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Mar 11, 2007 02:39 PM

the modern food culture in italy

in italy today, do people still make their own fresh pasta from scratch?? or is store bought more common?? and are we talking store bought fresh pasta or in a box as a major national brand from a big industrial sized factory. same with sauce-- do most people make their own or are there versions of our Ragu/Prego?? are supermarkets taking over or do small outdoor markets and mom and pop shops predominate??

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  1. Mark:

    Italy is a big place!

    In the far north, where my wife has relatives we visit frequently, I have first hand information and can relate it. But somebody from the center or south might have a completely different answer. (I know...I know... the real answer will come from combining all the regional responses.)

    In Cuneo, store-bought fresh pasta is far more common than it is here in central New Jersey. Yes, the big box supermarkets like Coop and Auchan have large fresh pasta sections, but there are also specialty stores devoted to fresh pasta - something one rarely finds here. We are talking about a broad range; national brands, local companies that supply a few towns, and store made. Italians also consume a huge quantity of industrial dried pasta. I've heard numbers that range from five to ten million kilos a day. And most households have at least one person who knows how to make fresh pasta from scratch.

    Sauce is another story. With the exception of pesto, people rarely seem to buy prepared name-brand sauces. (although they would from a take-out shop) To the average Italian, a spoonful of butter or a splash of olive oil and a pinch of cheese is just fine.

    Supermarkets and "mom and pop" stores are both important, but what's in between is even more so. Chains like Maxisconto, who's stores are about the size of a CVS in New Jersey seem to get a very high percentage of food buying customers. They have great range and are very quick to get in and out of.

    1. You should be aware that dried pasta (from Barilla, DeCecco, etc.) is far more widely used in southern Italy (south of Rome) than fresh pasta (store-bought or homemade). Filled pastas (tortellini, ravioli, etc.), that are usually made from sheets of fresh pasta, are far more common in the north than the south. Northern Italians each quite a bit of rice as well. Southern Italians do not.

      While supermarket-type stores are springing up in the suburbs of many Italian cities, most of the shopping in the urban centers is still done in specialty shops and local markets.

      1. i'd agree with the above. i'm in rome, where store bought is MUCH more common. however, i've know plenty an italian woman to make their own "gnocchi" (perhaps this is because it's not as time consuming).

        1. Plenty of people still make fresh pasta at home, maybe just not as often. Most towns of any size have specialty shops where you can buy fresh pasta, especially the more time consuming filled varieties. Many people use supermarkets primarily (but not exclusively) for bigger items, household goods, detergents, frozen foods and dairy products. If they can get to a butcher or fish monger, they usually prefer that.

          1. I lived there for many years and it seems odd to buy commercial sauce when it so easy to make it yourself. There is a sense avoiding perservatives and unnecessary chemicals or ingredients. A standard red sauce is x-tra virgin olive oil, garlic, tomato sauce, and salt or in the south blend San Marzano tomatoes. Pasta, on the other hand, usually is made fresh for special occasions. Making it everyday may be difficult because of a lack of time.

            Also, the question you asked can vary from the city/country and north to south.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Campania

              It should probably be noted that pasta fresca generally found in Italy's stores (more in the north, as mentioned) has little resemblance to the "fresh pasta" found even in most decent US supermarkets, unless you live in a place like NYC, etc. in specialty stores.