Most Italians I know say that Barilla is the best pasta overall. It's made locally and I used to enjoy it in the states too. So when the local Supermercati had Barilla for 1 euro per box, I stocked up.
I also had some boxes of Barilla pasta that I had bought at the base commissary. I realized I had two boxes of Mezze Penne, one from the states and one from Italy. Out of curiosity, I compared the two boxes.
The boxes had much the same layout with just minor differences. The nutritional info is organized differently here for example. But much of the marketing info was similar.
|American Barilla on the left, Italian Barilla on the right|
|Same layout, recipe and similar statements about product attributes|
|Ingredients: Flour and water|
|Ingredients: Flour and a whole bunch of other stuff|
Why does the same pasta from the same company sold in America have all these additives and the one in Italy has only flour and water?
Upon further inspection, I see that the Barilla pasta from the states is actually made in the states, not Italy. And it has all these extra things in it.
Before I moved to Italy, I started wondering about the additives we have in food in general, but it became more alarming to me after I moved to Italy and I find that there aren't as many additives in the food here. I have also noticed that the kids are much more open minded to food here and like a lot of things better.
Of note, I bought frozen peas in town. Emily ate them like crazy. Even asked for seconds. Back in the states, in her own words, when I offered her peas she would say, "No thanks, I'm not a big fan." A few weeks later, I bought frozen peas again, but this time it was from the base. I offered them to her and she took a big spoonful and said, "Are these Italian peas?" I said, "No, they are from the base." She responded, "Yeah, I can tell. They aren't as good."
I can't even do justice to the quality the summer produce. I'll just say it's amazing...fruit like peaches, apricots, watermelon...vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes...they are so ripe, you can only buy ahead for a few days or else they will go bad!
Even jars of tomato sauce. The only ingredient is...you guessed it. Tomatoes! And the sauce has a flavor like no other store-bought jar of spaghetti sauce you ever tried. Saute a little garlic in some olive oil, add a few vine ripe piccadilly tomatoes, pour in the tomato sauce with a pinch of sea salt and simmer. (And a few salsiccia (sausages) are a nice addition too!) Too good!
It's a different approach to food...fresh and unprocessed to the extent possible. This is definitely one part of Italy that I will forever take with me, and I will likely have issues with when I return home. Pasta is a staple here like none other. Yes, people eat pasta at least once a day. My friends operate a food distribution as part of their ministry work and I love that the bulk of the food that is distributed...the foods that an Italian family cannot live without, are pasta, parmesan cheese and olive oil. In the states, those are gourmet luxuries. Here they are basics. Staples. No Italian pantry would be without them!
I know what you're thinking...can I tell the difference between the Italian Barilla and the American Barilla? I tell you, I can! You can tell that there is a freshness even in dried pasta between them and I definitely prefer the Italian Barilla!
So, who's willing to ship me Italian dry pasta when I'm in back in the states???
...Which brings me to my gifts! Today I'm making note of the following things for which I am thankful :)
4. Jars of tomato sauce on sale for 65 euro cents per jar
5. Google translate
6. Ability to buy Italian foods and American foods at whim! I've met many ex-pats here in Italy that cannot shop on the base and they miss the comforts of home greatly! I am blessed!