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What's "the Italian way"? 1

I've been in the US for a couple of weeks now mostly launching the book I wrote with Oretta Zanini De Vita, Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way, published last month by W. W. Norton.

So what do we mean by the Italian way? Here are a few of its elements. More to come in future posts.

- Don't overdo it on the sauce. The pasta is the main attraction. The sauce is the condimento. The pasta is not an excuse to eat sauce. Just get a spoon.

- Don't get into a substitution mentality. To lower the cholesterol of recipes you deem unhealthy, simply look up broccoli or beans in the index, don't mess with the carbonara formula. When we call for pork fat, it's usually necessary. If you can't get salt-packed capers locally, order them on the Internet.

- On the other hand, you can almost always substitute tomato puree for pelati or vice versa, for example, or eliminate the garlic if you don't like it. You can substitute a yellow onion for a white or vegetable broth for meat broth. But don't imagine you can substitute water-packed supermarket tunafish for good Italian or Spanish tuna packed in olive oil. Clear? The key to the apparent paradox can be found in the Italian word "snaturare" -- to radically change the nature of something. You don't want to snaturare the sauce recipe.

- Use enough salt in the pasta water. The metric formula is 1 liter of water to 10 grams of coarse salt to 100 grams of pasta. Add the salt before adding the pasta to the boiling water. You cannot "always add it later" -- it won't taste right.
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