Pasta is only one of the many ways to elaborate the wheat, very extended at the Mediterranean, but maybe the most famous worldwide. It is a plain food, nutritious and tasty and it is also very plain to consume it responsibly.
- In the Mediterranean we have the pasta worldwide capital, which undoubtedly is Italy, where it seems it originated. However, some people say that pasta was introduced by Marco Polo when he came back from the Orient in the 13th century. In an Etruscan tomb were found utensils which had been probably used to make pasta. In a Roman book of century I BC it refers to lasagna. In 1150 there was a factory of dry pasta at Palermo who distributed spaghettis to the Arab and Christian worlds.
- Cereals were the first cultivations in the Middle East. In Arabic, cereal is called “neama“, which means Providence and at religious rituals they are a symbol of prosperity. In Tunisia if a child throws a bit of bread on to the floor, he has to collect it, kiss it and to bring it close to his forehead as a token of respect. From the beginning they have been basic not only for nourishment but also in the cultural evolution: the first alphabets and numeration systems appeared to do the accounting of harvests and to distribute them among the population.
- Although the pasta became popular from Italy to the whole northern Mediterranean area (an expansion that already began with the Roman Empire), at the southern area it continues to be a majority who eat forms of wheat little or not elaborated such as semolina, couscous, bulgur or “mhamsa“. In all the houses of villages and towns there is a good pantry to keep them. So, from among the 50 countries where more pasta is eaten per inhabitant there are only nine of Mediterranean ones, mainly from the Northern shores (excepting Tunisia); a graphic with the consumption of couscous per inhabitant would have a quite different aspect.
- Nowadays, Italy is the first producer of pasta in the World, followed narrowly by the US. It exports a little less than the half part of its production.
Pasta is a very plain food: it is durum wheat semolina and water; it is shaped and is dried (except in the case of fresh pasta). It contains above all, carbohydrates as all the cereals, and to a lesser extent legumes; it provides us thus, with energy. The whole-grain pasta and the semi whole-grain are more nutritious and digestive because they keep all or part of bran (fibre and minerals) and of germ (fat and vitamins). The semi whole-grain is more complete than the white one and less than the whole-grain; the latter takes a longer time to cook it and has a stronger taste. Let us have in our diet a good proportion of cereals.
- The Mediterranean cuisine has endless possibilities to eat cereals: all the kinds of bread, couscous, bulgur… and pasta of course, in the several Italian ways or in other ones: brik in Maghreb, phyllo in Greece…
- Let us have at least from time to time whole-wheat or semi whole-wheat pasta.
The pasta of wheat, bran, spelled and triticale contains gluten. The coloured pasta has vegetables, eggs or other dehydrated elements but in a proportion with no nutritional meaning. The big manufacturers in general dry the pasta at a high temperature, thus making it lose part of its nutritional and tasty values. Let us choose the pasta which is more suitable for our health.
- Persons with gluten intolerance can eat pasta without gluten or other cereals such as oats, barley, millet or sorghum. They can be found in dietetic shops and usually also in those which are selling ecologic products.
- To combine cereal with other nutrients, let us cook pasta with vegetables and otherfresh food.
- Let us see if we can find fresh pasta or low temperature-dried pasta manufacturers (35ºC-50ºC) near the place we live in. They usually are little businesses, ecological ones or gourmets pasta producers.
Nowadays almost all the pasta is made with durum wheat, but it can also be made with soft wheat, triticale… The Mediterranean countries farm half the worldwide durum wheat, although there are countries like Canada that export almost all their production, the Mediterranean durum wheat is mainly destined for own consumption. Pasta is a product that gives us many possibilities to maintain the agrarian diversity and to support local agriculture.
- Let us look for pasta from enterprises buying directly wheat from their own country; let us ask about the origin of the wheat to shopkeepers and to manufacturers.
- There are ancient varieties of wheat which farming was abandoned because they are little productive. They have very good nutrition qualities and their use for elaborating pasta is getting popular: spelt, farro or emmer (Italy and also Morocco, Albania, Turkey, Israel…), kamut (Egypt and Middle East), “escanya” or einkorn (France, Italy, Turkey, Morocco…)
Most wheat is grown according to conventional intensive agriculture model which uses pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. The mills working with flours that are not ecological are fumigated with chemicals. This model generates abandonment of rural environment and ecological imbalances. Let us choose the pasta which is more respectful with the environment.
According to FAO, every year are collected worldwide some 600 million tons of wheat (some 600 kg. per inhabitant). According also to FAO, between a 10% and a 40% of the food produced is thrown away and we share it in a very unequal way: In 2001, Argentina produced wheat enough to feed India and China altogether, but in the country instead, there were problems of malnutrition. Let us not waste pasta.
- Pasta with germ stales before others, don’t wait a lot to eat it.
- In Summer, if we keep it in the fridge or in a cold place, little butterflies will not come to it so quickly.
- If we have boiled too much, let us spread it with oil, before putting it in the fridge.
Looking for satisfaction in our lives also helps to make a better world. Let us enjoy what we eat…
- We can eat pasta with sauce, in a soup or bowl, in salads…
- To make fresh pasta at home is easy. There are on sale very easy utensils to shape it. Here there is a video that explains how to do it.