Christmas comes early for the Italian club this year with their “Pasta e Basta!” event Tuesday in the International House.
As the name, which translates to mean “pasta and nothing else,” implies, the festivities will center on a traditional Italian pasta meal. The professors of UT’s Italian program are hosting the lunch in recognition of the end of an eventful semester and the beginning of the holiday season.
“The Italian program likes to say ‘Grazie!’ (thanks) to their students for their hard work during the semester,” Renee D’Elia-Zunino, the club’s adviser, said. “We organize this event to celebrate the end of the semester, the holiday spirit and the friendships that were created in the classrooms.”
The menu consists of two pasta dishes, penne cone le zucchine (penne with zucchini) and spaghetti al pomodoro, which is classic spaghetti with tomato sauce.
“We are eating classic yet simple Italian dishes that are made from fresh, healthy ingredients,” club member and junior in journalism and electronic media Margaret Sharbel said. “We support the Italian ideal of eating real food, in the company of our friends and family, and never rushing the experience of the pleasures of Italian food.”
Various desserts will also be served, including the typical Italian Christmas sweets pandoro and panettone.
“They have very old origins,” D’Elia-Zunino said. “Pandoro is a traditional Italian sweet yeast bread, most popular around Christmas and New Year. It is often served dusted with powdered sugar to resemble the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps during Christmas.”
Panettone is an equally unique dish comprised of candied oranges, citron, lemon zest and raisins. Variations such as chocolate are also popular.
“It is a type of sweet holiday bread that is one of the symbols of the city of Milan,” D’Elia-Zunino said. “It dates back to the Roman empire.”
Panettone’s date of origin demonstrates the number of years (centuries, in fact) that Italians have known their way around the kitchen. But length of culinary experience alone is not the only reason why Italian food has earned such an infamously pleasurable reputation.
“The great thing about Italian cooking,” Sharbel said, “is that it promotes creativity and beauty in the kitchen and completely nourishes the body. Italian cooking is an event in itself because it brings together people who share a love for great foods and good company.”
Annachiara Mariani, instructor of the Italian 111 class, agrees.
“In America, dinner is oftentimes not made such a big production of,” Mariani said. “People are too busy and fast food is popular. But in Italy, the dining table is the center of the family. Women can spend all day cooking.”
This sense of community associated with eating together is the primary reason for “Pasta e Basta!” in the first place, Sharbel said.
“The most important part about this event is the chance to get all the Italian students together before the holidays,” she said. “While there will certainly be time to learn about Italian cooking, the event is mostly for students just to come hang out and be together, practice our Italian and simply enjoy one another’s company while sharing a delicious meal.”
The meal will be followed by musical entertainment provided by the club members themselves.
“One of my students sings opera, and she will be performing for us,” Mariani said. “Another student will play traditional Italian music on the guitar.”
All in all, the event promises to be warm, festive and community-centered, which is what the Italian club is all about.
“This idea of coming together to celebrate life, if you will, with family and friends and wonderful food is a true Italian value that I have come to learn about from the Italian program at UT,” Sharbel said.
Unfortunately, this event is not open to the public at large due to limited space and food quantities. However, those interested in UT’s Italian community are strongly encouraged to get involved. Fun group activities such as going out to eat at Italian restaurants are typical of the club, and an overnight stay in a cabin on Buffalo Mountain is planned for later this school year.
“While the semester is coming to an end, it would be fantastic to see more people interested once we return from Christmas break,” Sharbel said. “We screen Italian films about once a month in the library, we have Italian Table once a week at Starbucks in the library to work on speaking in Italian and we will be planning other events for the spring.”
“The Italian program is very small, but we are a big family,” D’Elia-Zunino said. “Students and instructors try to get together often to know each other, share experiences and learn from each other. And we have a good time, always.”