We can’t live for three months in Italy and not talk about pasta. Italy has an abundance of pasta varieties, perhaps only comparable to the number of cheese types available in France.
Italians like to match particular pasta types with the appropriate sauces, which means that they always have more than just an odd pack of spaghetti in their pantry. The pasta types tend to have amusing and descriptive names, for example “farfalle” meaning “butterfly” and “orechiette” meaning “small ears”. Even in the smallest super market you will find at least 20 different kinds of pasta, both dried and fresh. And because pasta is taken so seriously here, every Sicilian mama is certain about which brand is the best, even if they don’t all agree.
Unlike in Sweden and other European countries, pasta is considered only a small first course and is seldom accompanied by meat or fish on the same plate. The Sicilians (and Italians we guess) like their pasta cooked “al dente” (meaning “to the tooth”, so it should offer resistance on chewing) with a simple sauce and possibly some grated parmesan. No fancy combinations; just pasta and sauce. Meat, fish and even vegetables are almost always served separately as a different dish.
We have come to love the simplicity and variety of Sicilian pasta dishes. We often try to replicate our favourite dishes from our travels when we’re at home. Since we eat vegetarian food most of the time and because no Sicilians are around to complain at our blasphemy, we sometimes go off the beaten track and grill some sheep’s cheese (ricotta salata) with our pasta. Shhh…we trust you’ll keep our little secret.