Edible Adventures: A culinary tour of Southern Italy Part 2- Pasta!

In honor of national noodle month, I am featuring a little history of Pasta in Italy. The research was done when I attended a food and wine trade mission a few years ago in Southern Italy. We visited pasta factories, farms, restaurants, you name it, if it was edible, we ate it and saw how it was made.

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta !

Campania, Italy is the area where pasta rules. Dry, fresh or homemade, it is the main food. Almost always the basic ingredient of the first course. Served with a traditional tomato sauce (in the region known as “ragout” it is complemented with most often seafood.) Always produced with durum wheat. The Torre Annunziata and Gragnano are the largest production areas that have taken pasta from the farmhouse to the factory. Entrepreneurs have never changed their standards with their growth, the quality is always guaranteed by the best selection of wheat.

All pasta is best eaten “al dente” which means that it is quite firm and not overcooked.

As our gastronomy odyssey continued, we visited family businesses that had third and fourth generations carrying on the passion of the dream once started many years ago. During the day, we traveled up and down to places I thought only mountain goats would go, they were so high up. But the vistas were breathtaking and we got a real feel for what the countryside was like. Vineyards as far as the eye could see for the most part, dotted with olive trees. They are a good pair to plant together. Artichokes and chestnuts also grow well in the region.

A product that had top billing on almost every table we ate at was the famed fresh Mozzarella.

“Only real mozzarella is true if made from buffalo milk from Campanian Buffaloes” a cheese maker told us. For the expert, all others are just “fresh stringy cheeses”. Often served very simply on a cutting board as a snack, or with sliced tomatoes (Caprese Salad), the star ingredient on pizza, or even dessert. Once you have the real silky smooth taste and rich texture, you will be spoiled. Although buffalo Mozzarella with the queen of cheese, the region does produce some other beautiful cheeses such as provolone del Monaco, manteca, smoked provola and scamorza. In Duluth, the best Caprese salad is served at the Duluth Grill.

As our travels came to an end each day, we raced back to our rooms to change and head out for a real Italian style dinner- which meant not starting to eat before 9 p.m. and big multicourse affairs to pair our samples from the vineyards to the local foods. In the Campania region, fish based dishes are a separate distinct part of food that may be called “tastes from the sea on our table”

The variations of the dishes changed rapidly as we traveled from town to town, but one thing was for sure, it was all impeccably fresh because Italians are true lovers of sea food dishes. Dishes like spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) for recipe click here insalata di polpo (octopus salad) for recipe click here and insalata di mare (seafood salad) for recipe click here is just a short list of the endless courses of seafood that we ate.

Dinners never started before 9 or 10 PM

Farm tours and “Agritourismos”  are really hot right now in Italy. They are county inns that must produce the foods served to the guests. Agritourismo is extraordinary option for rural tourism. Yes, the frantic bustle of Rome and Naples are nice, but to really relax in get immersed in a totally different culture, the countryside of Campagnia is for you. These farms are almost always run by families which are always interested in sharing their knowledge, and if they find out you like to cook, undoubtedly you always end up in the kitchen cooking something together.

Fattoria Teranova

We had the best meal here on the trip, cooked by the farmers, they made olive oil here

We ate about every 30 minutes, it seemed

Tomatoes drying in the sun

Every farm and vineyard has to have at least 2 dogs

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3 Responses to Edible Adventures: A culinary tour of Southern Italy Part 2- Pasta!

  1. Don and Susan Luber says:

    Dear Arlene

    My wife Susan and I are going to be traveling in your area from Sept 7- Sept 11. Some of our time will be spent on research and developement for a story we are doing which we hope to have published in the local media. The subject is what is the true meaning of Artisan Pastas. We plan on visiting pasta facrories in your area. Would you be interested in being our guide. We are a mid size factory producing Artisan Pastas for some leading chains in the U.S. We have been in business for over 25 years. We also have distribution to small independent retail stores. Our factory is in northern Calif. Our production is around 6-7 thousand per day. We both laminate and extrude, pack in cello bags and box’s. Our story is about small producers like ourselves. If you are interested in being our guide and part of this story, please let us know. Please tell us your fees and if you are avalable.

    When we are not working on our story we would love to have a guided tour of some of your favorite spots. Naturally food is of most interest. History and local culture are also of interest.

    Please let us hear from you.

    Very Best Regards

    Don Luber

  2. Ah. Just noticed that your colorful post was from a couple of years ago. On our month-long trip we visited Gragnano, several small pasta factories, and the valley where all the old stone grinding mills are located assisted by a charming, knowledgeable gentleman credited with helping to restore Gragnano’s standing as Italy’s historic center of pasta. If ever you do take a tour of Italy again, please let us know. Regards, Susan and Don

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