Italians spluttering into their spaghetti over culinary crimes

By Andrea Vogt

Pizza with pineapple? It is just not on.
Pizza with pineapple? It is just not on.

A top Italian chef has called for national dishes to be certified for export, amid fresh exasperation at foreigners fiddling with their food.

Italians abroad are often confronted with menu items that are a mere shadow of the original dish.

Food purists are tired of seeing "bolognese" used to describe any minced meat sauce, while a recipe for a one-pot carbonara in France was lambasted as a "horror show" by its Roman creators earlier this year.

The two menu items are among the top 10 "invented dishes" cited yesterday by an Italian newspaper fed up with "profane interpretations" of their precious national heritage.

Niko Romito, a three-star Michelin chef, called for the creation of certified recipes to counter the trend.

"I would suggest replicable formulas that are tested in Italy by professionally certified cooks with their deep knowledge of gastronomy, traditions and research, which can then be exported worldwide," Romito, a chef at Ristorante Reale in Castel di Sangro, wrote in La Repubblica newspaper.

"The reality is there are many plates that the rest of the world claim to be authentically Italian and which pretend to represent our tradition that are absolutely unknown to us," columnist Antonio Scuteri wrote, after coming across a list of shady Italian-sounding dishes on a menu on a trip to rural Arizona in the US.

Neapolitan pizza with pineapple, he said, would shame any pizza baker from Naples.

The phenomenon of "Italian-sounding" food that exploits Italy's geographical names, images and recipes is costing the country's producers and distributors dearly.

Federalimentare, the Italian agro-food producers and distributors association, said this month that Italy loses out on a €60 billion market because of counterfeit Italian products cashing in on the country's reputation for quality cuisine and wine.

"Our number one challenge for promoting and distributing excellent Italian agro-food products is to combat counterfeiting," said Luigi Scordamaglia, the association president.

"Italian-sounding food is a market phenomenon worth €24 billion in the US alone."


Six faux pas that get Italian blood boiling

1 Spaghetti bolognese: In Italy tagliatelle is the correct accompaniment for the bolognese ragu. Pappardelle and fettuccine - as well as tube shapes, such as rigatoni and penne - are acceptable alternatives- but not spaghetti.

2 Cappuccino in the afternoon: it's a morning drink that should certainly not be drunk after meals.

3 Pizza with pineapple: for purists this was the beginning of the end.

4 Spaghetti with meatballs: this stable of New York gangster films is hard to find in Italy.

5 Pasta with a main dish: lovers of Italian cuisine know it should be eaten separately, not on the same plate as a meat dish.

6 Adding extras to carbonara: the Roman classic should not contain cheddar cheese, yogurt or scrambled eggs.


Earlier this year, Italians spluttered into their spaghetti after after a French website published a video recipe for the classic dish as a "one-pot" meal.

The video showed the pasta being boiled in the same saucepan as the bacon, and added onions and creme fraiche to the recipe, to the horror of Italians.

Spagheti Carbonara is traditionally made using spaghetti, bacon, eggs, Pecorino cheese and freshly ground pepper.

"When we're talking about a specific recipe with very strong tradition, there are limits, but of course we also have to be careful not to be too rigid and allow space for innovation within our traditions," said Luca Di Leo, from Barilla.

"One of the best aspects of pasta is its versatility and ability to be adapted to any culture."

Case in point, Di Leo noted, is that one of the dishes being featured at World Pasta Day being held in Moscow, next month is Penne alla Vodka, an Italian dish proving exceptionally popular in Russia.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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