The United States has been in the throes of the so-called pastarization, or the popularization of pasta where fettuccine, fusilli, and ziti are becoming household words even in non-Italian households. Of course, spaghetti is still at the forefront of pasta popularity because it’s served in both upscale restaurants like Alinea and fast-food joints like McDonald’s.
But with its increasing popularity comes the question: What is the right way of eating spaghetti? Such a question should be asked considering that most restaurants provide customers with a large spoon, a surprising addition for many people, as well as the customary knife and fork. You will want to know which utensil to use and how to use it, if only to avoid embarrassment.
Use All Three Utensils
But do so for different purposes. Keep in mind that Italian restaurants that know their stuff consider it proper to place a relatively large spoon at ever place setting, a tradition also observed in Italy.
This is because the pasta is first placed in either a bowl or a plate depending on the consistency of its sauce – a bowl for a more liquid sauce, such as a clam sauce or a juicy primavera; a plate for a less liquid sauce. Then, you can spoon the sauce and cheese on top of the pasta according to your preference. You use your fork and spoon in tossing the pasta with its sauce and cheese – a knife and fork combo just won’t cut it, pun not intended – until these are combined well.
That’s when you finally use your fork alone in eating the pasta. Even this part has its own set of rules albeit informal ones. You use the fork in spearing a few strands of spaghetti, just enough for a bite-sized portion, so that its tips are placed against the spoon; place the spoon in your left hand and on its side for good leverage. You then twirl the fork so that the spaghetti strands wrap around its tines as it turns.
But what if for any reason a spoon isn’t provided? Yes, it can happen in fast-food joints and in fast casual restaurants where Italian traditions aren’t observed. In this case, you can rest the tips of your fork against the curve of your plate.
Use Just the Knife and Fork
But there’s also another line of thought about using a spoon when eating spaghetti and other forms of pasta. Many chefs think that spoons are only used by amateurs and adults with poor table manners as well as by children. Indeed, some chefs and purists will even go far as saying that it’s a sacrilege to use a spoon when eating pasta!
There are even stories about Italian parents actually disciplining their children when they can’t master the technique of using just a fork in eating pasta! The proper technique even involves not allowing even a few strands of spaghetti to hang down the fork while the mouthful is transported into the mouth.
This can be achieved by twirling the fork with its spaghetti strands around and giving it quick but brief lifts, which will prevent one too many strands from wrapping around the fork. As soon as a discrete amount of pasta can be easily lifted with little to no strands hanging down too obviously, you can hoist away and into your mouth.
There are other methods of preparing and eating pasta that can be debated.
Should you serve bread with pasta? Well, it depends on your preference and circumstances including your family’s tradition. You may like bread not only because it’s usually served with spaghetti in many restaurants but also because it’s a great finish to the meal – use the bread for mopping up the leftover sauce. You may not like it, nonetheless, because it isn’t what Italians in Italy do and it’s one more carbohydrate source.
Should the strands of spaghetti be broken, usually in half, before these are placed in a pot of boiling water? Absolutely not! Well, at least not when you’re buying spaghetti in a package from a supermarket.
The idea that spaghetti strands can be broken in half came from Italy. In that country, vendors sell yard-long spaghetti that can be broken in half so that it can be conveniently carried. But in the United States, spaghetti is sold in relatively short strands of about 11 inches so breaking it in half isn’t necessary.
Tip: Place the ends of the spaghetti first into a pot of boiling water. As the ends of the strands soften, push them down until they fit in the pot.
In the end, nonetheless, it’s a matter of taste and preference. While aged Parmigiano-Reggiano is the first choice for pasta where chefs are concerned, for example, you can choose other cheeses like pecorino and cheddar. The more important thing here is that you relish the pasta dish instead of counting calories and worrying about waistlines – life, after all, should be an enjoyment of all things pasta.