Ode to Pauly Walnuts: Black Pasta

Ode To Pauly Walnuts: Black Pasta

Looking back on The Sopranos Series, while the latter years were so bad, I really miss it and today’s television pales in comparison with all its reality nonsense. One of the best seasons is when the visit Italy and make an alliance. One of the best characters of that series ever, was Furio, the tall, dark and long haired Italian who made every woman swoon. Even guys can admire him. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Pauly Walnuts. Pauly was a despicable human being. Sure, they all were, but one of the more memorable episodes is when he robs his mugs his mother’s neighbor in the nursing home for mere pocket change. So, there they are in Italy, dining in a lavish restaurant and out comes the spaghetti colored with squid ink, which is black. The squid (aka Calamari), like a skunk, squirts this jet black ink into the eyes of its enemy to blind it so it cannot be eaten. The Italians, known for wasting nothing and making an art form out of anything and everything, use this ink for many things, including, coloring pasta. Unlike black licorice or samba, its hard for some to get their head around this. About as close as it comes is black beans, ok a great comfort food, we all accept that, but black pasta? Even the green spinach pasta is hard to imagine as appetizing. In any case, getting back to one of the more hysterical Soprano’s scenes, Pauly protests and says “what is this? I can’t eat this! Don’t you have any normal pasta with red sauce and meatballs?” Being a narrow minded thug from the streets of North Jersey, the two Italian hosts look at him, then look at each other and in Italian (with English subtitles) says “And you thought the Germans were classless pieces of shit”. Its quite funny if you can ever watch it, but in a sense it is to say, that even the most non-adventurous nations of Europe can appreciate something unique compared to mainstream Americans, even if they call themselves Italian.

Now I don’t know much about the German people when it comes to culinary adventurers. I do know that I love sausage, potatoes, potato pancakes, beer and many of their other fine known dishes. I can tell you though, that most Americans, even those who call themselves Italian or European, don’t like too much adventure. Sure, all over the globe people have finally embraced sushi whereas 10-15 years ago it was referred to commonly as “bait”. Now we understand it, and its something everyone loves, even if they don’t like the actual sushi, but just the California roll with avocado, imitation crab meat and rice.

To be honest, black pasta never appealed to me either and I consider myself culinarily “very daring”. But this pasta just isn’t appealing. The only thing I do like about it, is that it has a firmer texture with more chew to it. But you can’t use cream sauce, it ruins it, I can’t see putting tomato sauce on it, and even garlic and olive oil is lost on this type of pasta. To further prove my point, I did research online. The idea of black squid ink pasta with squid (calamari) would make a beautiful black & white dish. And, it probably would have been a lot more appealing, but of course I had to throw some baby bay scallops and shrimp in there to appease my Brazilian friends who love seeing what I cook. The shrimp they like, the pasta they hated. Even for me, I decided to follow the recipe of the maker of this pasta that is on the package. Simply: garlic, olive oil, pepper flakes, pasta water, shrimp and of course the Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia. No go. It was a great idea, and when I visualized it I thought for sure I had a hit, but the shrimp in garlic and oil and hot pepper alone would have been great, the pasta just detracts from it. Hey, I tried, maybe Pauly Walnuts did have a good point. Its ok to try new things, and its certainly ok not to like it or try it again. Here’s to you Pauly!

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