The Reason Italians Never Cook Pasta And Chicken Together

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Very few cuisines enjoy the ubiquitousness and reverence of Italian food. Enjoyed across the globe, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has never tried an Italian dish. And what gastronome hasn't dreamt of going to Italy to eat carbs and experience la dolce vita? Didn't we all drool when Julia Roberts ate that pizza Margherita at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele in the movie adaptation of "Eat Pray Love?"

No matter where you go in Italy, you're likely to find some of the most exquisite, yet simple recipes. And the sheer variety of pasta! Currently, there are 400 known pasta shapes found in Italy, and each one has a unique pairing depending on its shape and size. From pappardelle with ragù to spaghetti with creamy sauces, the possibilities are endless. With so many options to choose from, it's easy to customize pasta with vegetables, sauces, and cheese of choice. Some of the popular Italian choices are parmesan cheese, garlic, chili flakes, onion, and meats like braised beef, veal, and pork.

Oddly enough, you are unlikely to spot an Italian cooking pasta alongside an American staple: chicken. While there's no hard and fast rule against it, this curious culinary preference has people scratching their heads, since chicken dishes are quite popular in Italian-American cuisine. We have some theories as to why the Italians seem to steer clear of poultry in pasta dishes.

The traditional Italian diet didn't have much poultry

For hundreds of years, Italians have embraced the art of simple cooking using only the ingredients available in the kitchen. They call it "cucina povera," which means "poor kitchen." Proteins like turkey or chicken were a part of the rich man's diet in old Italy. A common belief was that rich people couldn't tolerate peasant food and their food would make the poor sick. Dr. Baldassare Pisanelli, a highly reputed Bolognese doctor, wrote in his 1585 book, "The World of Renaissance Italy," that when the poor "dine on birds, they get sick."

Centuries later, chicken still isn't as common in the Italian diet as it is in other parts of the world, like the United States and the United Kingdom. Italians never really cared for this particular protein anyway, so their traditional recipes rarely have them, including pasta recipes.

Pasta dishes with chicken do exist, but they aren't necessarily considered to be authentic. It wasn't until Italians moved to America that they created dishes like chicken parmigiana, a twist on the Parmigiana di Melanzane, which is traditionally made with eggplant — and to appeal to the masses.

Chicken is strictly the secondo

To put it mildly, Italians crinkle their noses at the thought of putting chicken in pasta. "When it comes to food and rules, Italians are inflexible and I approve," Italian-born "Chopped" winner Silvia Baldini told The Independent, adding that pasta shouldn't be treated as a side dish. "You cannot have pasta and steak. And of course, meatballs don't go on spaghetti. Or chicken. In Italy there are no dishes featuring pasta and chicken," she said.

A traditional Italian meal consists of four to five courses: apervitivo, antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno, and dolce. Chicken is part of the secondo course, and is strictly treated as such. That could also be why Italians never cook it with pasta. When dining, Italians like to take their time to eat and appreciate the taste and different flavors of each course separately.

Call them purists, if you will, but there is a reason why Italian food is so revered. Less is more, indeed.