Your pasta experience(s)

I guess I’m really talking Italian food, but we can start with pasta as a for instance.

I didn’t have pizza until I was a teenager. Didn’t even know it existed!

As far as I knew until that age or older, there were only two types of what I have learned since is called “pasta”: spaghetti and macaroni. Often, those things were canned.

I suppose next was either ravioli or lasagna. Also canned or in a box.

When I heard Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) on The Sopranos refer to what I knew as spaghetti by calling it macaroni, I was stunned. Here was an Italian who didn’t know better.

I think my favorite recipe I have seen/heard in movies or on TV was the one Clemenza taught Michael in GF1.

How about you and pasta?

Are you talking about Italian food, or American Italian food, because these are not the same thing. I have to assume it’s the latter, based on your story.

As far as that goes, American Italian food has always been a part of my family’s dinner repertoire. Spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, alfredo, and of course pizza, I’d imagine these things are pretty ubiquitous for most people.

Thanks for the clarification. You’re right, of course. American Italian was what I should have said.

For a time, when I was young, I thought Chef Boy-ar-dee was the source for all of it.

That’s funny. I had never had Chef Boyardee until I was an adult and I didn’t understand how anyone could eat that shit, but later I realized that for many people that’s what pasta is. Hopefully you recognize now that that’s not what pasta is supposed to taste like?

Absolutely! It gags me with all the sugar and faux-tomato “taste.”

My Grandma was from the old country so we ate pretty authentic.
Every Sunday was dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s - we didn’t plan it, we didn’t see it as optional or occasional - it was set in stone.
My earliest memory is the smell of garlic frying in olive oil, so yeah we ate a LOT of pasta :smiley:

That’s a good first memory, zoid. When I was a kid, we didn’t get Chef Boyardee because the canned stuff was more expensive than doing it from scratch. Spaghetti sauce was:

fry hamburger, breaking it into little chunks, sometimes add diced celery,
sprinkle salt* and granulated garlic powder over the meat when it’s cooked,
add tomato paste and two cans of water for each can of paste.

That’s about it. Loved it as a kid. When we were teens and the big cans of ravioli came out, we’d get that sometimes. And there was macaroni and cheese, but that doesn’t feel particularly Italian.

Very rarely, we’d go to Shakey’s to get pizza. It was always pepperoni pizza and I hated pepperoni. I didn’t tell anyone, though, because going to Shakey’s was cool. They had a player piano and sometimes a pianist and banjo player. And we got to drink root beer.

*Unless Mom was trying to lose weight, then it was just the garlic powder. She was and is convinced that salt makes her bloat. Sorry, “retain water.”

We ate tons of pasta growing up – not every night, but several times a week. My mother’s tomato sauce is wonderful (and easy to make), and we’d have pasta alla carbonara once in a while, too. A nice treat would be when she’d make lasagna.

I could eat pasta three meals a day, every day, and never tire of it. Unfortunately, it also made me gain weight, and it’s not good for my insulin levels, so I have had to stop eating it entirely.

Zeldar, where did you grow up? And did the locals pronounce Italian as “Eye-talian”? :slight_smile: I thought that was a funny thing only found in the movies, and then I moved to Montana. Eye-talians and Ay-rabs, for serious. It was kind of shocking.

My mother made both spaghetti w/meat sauce, and mac & cheese from scratch since I was very young. She wouldn’t allow that canned crap in the house, and I found out why when I tasted some after leaving home. I didn’t have pizza until I was 18, as it hadn’t caught on as a fast food yet, particularly in Alaska, and you actually had to go to a pizza restaurant to get it.

You guessed it. Alabama. There’s a town there with the name Arab and unless you pronounce it Ay-rab they know you’re not a local.

Funny thing is that Birmingham, where my favorite aunt and uncle lived, has a large Italian community and many of them are non-Catholic (if that makes any difference), so I had the opportunity (if I had known about it at the time) to partake of more nearly authentic Eye-talian. On a similar subject it was in Birmingham that I had my first Oriental (now Asian) food.

It might help in judging my experience to know that I did most of my growing up in the 50’s.

First- and second-generation Italian Americans in the greater NYC area tend to call pasta (spaghetti, but I think other types as well) “macaroni,” and tomato sauce “gravy.” I don’t know why, but it’s really common.

Thanks for confirming what I have suspected. My version of “gravy” is nowhere close to tomato-based sauce and is more like what you pour over biscuits. There’s even the red-eye versus brown or cream to add to my experience with gravy.

Is there anything more definitive about macaroni than that it’s hollow and more or less in the inch-or-two long variety?

Not long ago I saw a website with pictures and descriptions of all the varieties of pasta you can get at the specialty restaurants. It practically blew my mind and made me curious how long the pasta explosion has been going on. (Thus, this thread.) :slight_smile:

After we moved when I was 12, our next door neighbors were an Italian family that exposed me to all sorts of food I never before imagined. Not the usual stuff - we always had eaten at Italian joints and I was familiar with pasta and pizza. But pizelles? Amazing. Then a few trips to Europe opened my culinary eyes further. Now I love pasta in all its forms, and all its cultures. We eat it regularly around Casa Silenus. Had some last night in fact.

My father’s parents were off the boat from Sicily and we are from the greater NYC area. I can vouch for this statement. Pasta was often called macaroni, but specific shapes were always called by their proper name (if we were having linguine, we called it linguine, not spaghetti). Gravy indicated a sauce with meat. No meat and it was called sauce.

Home made mac & cheese is the bomb!
My kide used to love the stuff from the box (their mother’s influence) but now they won’t touch it if it’s not from scratch. Plus it’s SO easy to do.

I’m now pretty sure that website was just

If you know of an even more comprehensive one (or more) please post link(s).

This is funny. My nephews grew up with the Kraft Mac 'n Cheese microwave-in-a-bowl stuff, and the first time they had the “boil the pasta,” add butter & milk variety was at my mother’s house. They thought it was real gourmet stuff!

My eariest experience with pizza in a small town in Nebraska, was a neighbor used to make it from scratch. It was very exotic. She would also make spaghetti sauce from scratch. Always used spaghetti noodles. (early 60’s at the time)

When I started cooking I used to make my own(Tomato) sauce, simmer it for hours etc. Always using spaghetti noodle. Learned the other sauces from friends, occassionally made fett. alfredo. Met my husband, he will NOT eat any pastas that looks like worms. ie Angle hair, fettucini, spaghetti, pici, etc. (good thing I didn’t cook spaghetti on our first date!!) So…now living in Italy we went to the grocery store to see which pastas he would not order in a restarant…there are so many…

When he goes away I make all the skinny noodles for myself hehe:p

I’m older than most of you, I think, and my mother was from a very traditional old-school anglo-saxon background. Spaghetti was about as exotic as it got. My mother did make her own sauce, though.

There was also a family casserole that they called “Roman Holiday” which was basically macaroni, ground beef and tomato sauce and it was also an exotic treat.

I was in my late teens before I knew of, or experienced, a bagel.

I first heard of and experienced pizza as a teenager.

I fed my kids the boxed stuff all the time. It was kind of a Friday night staple, along with hotdogs or fish sticks (my mother was appalled). The family Friday favorite, though, was my homemade tacos.