I’ve been devouring Stanley Tucci’s new memoir, Taste: My Life Through Food, which is essentially a love letter to the role that food has played in his larger-than-life Italian-American family. He is a masterful storyteller, but what I love most about the book are his rants — like the one below — which somehow make the Searching for Italy host even more likable than he already is…
Writes Stanley Tucci:
Italians are very, very, very particular about what pasta goes with what sauce. Only certain “salse” complement certain “paste” and vice verse. This is why in any worthwhile Italian cookbook there will be at most three different types of pasta suggested to accompany a specific sauce.
There have been times when someone in my household (no names) made a traditional family sauce and served it with a completely incompatible pasta. I cannot describe the feeling I have when confronted with this. First, I am angry with myself for not being able to cook the meal, most likely because I was doing something annoying like acting (an activity that frankly is beginning to wear a bit thin as the years go by), and second, I am confounded that whoever made the choice (no names) does not innately know that, as per example, the combination of star pasta and a meat ragù is an act of heresy. As far as I am concerned, they may as well have just cut out my tongue with a broadsword and danced on the graves of my ancestors. Of course, this reaction is extreme and completely unfair. How could they possibly know the finer points of pasta/sauce pairings unless they were raised by an Italian or a food freak? However, when this happens, I take a deep breath, quietly suggest a more appropriate coupling next time (although I vow to myself that there will be no next time because I will be present to stop it), and try not to pity them because they were raised by philistines.
My suggestion to anyone who eats pasta either with or without gluten is, pair it with the appropriate sauce and vice versa, because you never know who might be watching. Here are a few wonderful, and for me, acceptable combinations of paste and salse.
Spaghetti: Salsa pomodoro con tonno (tomato sauce with tuna), carbonara (bacon and egg), vongole (clams, shown below)
Rigatoni: Beef-based ragù, all’Amatriciana (tomato, guanciale, pecorino)
Ditali: Salsa pomodoro con piselli (tomato sauce with peas), salsa pomodoro con cozze (tomato sauce with mussels)
Of course, these are Tucci’s opinions, and he acknowledges that elsewhere in Italy, other regions have their own thoughts and justifications on the matter. In Bologna, he explains, ragù isn’t served with rigatoni but “traditionally eaten with fresh tagliatelle or maybe, maybe fettuccine. (‘Traditionally eaten’ in Italy means that if you eat it any other way, you’ll end up on a watch list.)”
Thoughts? What food pet peeves do you rant about?
(Pasta photo by Laura Stolfi/Stocksy. This essay was excerpted with permission from Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci.)