Spaghetti is the classic pasta shape. The name means ‘small strings’ and is Italy’s favourite dish. Each Italian eats an average of 62 pounds of spaghetti every year. Annual production of dried spaghetti in Italy, reaches almost three million tons, of which half is exported.
According to Italian law, only durum wheat semolina flour can be used for making spaghetti. However, European laws now permit the use of soft wheat flours. For the very best spaghetti experience, check the ingredients on the label.
The thickness of spaghetti varies, but it is usually about 1/2 inch thick with a length of 10 inches. Thinner versions include spaghettini, which is 1/15 inch thick and often called vermicelli in southern Italy.
Most food historians believe that it was the Arabs who introduced spaghetti to Europe during the conquest of Sicily. Certainly, Sicily appears to have been the first place in Europe where pasta was made in long thin strands and subsequently dried. So, it can be said that spaghetti is Sicilian in origin.
Other types of pasta (dough made from flour and water or eggs), existed as long ago as ancient Roman times. However, after the introduction of industrial methods of production, the popularity of spaghetti spread throughout Italy and eventually much of the western world.
Good quality spaghetti can be recognized by its appearance and texture before tasting it. It should be an amber yellow colour, with a shiny surface and firm consistency.
For cooking pasta, many Italian cooks believe that spaghetti should not be drained into a colander, and we agree. In fact, we would recommend that you lift your pasta from the water into a sauce to avoid pouring any sticky water from the bottom of the pan being poured over your pasta.
Spaghetti goes very well with tomato-based sauce, as well as fish and shellfish sauces. Perhaps surprisingly, spaghetti is never served with a Bolognese sauce. That is reserved for serving over tagliatelle.
The best known spaghetti recipe is Spaghetti alla Carbonara, from the central Italian region of Lazio.