Sure, most of us grew up eating pasta. But the Italians win the award for turning pasta – and how to eat it – into an art. Moreover, we all know the saying that goes ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. Eating pasta in Italy means you’re going to need to adapt to how to eat pasta the Italian way. And so you should! It’s been in Italy for hundreds and hundreds of years. So, here’s how to eat pasta like a local:
When to Eat Pasta
First and foremost, pasta is eaten as a primi piatti (first course) after antipasti, before your salad course and subsequent secondi. In fact, the order of the meal should go: aperitivo (drinks and hors-d’oeuvres), antipasto (starters), primo (normally a vegetarian-based pasta dish), insalata (salad), a meat or fish-based secondo course, and the dolce (dessert).
No Spoons or Knives Allowed
Use your fork! Most pasta dishes come with the sauce on top, so you can use a spoon and fork to toss your pasta before eating. However, when it comes to how to get it on your fork and into your mouth, it’s unrefined to use a spoon to twirl your pasta onto your fork. Or worse, to cut your pasta up before eating it!
The Pasta Dictates the Sauce
If you’re planning to make your own traditional meal, keep in mind that different pastas call for different sauces. Long, thin, noodle-shaped pastas like spaghetti and tagliatelle take light sauces which better coat the noodle. A pasta like penne would require a heavier sauce. And if you’re eating broth, it will normally call for tortellini. Also, you should remember that seafood based pastas never have cheese. That’s a big faux pas!
Bread and Pasta Don’t Go Together
We know you’re going to be tempted to tuck into your meal using the gorgeous bread on the table. Don’t! Bread should never accompany pasta. At best, you can mop up the pasta sauce on your plate using bread, but only ever once you’ve finished the meal. The Italian’s call this fare la scarpetta, which translates to ‘making the shoe’. In all honesty, it’s fine to do this at a family meal or local bistro, but it’s not done in the context of fine-dining.
Spaghetti Bolognese & Alfredo Don’t Exist
Not as we know it, anyway. Locals actually call Bologna’s traditional pasta sauce ragù. It normally involves meat cooked down in a red (tomato-based) sauce for hours and hours, but is nothing like the mince-meat based sauce we’re used to! And you won’t find Alfredo, which we all assume involves a bechamel-type sauce with herbs and ham, in Italy. The closest equivalent is actually made with fresh cream and herbs, and no meat whatsoever. If you’re looking for authentic Italian recipes, try Academia Barilla.
There Are Over 600 Types of Pasta
Imagine! The sheer volume of Italy’s cultural heritage surrounding how to eat pasta is impressive in and of itself. Italians have perfected each pasta type over the centuries and carefully paired them with the sauces and toppings that best compliment it. See the video below, where the talented pastaio (pasta maker) for Eataly Flatiron, Luca D’Onofrio, exemplifies 29 of them: