American pasta is the term for pasta produced in America, or pasta dishes eaten here. America, which has well adapted to this Italian dish since the mid nineteenth century, now produces pasta of quality similar to or at times even better than Italian pasta. Made of a flour of durum wheat semolina and water, the pasta is prepared in a range of shapes like shell, tubular, screw or long noodle shapes. Pasta dishes in America typically consist of cooked pasta tossed in a thick savory sauce such as a tomato sauce, and meat and seafood are common additions in many popular variants like American chop suey or clam pasta respectively. Some of the large pasta manufacturers of America include American Italian Pasta Company, Dakota Growers Pasta Company and New World Pasta of Ronzoni brand fame.
History of American Pasta Industry
The first manufacturing plant for pasta had been set up in Brooklyn, New York in 1848. The pasta industry has grown rapidly since then. American pasta manufacturers today follow stringent quality guidelines and government regulations to prepare high quality pasta.
Pasta was brought to America through English colonists who discovered the food during their tours to Italy. They brought with them the practice of cooking noodles and then smothering these with creamy sauce and cheese. The first macaroni machine was brought to America by Thomas Jefferson in 1789, when he returned back after serving his term as ambassador to France.
Ingredients and Preparation
The most common form of American pasta is made with durum wheat that is ground to make semolina. Other hard wheat varieties may also be used for making American pasta. Semolina is mixed with water to form a dough, that may also be enriched with eggs for making egg pasta. The dough is kneaded well till it achieves the desired consistency, after which it is extruded through a die to make pasta of the desired shapes. These shapes are cut by means of rotating blades to the desired size.
After extrusion and cutting, the pasta is put through a drying process, which takes place by subjecting the pasta to warm moist air. The amount of time taken for drying is usually 5 to 6 hours, which varies with the thickness of the pasta, as thicker pasta takes longer time to dry. Once dried, the pasta is packaged into boxes or bags, and some of the fragile variants are also packed by hand to prevent breakage.
Variations to the basic American pasta may include red and green colored varieties made by addition of tomato or spinach puree to the pasta dough.
Popular American Pasta Recipes
American pasta recipes typically involve serving cooked pasta with a sauce made of ingredients like olive oil, garlic, onions, flavoring agents, seasonings and vegetables or meats. Coastal regions, where seafood is found in abundance, often include clams, shrimp, crabs and fish in the pasta sauce. Fresh vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, celery, eggplant, peas are also commonly used.
Here are some of the popular versions of American pasta dishes-
- Pasta in Tomato Sauce: Tomato sauce is very common in American pasta dishes. American Italian food is sometimes referred to as 'red sauce food' due to the mass appeal of this form of sauce for pasta and various other dishes. A quick tomato sauce which is sometimes spicy is called marinara sauce, and is often used for American pasta recipes.
- Pasta with Alfredo Sauce: Alfredo sauce consists of butter, cream, Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese and black pepper and nutmeg seasonings. It is served over cooked pasta.
- Pasta with Bolognese Sauce: This consists of a tomato sauce containing ground meat.
- Spaghetti with Meatballs: This consists of cooked spaghetti and a sauce with meatballs.
- Baked Ziti: This is a dish made with ziti, which is tube-shaped pasta which is longer than penne but similar to it. It is cooked and then mixed with tomato sauce and covered with cheese, and then baked.
- American Chop Suey: This consists of long pasta in a meat based sauce.
- Sunday Sauce Spaghetti or Macaroni: This consists of a meat infused tomato sauce.
American pasta dishes are served hot, with a garnish of grated cheese. It may be served as a starter, side or main dish. It is most often served for the main course with meats and breads, or as a light meal by itself.
- The National Pasta Association, founded 1904, is a trade association representing pasta manufacturers, suppliers and other elements of the American pasta industry.
- According to the National Restaurant Association of America, Italian American cuisine is amongst the top three ethic cuisines of the United States, other two being Mexican and Chinese influenced cuisines.
- 'Red Sauce Joint' is a classic example of an American mom and pop eating joint serving popular American pasta dishes like Spaghetti with meatballs. Its aesthetics of red checkered tablecloths and chianti bottles serving as candlestands still inspire designs of modern restaurants.