Italian Dining Experience
Sperimentare una cena all'Italiana
The water comes to a boil as the table is set late in the evening throughout homes in the rustic Tuscan village of Vinci, Italy. Parents, grandparents, children and extended family gather in the kitchen to dine, reconnect and relax, much as they did in the days of Leonardo Da Vinci when he grew up and played along those worn cobblestone streets. It’s the same village from where Pasta Lensi originates.
A call to dinner culminates several hours of chopping, mixing, splashing and tasting. With extended family under one roof, there are plenty of available cooks to step out the back door and pluck fresh oregano or basil from the family garden, chop tomatoes and slice the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
As the salted water reaches a rapid boil for the daily pasta, the family gathers and begins nibbling on the antipasto first course of cured meat, olives, cheese and perhaps fresh, seasonal vegetables–often topped with olive oil. Local olive oil and pasta are produced in abundance, if not by the family, then by a nearby artisan.
The cook reaches into the boiling pot and pulls out a pasta sample, which is tested, not with a fork, but with a bite, checking for al dente. If the pasta has passed firmness, the cook has failed and the primi piatti is ruined. Fortunately, not only is experience on the side of the pasta preparer, the raw pasta of the region is produced in the most high-quality, forgiving way to the benefit of those who don’t watch the pot as carefully as they should!
Unlike most pasta produced in the U.S., the best Italian pasta, including Pasta Lensi, is made from selected-quality durum wheat semolina for its high protein and gluten content, and then extruded through a bronze (rather than Teflon) die. It comes out firm and remains firmer longer in boiling water.
Alas, the perfectly cooked pasta is strained and arrives next at the table as its own course, along with any of a multitude of favorite sauces. The thick, flavorful pomodoro, or perhaps bianco, sauce looks simple, but the fresh, aromatic flavor comes not from a can or jar, but from garden-fresh ingredients and hours of simmering on the stove that day.
It’s the sauce that helps the cook determine which of the many pasta sizes and shapes to prepare for the primi piatti. Whatever the sauce, the pasta’s trafilata al bronzo quality provides the right porous texture to ensure that the pasta absorbs the sauce. It’s an important quality throughout Italy, where pasta consumption is about 10 times greater than that of any other country. Though, in Italy, pasta is not the main course.
After enjoying the pasta primi piatti, the secondi piatti arrives–the meat or fish course, which may include veal, sausage, chicken or pork, but usually not beef. And as conversation gets louder and more animated, the insalata of mixed greens and fresh olive oil arrives. Bottled salad dressing is unheard of as every family is well-stocked with fresh olive oil.
All the while, a bowl of fresh bread from the local bakery is readily available on the table, and wine flows freely as the primary beverage.
Long after the boiling pasta pot has cooled and younger eyes have begun to droop, the final plate arrives–dolce, a dessert of any delicious type, such as gelato, tiramisu or Italian cookies. The leisurely dinner hour can easily extend from 8-10 p.m.
The pleasant routine draws to a close and the day ends with everyone satisfied from the nurturing meal and from the family connection. It’s the centerpiece that makes up the fiber of Italy.