As the nights draw in and the temperature dips it’s only natural to seek out all the cosy things in life – cashmere socks, woolly hats, log fire and comforting grub. With this in mind, we’re celebrating the world’s most comforting staple food.
Contrary to popular belief – Italians didn’t invent pasta. Marco Polo did not bring it back to Italy from China in the 13th century – although there is evidence to suggest pasta was made and eaten in China then. However, the reason Italy is virtually synonymous with pasta is because it welcomed the food with open arms, developed multiple ways of shaping it and concocted the most mouth-watering recipes. I think we can all agree that even if they didn’t invent it, Italians treated it best!
In the UK, pasta is a kitchen staple: it’s comforting, delicious and easy to cook with (from the packet that is, making it yourself is a different ball game we’ll come to shortly…). However, it wasn’t always such a pantry essential. In fact, it was still considered to be such an exotic food in 1957 that on April Fool’s Day the BBC aired a hoax programme which detailed how spaghetti grew on trees, with each strand always reaching the same length, tricking thousands of people.
To our ears the different names of pastas sound romantic, exciting and exotic, especially when spoken by native Italians. However, the literal translations are often less charming.
Linguine means ‘little tongues’, lumaconi translates as ‘snail shells’, while mostaccioli and orecchiette mean ‘little moustaches’ and ‘little ears’ respectively.
Whatever you call it, chances are you can’t resist it.
The good news is that making your own pasta doesn’t always require a pasta maker. In his simple fresh egg pasta recipe, Jamie Oliver explains how most traditional Italian home cooks wouldn’t dream of having a machine in the house!
It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to recommending dreamy pasta dishes from some of the most skilled chefs out there.
For a glamourous take on the trusty tray bake look no further than Stevie Parle’s spinach, ricotta and porcini version which is beautiful to look at and comforting to boot.
If you’re feeling adventurous and capable, why not have a crack at Thomasina Miers’ Linguine with mussels? It packs a punch and is a really impressive way to up the pasta stakes.
And for something low-key but delicious (and you can store it in the fridge for three days afterwards – hello fancy lunchbox option) try the orzo recipe James Ramsden pinched from his wife’s book. With cabbage and pine nuts it feels fit for autumn.