Thursday, October 18, 2007

Word of the week: pasta

Our word of the week is pasta. Pasta? you say. I know all about pasta.

Oh yeah? Betcha don't.

Our most famous pasta and its default meaning, even in Italy, is the well-beloved product formed into various shapes and consumed in great abundance to the joy of many. It is divided into pasta asciutta (regular pasta eaten with a sauce or butter) and pasta in brodo (pasta in a liquid base such as soup or broth). Pasta asciutta may be further subdivided into pasta fresca (freshly made at home, or artisanal) or pasta secca (dry pasta, industrial stuff).

While the plural of pasta, le paste, could be used as the plural of the above, it is usually taken to mean "pastries." Italian pastries (photo) are mighty fine, and are often brought as a gift, especially on Sundays. When I think of a box of Dunkin Donuts and a tray of paste, neatly wrapped with their curled ribbon, I just want to cry. Or run to Logan Airport and take the next plane. The ad does say "America runs on Dunkins," but perhaps this is not what they meant. Paste come from the pasticceria, pasta comes from a pastificio.

Pasta is also the word for dough (the raw mixture of water and flour). Finally, it is the Italian equivalent of the French pate' (although you will also find the French used too, especially for Frenchy things such as foie gras). Anchovy paste is pasta d'acciughe.