with sauce is in a plate.
Lesson #6: Finishing Off the Sauce on Your Plate
This is another tricky area. Most of us usually hold the plate up to our mouth and try to shovel the remaining sauce in... this is wrong. The proper way to clean your remaining sauce is by swabbing it off the plate with bread.
So there you have it... a simple guide on how to eat your pasta like an expert. Always use your fork and never use a spoon unless your pasta is swimming in broth; and don't cut your pasta. Remember that pasta is considered "Primo Piatto" (main course meal) and therefore it should be eaten first and on its own; then you can jump onto the salad or anything else you have on your dining table like dessert... not together.
Lastly, you should know how to match your pasta to your accompaniments. While spaghetti, fettuccine or linguine should be served with a sauce that coats the thin strands, pasta with nooks and crannies should be served with chunky sauces that maybe have meat, sausages or vegetables like broccoli. Tortellini or angel hair goes well with soup and this is the only time your spoon is allowed to join in the action. As mentioned earlier, spoons can only be used by inexperienced kids and not misinformed adults (or older kids).
Like my grandmother used say, "Don't spoon your pasta, fork it!"