17 August 2008

Shopping: the pasta

In my current situation, you’d think I would be basking in gratitude everyday, wouldn’t you? Yet somehow I still manage to complain. The thing I usually whine about is lack of choice.

But I can’t get away with that here in the pasta aisle at Panorama (Venice’s “Target Greatland”). Sixty feet long, eight feet high on both sides, each square inch of it jam-packed with every imaginable kind of top quality dried pasta. More than a quarter of the aisle is dedicated to Barilla products alone. That’s my favorite brand!

Little ears, priests’ hats, pipes, pen points (smooth or corrugated, thin or thick, large, small or mini), tiny and giant seashells, bowties, celery stalks, wagon wheels, spiral twists, radiators, rice-like orzo, hand-shaped olive tree leaves, big yellow coins with rustic pictures stamped on them, many types of lasagna sheets (cook ahead or no-cook), any size and style of tube or string you could wish for, including handmade, hollow pici (pronounced “peachy”), even beet-, radicchio-, and spinach-tinted and other multicolored selections.

And that’s not all. You can buy the familiar stuff, or you can choose pastas made of special flours: whole wheat, semolina, corn, soy, or even rice. (By the way, Asian noodle products are in a different aisle altogether. Italians consider them ethnic foods, and there’s no room for them here anyway.)

Still not satisfied? Head over to the refrigerated case and find many of the same choices, except in the fresh versions. And while you’re there, don’t miss the gnocchi (potato dumplings that come in a range of flavors and sizes, including the romagna style discs, best when baked with cheese and butter), all the different ravioli and tortelloni with their rustic or elegant fillings, the skinny, twisted one called trofie (good with pesto), and the irregular, thick, pinched one called strozzapreti or strangolapreti (“choke priests” or “strangle priests” – how funny is that?).

So what kind do you think I buy most often? Yup. Ordinary Barilla No. 3 spaghetti, just like in New York. Still, I like the luxury of all these choices. I probably spend too much time in this aisle…