It’s easy to think that there’s only one country that can have any claim to producing top knotch pasta. The dish is as synonymous with Italy as pizza or the Mafia, so it’s easy to understand why anyone else claiming to know about noodle making is usually dismissed with a scoff.
It turns out that the Italians aren’t the only ones who figured out that flours, eggs and water can mix together to make something tasty. Different culinary cultures from across the world all have their own delicious interpretations that are more than deserving of a closer look. Here are seven of the best.
1. Spain - Fideo
Descended from a traditional Arabic recipe, Spanish fideo may look like a stunted string of spaghetti, but don’t let their size fool you. This small strands are traditionally served as part of a paella, where their texture perfectly complements the bold flavours of the fish and vegetables.
2. Greece - Orzo
Another example of disingenuous food, orzo is pasta hiding inside rice’s clothing. The small grain-like pieces are usually served as an accompaniment to stews and soups but have recently branched out as a worthy replacement to stodgier types in pasta salad. Orzo’s quick cook time also makes it an extremely popular choice for easy midweek meals.
3. Morocco - Couscous
Though debate continues to rage in the foodieverse, there’s no doubt that couscous really is a pasta. Made from crushed durum wheat semolina, couscous is a much lighter cousin of dishes found on the Italian mainland, and is a great accompaniment for North African style cooking. Serve with a tagine or harissa spiced chicken as a filling, healthy side dish.
4. Argentina - Sorrentinos
Argentina can boast a proud tradition of Italian immigration, and the link between the two nations is obvious if you take a look at their cooking. Pasta vendors pack the winding streets of Buenos Aires, and their specialty is undoubtedly sorrentinos. Resembling oversized ravioli, sorrentinos can be stuffed with anything from meat to cheese and are typically served with a rich cream sauce.
5. America - Spaghetti and Meatballs
Italian American cooking is a badge of honour for many in the United States and is certainly worthy of its place in the pantheon of great pasta cuisines. Though the raw ingredients are broadly similar, the real difference once you cross the Atlantic is size. For a hearty meal with pasta at its core, American style spaghetti and meatballs is surely the way to go.
6. Thailand - Pad Thai
It might be controversial, but there’s little doubt that Asian noodles and Italian pasta are inextricably linked. Both ingredients usually feature flour, egg and water and have an uncanny physical resemblance. Though there are far too many awesome Asian noodle dishes to list here, perhaps the most popular is the crowd pleasing pad Thai - one of the most popular street foods in the whole of Southeast Asia.
7. Israel - Ptitim
Similar to couscous in appearance, but completely distinct in culture, ptitim is a traditional dish unique to Israel. These small balls of pasta are traditionally served to children as a wholesome, starchy side dish to a main meal. Delicious hot or cold, ptitim has been described by one local newspaper as “more or less the only culinary contribution Israel has made to the world”.
When we spend so much of our time eating classical Italian dishes, we can easily forget that there’s a whole world of great pasta to discover. They may have perfected the art, but as this list proves, Italy isn’t the only country worthy of a place in the pasta hall of fame.