Pasta .. do's and dont's

Pasta and Italian cooking

Pasta and Italian cooking

Say pasta and instantly Italy comes into your mind. Scrumptious hollow tubes wallowing in tomato sauce, topped with parmesan cheese and a sprig of fresh Basil. So homely, delicious and the aroma.
There are so many pasta shapes but the taste and recipe has not changed, some have tried to add herbs or colours to no avail, traditional always wins.
There are a few simple principles to cooking pasta, the first being totally ignore the cooking time printed on the pasta packet, for the Italian palate the cooking time will be probably half of the printed suggested time and to achieve 'al dente'. The next is to add salt to the water before the pasta goes in, a good amount, this not only adds flavour but actually slightly raises the boiling point of water, now add the pasta while the water is boiling, never walk away at this point, the pasta is unforgiving, stir occasionally and no sticking will occur. Once your pasta is cooked, always add the sauce to the pasta and not the other way round and never add oil to the cooked pasta.
There is a reason for different shapes and sizes of pasta and generally, though not always, use delicate shapes and noodles with lighter sauces, and bigger more generous pasta with heavier sauces, but just as with wine the choice is endless and yours.
The most popular pasta with tomato sauce is fusilli (twists) and penne (tubes), and within these two are numerous different sizes, and of course the homemade version of each regional pasta.
Fish with pasta is extremely popular too, using farfalle shapes (butterfly), Fettuccine (ribbons) come in various lengths and widths, Casarecce (which means homemade) has such free flowing forms and lovely pockets to collect the sauce.
The larger pasta such as Conchiglie, Fusilli col buco, Napoletani and Lumanconi to name a few, are for the heavier meaty sauces. These have large crevices to pick up the glorious salsa that are served with this large and appealing pasta.
Not forgetting the humble ravioli pasta, this is an envelope of pasta filled with seasonal vegetables, cheese such as ricotta or mozzarella, herbs and/or meat depending on the maker of the pasta on the day, complimented with the correct sauce, which will be added just before serving.
The lists is endless as is the possibilities of the sauce to accompany the pasta, let yourself loose in the kitchen, raid your larder cupboard and just see what an exciting and different meal you can achieve. Happy pasta cooking...and enjoy. Ciao.


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