Fettuccine, ravioli, lasagne, tortellini, cannelloni, spaghetti, macaroni… If (like me) the mere mention of these words make your mouth water, you’ll be happy to know that today, 25 October, is World Pasta Day.
And this is not just some willy-nilly food day like Chocolate Milkshake Day or Hamburger Day, this is serious stuff. The idea for a World Pasta Day was born out of the World Pasta Congress held in Rome on this day back in 1995. To quote the Union of Organisations of Manufactures of Pasta Products of the EU (UN.A.F.P.A. – believe it or not, there actually is such an organisation):
“Account was taken and stress was laid on the importance of spreading to the utmost the knowledge of pasta among consumers throughout the world by means of collective initiatives of promotional nature and institutional information campaigns.
The countries with greatest experience in this field made available their know-how for the benefit of those countries which have only recently come to realise the virtues and merits of pasta.”
It all sounds terribly formal, but basically the idea of the day is to organise annual events around the world to promote the benefits of pasta and show that it is “appropriate for a dynamic and healthy life style capable of meeting both primary food requirements and those of high-level gastronomy.”
I’m all for it, of course. If I had pick a favourite category of food, pasta would definitely be at or near the top. Its versatility makes it ideal for everything from a quick snack to a hearty home meal to a gastronomic feast. And I know many people share this passion – quite amazing for a simple dough made from only flour and egg. But of course the magic doesn’t lie in the pasta itself, but in the way it serves as the perfect base for anything from a basic sauce or pesto to a mouthwatering combination of vegetables, meats or seafood.
And the best part of it is that pasta can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. Pasta is a good source of complex carbohydrates, low in sodium, cholesterol free and (in the case of whole wheat pasta) a good source of fibre. And of course it works well with other healthy foods – to quote the Pasta Fits website, it is the perfect partner for “fiber-filled vegetables and beans, heart-healthy fish and vegetable oils, antioxidant-rich tomato sauce and protein-packed cheese, poultry and lean meats.”
While pasta may be traditionally Italian cuisine, the rest of the world has certainly caught on to its appeal. The Italians still eat by far the most pasta (26 kg per capita per year, according the the International Pasta Organisation’s 2010 consumption figures), but Venezuela, Tunisia and Greece also consume more than 10 kg per person, while Switzerland (9.7kg), USA (9.0kg), France (8.1kg), Germany (7.7kg) aren’t too far behind. Australia is a bit down the list, at 4kg per capita, and I have no idea what the figure for New Zealand is. (While the USA may not top the per capita list, they consume the most pasta in total – almost a quarter of the global consumption!)
But wait, enough talking – I’m ready for a good hearty lasagne. Buon appetito!