Thursday 13 November 2014

Pasta Perfect

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Can you believe there're are more than 350 different types of pasta and even more names as often one shape of pasta is known by numerous terms. But they are all made out of the same basic ingredients, 100% durum wheat and water. There is a pasta shape to complement every pasta dish out there and pairing the correct pasta shape can make a big difference in your overall satisfaction when cooking. I currently have 6 different types of pasta at home, but I always veer towards some shapes rather than others. My favourites are spaghetti and fusilli but for a change I often use French brand Panzani which make an interesting Nouilles Fines variety. And recently I went out on a limb and bought large rigatoni tubes and some fusilli lunghi pasta which looks like an old fashioned spiral telephone cord! I still have no idea what to do with these! It got me thinking about matching my sauces to my pasta. For example whilst spaghetti bolognese is probably the most popular pasta dish it is actually fundamentally inauthentic as such a thick meaty sauce would be much better served with shells or tubes to 'catch' the sauce or even with longer thicker pasta like tagliatelle.

I've spent this evening doing a bit if research and I am astonished to find out what a speciality it is. It's common to become a wine or cheese connoisseur but I wouldn't be surprised if people start becoming more interested in the science of pasta shapes. It certainly has opened my eyes to how much more interesting 'making pasta' for dinner could be. Here are a few basic rules taken from the Good Food website

Pasta shapeSuch as...Serve with...
Long and skinnySpaghetti, linguine, fusilli lunghi, vermicelli
Light seafood sauces, cream- or oil-based sauces.

Long ribbonsTagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine, mafaldineRich, meaty sauces.
ShellsConchiglie, lumacheHeavy cream or meat sauces; large ones can be stuffed
TwistsFusilli, trofie, strozzapreti, caserecce, gemelliLighter, smoother sauces which will cling to the twists, such as pesto
TubesPenne, rigatoni, macaroni, paccheriHearty vegetable sauces, or baked cheese dishes. Also good with Bolognese or ragu. 
Mini shapesOrzo, fregola, canestrini, stellineIn soups and stews or as pasta salads. 
Filled pastaRavioli, tortellini, cappellettiAs the filling contains lots of flavour, these are traditionally served with a light butter or oil sauce. 

Top cooking tips

Pasta in pan• Always cook pasta in a very large pan of salted, boiling water. If you don’tgive the pasta enough space to move in the pan, it will stick together. Italians say the water should be as salty as the sea to flavour the pasta.
• There is no need to add olive oil to your pasta when cooking. It won’t prevent it from sticking together, and will just end up down the drain.
• The classic British version of spag bol usually consists of cooked spaghetti topped with saucy mince, but in Italy, the pasta and sauce are always combined in the pan to ensure every piece of pasta is coated.
Pasta cooked• Don’t cook the pasta all the way through in the water. Instead, drain it when it still has a little bite, then add to the sauce and continue cooking for a few minutes more until the pasta is cooked and has absorbed a little of the sauce.

• When draining the pasta, make sure you save a cup of the pasta water. Then, when you add the pasta to the sauce, splash in a little of the water if it looks too dry. The starch in the water will help the sauce cling to the pasta.

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