The art of the perfect spaghetti twirl

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 29, 2012 9:58 PM

Like any good partial Italian, I am a big lover of all things pasta. I love homemade pasta, and boxed Barilla. I have no issues with lasagna, manicotti or baked ziti. I love pesto sauce, alfredo sauce, and good old-fashioned tomato sauce. I love pasta prima vera. I also love vegetables in my various sauces; I have no problem with chicken, beef, prosciutto, sausage. The shape of the pasta matters not; they all basically taste the same anyway. Still, I admit that even with my general love of pasta, I do have a favorite and it’s regular twirly spaghetti with just about any kind of tomato sauce.

Last night, I made an arrabiata sauce with some extra veggies thrown in and served it over whole-wheat spaghetti. It’s not quite the same as regular egg-based spaghetti but it’s healthier. I grated some cheese on top and set two plates down on the table, one for Kevin and one for myself. We had only forks for utensils and neither one of us thought much about it at the time as we stuck the fork in, twirled clockwise and slurped up the noodles, careful to not get too much on our respective faces. No spoons were employed in the eating of this meal. But it did get me thinking about how spoons came to be used in the fine art of twirling spaghetti in the first place. I did some research. Here’s what I found:

“Most restaurants (and hostesses) that feature pasta provide guests with a large spoon as well as the knife and fork. The fork is used to spear a few strands of spaghetti, the tips are placed against the spoon, which is held on its side, in the left hand, and the fork is twirled, wrapping the spaghetti around itself as it turns. If no spoon is provided, the tips of the fork may be rested against the curve of the plate.” That’s from Elizabeth L. Post, in The New Emily Post’s Etiquette, published in 1975.

However, in Italy, while it’s customary to have a spoon at each place setting, it’s not for twirling assistance. Evidently, pasta is placed in a bowl or on a plate, then sauce is spooned over the top, and cheese, if requested, is sprinkled. The fork and spoon are used to toss it all together, then the spoon is set aside and you use your fork alone to twirl. Only small children and those who are motor-skills-challenged are permitted to twirl on a spoon. Italians think of a spoon like training wheels.

As for using a knife to cut your spaghetti, you’d be likely to hear this response: “Siete fuori della vostra mente?” Translation: Are you OUT of your mind? Followed by “idiota,” hissed quietly. I know this, of course, because of my partial Italian heritage.

My dad was a stickler for the proper twirl. We all learned at an early age how to twine and twirl with no training wheels. And he was Irish. My mother is the Italian one. He made one of my college roommates who was not versed at the pasta twirl sit at the table until she mastered it. He did it with a great deal of charm, and my roommate just loved him. She was German. Not sure if that had anything to do with her lack of pasta twirling skills.

There is also evidently some wondrous invention called the twirling spaghetti fork for the pasta-twirling challenged. It works much like a regular fork and the twirling action is the same except for one tiny little detail. It’s electric. You put the fork down into the pasta, push a button and the fork spins, reeling in the noodles until you release the button. Just $9.95, dishwasher safe and requires 2 AAA batteries.

È ridicolo.

A non-animated version was invented by a man named Bob Balow. His fork has a twisted shaft, much like a cocktail spoon. You put the fork in the pasta, run your fingers down the shaft, and the fork spins. This is probably a better version if only because you don’t have to worry about batteries.

What constitutes the perfect spaghetti twirl? Snag a few strands of spaghetti, let the tines of the fork rest against the bowl or plate, and twirl the fork, giving a few quick and brief lifts to prevent too much pasta from twirling. Too much can be disastrous. First it’s difficult to get a fork loaded with a plate of spaghetti into your mouth no matter how big your mouth is. Second, some always falls off and splashes. This is also why it’s best to not wear white or other light colors easily stained by tomato sauce.

It is an art form truly, to twirl, eat and not slurp. If followed by a lovely sip of Chianti, all the better.

Perché il vino fa tutto meglio.


live out loud

Comments (2) -

11/30/2012 6:28:34 PM #

I wasn't going to say anything, but...I had spaghetti for breakfast...I couldn't help it after reading this!

Larissa United States

11/30/2012 8:56:41 PM #

It's never too early or too late for spaghetti. I remember eating it at 3 in the morning when I was in college!

Lorin United States

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