Everyone loves pasta, right? In all its forms it’s a simple, delicious meal, so for #WorldPastaDay we look at some facts of the finest pasta dishes from different food cultures
It’s one of the planet’s staple foodstuffs, the basis of entire culinary worlds, and a comfort food for millions of people. It’s also one of the most versatile foods you can eat, with thousands of different varieties available. Let’s look at some of the top pasta dishes from around the world, and see if they inspire you to cook them for yourself.
Historically, Argentina has had many Italian immigrants, and their heritage is still strong to this day, not least in the variety of pasta dishes on offer.
The back lanes and markets of pretty much any major city are packed with pasta sellers, with quick, easy and delicious street food being their specialty. The dish you’ll likely see the most is sorrentinosa kind of giant ravioli stuffed with pretty much anything you can stuff inside a pasta shell — meat, vegetables, cheese — and served in a rich cream sauce.
Germany, Austria and Central Europe: Spatzle
A common accompaniment to meat dishes and often served in gravy, Spätzle (meaning ‘little sparrow’) are thin egg noodles. You might also be served Knöpfle (‘little buttons’) — the same recipe but in a rounded shape.
You’re just as likely to get these in a high-end restaurant as you are from a stall at a Christmas market, and across this region of Central Europe, the same basic pasta goes by many names, including nokedli, csipetke or galuska in Hungary, halusky in Slovakia, or vaserspacli in Slovenia.
Italy: lasagnette ai tre sughi
You didn’t seriously think we were going to miss out Italy, did you? The spiritual home of pasta has hundreds, if not thousands, of regional variations to try, each with its own little twist of deliciousness.
in Verona, Lasagnette is not lasagna as you’ll know it, and the name might give away why: it’s “little lasagne”, strips almost the same as fettuccine, and the way you eat it is that you’ll get the fresh pasta accompanied by three boats containing different sauces (usually some sort of meat, tomato sauce, and a pea sauce), and you add and combine to get the exact flavor you like.
Basically Egypt’s national dish, you’ll find kusharic everywhere you go. Pasta, rice, and lentils combine and are given some pep with the addition of a zesty, spicy tomato sauce, fried onions, garlic vinegar, and occasionally, chickpeas.
If you’d like to indulge in this festival of carbs, head to one of the kushari carts on pretty much any street corner. The cart will contain huge metal urns of the main ingredients and within five seconds, the vendor, in a flurry of skill and spoon work, will transfer the ingredients onto a platter, banging the spoon on the side of the urn after each ingredient and creating the familiar clanging cacophony of a busy kushari cart.
A bit of a one-pot wonder, this one, and although it’s a Valencian specialty, it’s beloved throughout Spain. You can say it’s a form of paella (large, shallow iron pan, seafood, etc.), but it’s the pasta element that sets Fideua aside.
The pasta is in noodle form, and it’s briefly fried to give it a bit of oomph before being added to the pan with a selection of seafood (commonly cuttlefish, monkfish, shrimp and the like). This is all then cooked in a broth flavored with saffron, and left to cook unstirred, meaning a slight crust develops on the bottom of the pan, enhancing the delicious flavors.
UAE and the Persian Gulf: balaleet
A popular breakfast food that’s both sweet and savory, balaleet is consumed across the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. It’s especially popular during the Islamic Eid al-Fitr celebrations, marking the end of Ramadan.
Balaleet consists of fried vermicelli noodles topped with an omelette. The noodles are flavored with sugar, cardamom, rose water and saffron, giving it a unique combination of flavors and textures that has to be tried to be believed. Eaten hot or cold and sometimes topped with nuts or dried fruit to amplify the flavors even more, there’s a reason it’s so popular!
Southern India and Sri Lanka: idiyappam
Thin rice noodles served at either breakfast or dinner, idiyappam‘s popularity has also spread to Southeast Asia, with varieties also served in Singapore and Malaysia (known as putu mayam), and Indonesia (putu mayang).
The dough is generally made with ghee, coconut milk and sugar, rolled into a ball, and pushed through a traditional wooden idiyappam press before being steamed. As a breakfast dish, the noodles are served with a vegetable stew or something a touch sweeter, like fish curry. Come dinner, the curry will be fish again, potato or meat, and will be served with coconut chutney. It’s not an undiscovered regional specialty, clearly, but it is something different.
Not only can you judge the deliciousness of traditional Turkish cuisine by eating Manti – you can also find out what your hosts think of you: the smaller the manti, the more highly you’re thought of. It makes sense, as these small dumplings are small, fiddly, and time-consuming. They’re also absolutely lovely.
Each of the dumplings is filled with a mixture of lamb, onion, parsley and salt, carefully pressed to seal the mix inside, and baked quickly in a hot oven before being boiled. When served, they’re topped with three different sauces — brown butter, caramelized tomato and garlic yogurt — and seasoned with pepper, sumac and mint. amazing.
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