Two Pastas, Alike in Dignity

Speaking extremely generally, it’s possible to say Italy has two distinct pasta cultures. In the north, they glorify pasta fresca, or fresh pasta. In central and southern Italy, machine-made pasta secca, dried pasta, is dominant. One is made by hand with egg and soft flour. The other is extruded from a dough of durum semolina and water. Neither is “better” than the other, any more than pappardelle al ragù is better than bucatini all’amatriciana. They are different foods with different uses, representing different traditions. But in America, especially in certain high-end restaurants, it can be difficult to escape the idea that eggy fresh pasta is the true pasta.

The large-scale production of dried pasta has a longer history in Italy than tomato sauce. The first known mention of dry noodles produced for long-term storage and export comes from the 12th-century Arab geographer Al-Idrisi, who lived at the court of Roger II, the Norman king of on street corners with their hands constituted an attraction for wealthy tourists from Northern Europe.

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