Delicious, healthy, quick to cook and, above all, economical – pasta really is the ultimate convenience food. Whether simply tossed with a sauce, fresh vegetables or salad ingredients, or combined as a dish and baked in the oven, pasta can be used as the base of countless fabulous meals. And because there are so many different types of pasta – fresh or dried, long or short, stuffed or flat – and so many ways of combining them, from the ultra-simple to the impressively sophisticated, there really is a pasta dish for every occasion.
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Of the many, many different types of pasta available, they can be divided into four main categories: long, short, flat and stuffed. In turn, these many be fresh or dried, with wholemeal varieties available in some shapes, and made of durum wheat flour and water, or with additional egg. They may also be coloured and flavoured with spinach (green), tomato (red), beetroot (pink), saffron (yellow), squid ink (black) and herbs.
Fresh pasta is delicious, although not necessarily better than dried pasta – and many Italians will choose dried pasta over fresh for specific dishes. As a rule of thumb, buy the best pasta you can afford, as it will make all the difference to the final flavour and texture of the dish.
Most types of long pasta are sold dried, and some are also available fresh. They vary in length and may be sold in straight lengths, pressed into waves or coiled into nests. They are usually made from plain durum wheat. Those made with delicate egg pasta are usually sold coiled into nests. Most long pastas suit smooth, creamy and clinging sauces. Common varieties include:
Resembling thick spaghetti, each strand is hollow. There is a thicker version known as bucatoni.
â- Capelli d’angelo
Also called angel hair pasta, this very long, thin pasta is like delicate vermicelli and is sold in nests. It is usually served with sauce, or in soup.
Figure 2.2 Capelli d’angelo
Long, flat ribbons sold in nests. It may be plain, with egg or with spinach. It can be used interchangeably with tagliatelle.
Figure 2.3 Fettuccine
Resembling thin, flat spaghetti and used in the same way.
Figure 2.4 Linguine
Broad, flat noodles, often with a wavy edge. It often made with egg pasta and is tranditionally served with meat and game sauces.
Figure 2.5 Pappardelle
Probably the best known of all long pastas, these long, thin strings are good with ant sauce. Spaghettini has thinner strands.
Figure 2.6 Spaghetti
Flat ribbon noodles sold in nests. It may be plain or with egg or spinach.
Figure 2.7 Tagliatelle
Fine pasta strands, sold coiled into nests. It may be plain or with egg and is good with light sauces.
Figure 2.8 Vermicelli
There are even more varieties of short pasta than there are long. They are widely available fresh and dried and may be plain, with egg, or flavorued and coloured. They are favoured by many for their versatility – suiting most sauces and being great in salads and baked dishes. Common varieties include:
Shell-shaped and available in many different sizes – from large ones for stuffing, medium ones for tossing with sauce and tiny ones for soup.
Figure 3.1 Conchiglie
Little pasta bows, plain or flavoured with spinach or tomato.
Figure 3.2 Farfalle
Pretty pasta tubes with a lacy edge.
Figure 3.3 Fiorelli
Spirals resembling tight springs, formed by wrapping dough around a thin rod.
Figure 3.4 Fusilli
Thick, slightly curved tubes of pasta. It is particularly popular served with thick, creamy sauces and in baked dishes.
Figure 3.5 Macaroni
Tiny pasta shapes for soup. They come in a fabulous array of shapes for soup. They come in a fabulous array of shapes including stars, letters, tubes, shells, bows, rings and squares. Larger ones are good for chunky soups such as minestrone, while the tiniest are ideal for light broths.
Figure 3.6 Pastina
Tubular pasta shapes with angled ends, resembling a quill.
Figure 3.7 Penne
Ridged, chunky tubes used in the same way as macaroni.
Figure 3.8 Rigatoni
Shaped like tiny cartwheels, these are very popular with children.
Figure 3.9 Rotelle
There are many flat pasta ribbons (see long pasta, above), but there is really only one type of flat pasta sheet.
Usually plain or flavoured with spinach, and available dried or fresh. The most commonly available varieties require no pre-cooking. The flat or ridged sheets may be layered with sauce and baked to make classic lasagna, or cooked then rolled around a filling and baked to make cannelloni.
Figure 4 Lasagne
Usually available fresh, but also dried, stuffed pasta is good served simply, tossed with butter or oil, or with smooth sauces. Common varieties include:
Dried pasta tubes for stuffing yourself, then covering in sauce and baking.
Figure 5.1 Cannelloni
Little hat-shaped pasta shapes made from a square of pasta dough that has been filled, folded into a triangle, and the ends wrapped round to make a “brim”. Traditionally eaten at Christmas in broth, but also good tossed with butter or sauce.
Figure 5.2 Cappelletti
Usually square, these stuffed cushions of pasta may be large or small. Fillings may vary, to, with meat, fish, shellfish, cheese and vegetables all being popular.
Figure 5.3 Ravioli
Similar to cappelletti in appearance, although larger and made with dough rounds rather than squares. Like ravioli, fillings are many and varied.
Figure 5.4 Tortellini
Pasta, whether fresh or dried, is incredibly simple to cook – as long as you follow there simple rules.
1. Always use a big pan with plenty of water. The pasta needs enough room to cook without sticking together. Allow about 5 litres of water for every 500g of pasta. If you’re cooking less pasta, you should still use at least 2.75 litres of water.
2. Add enough salt to the water: pasta cooked in unsalted water will give tasteless results. Allow 1 – 2 tablespoons of salt for every 500g of pasta.
*Don’t worry if this sounds like a lot of salt; most of it will be thrown away with the cooking water.
3. Add a little oil to the water to prevent the pasta sticking together. In the case of lasagna sheets, up to a tablespoonful of oil may be needed. Bring the cooking water to a fast rolling boil before adding the pasta – otherwise the pasta can become stodgy.
4. Add the pasta in one go so that it all has the same cooking time. Long pasta such as spaghetti should be placed in the boiling water, then gently pressed into the water as it softens to ensure even cooking.
5. Give the pasta a quick stir to prevent it sticking together, then quickly return the water to a roiling boil.
6. Reduce the heat to medium-high so that the water remains at a brisk boil, stirring now and again to prevent the pasta sticking.
7. The pasta is ready when it is al dente – that is tender, yet still with a bite when bitten. The easiest way to check this is to remove a piece of pasta from the pan and give it a bite. If you overcook pasta, you will get soft, stodgy results.
8. As soon as the pasta is al dente, drain it well, shaking the colander or sieve to remove any excess water. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons of cooking water in case you need to loosen the pasta sauce when you combine it with the pasta.
*If the pasta is to be served cold, rinse it under cold water in the colander, then set aside.
9. Serve immediately with the sauce of your choice, or add ingredients ready for baking.
HOW MUCH PASTA?
The quantity of pasta required per person is a slightly moveable feast, depending on appetite, whether the sauce is light or substantial, and whether you’re serving the dish as an appetizer or main course. However, you can use the following dry weight as a general guide:
â- for an appetizer, allow 50g (2oz) per person
â- for a main meal, allow 75-125g (3-4oz) per person
Accurate timing is essential for perfect pasta, and cooking times can vary according to the variety, brand and type of pasta. Always check the packet for timing, or, if you’re making your own, follow the timing given in the recipe. Start timing as soon as the water returns to the boil after adding the pasta. As a general guide, use the following times:
â- thin, fresh noodles 1-2 minutes
â- thicker fresh noodles and pasta shapes 2-3 minutes
â- stuffed fresh pasta 3-4 minutes
â- dried pasta 8-12 minutes (though wholemeal may take longer).
WHICH PASTA? WHAT SAUCE?
Another secret to success when serving pasta is pairing the right pasta with the right sauce -synchronizing your timing so that they’re both ready at the same time.
*Most sauces can stand a little waiting while the pasta finishes cooking, but pasta is best served as soon as it is cooked, so try to make sure your sauce is ready in time.
Although some sauces are traditionally served with specific pastas – for example fettuccine all’ Alfredo, bucatini all’ Amatriciana, and penne all’ Arrabiata – common sense usually prevails when pairing pasta and sauces.
Heavy, chunky sauces are best served with short pasta shapes, such as penne, conchiglie and rigatoni, or wide noodles, such as pappardelle and tagliatelle. The sauce doesn’t slide off these pastas in the way that it would a fine, delicate pasta such as capelli d’angelo.
Long, thin pastas, such as spaghetti and linguine, go better with smooth sauces that cling to their length, such as tomato or creamy sauces. And delicate pastas such as vermicelli go well with light sauces, such as seafood ones.
There are also classic Italian regional pairings. For example, olive oil sauces made with tomatoes and seafood, which are popular in the south, are usually served with the plain durum wheat pasta, such as spaghetti and vermicelli, that is popular in the area. In the north, however, sauces are frequently made with butter and cream, and these go very well with the egg pasta that is made there.
Fresh pasta is best eaten on the day that it is made, although it can be refrigerated for 24 hours, or frozen for up to 3 months. Ready-made, vacuum-packed varieties may be stored in the refrigerator for slightly longer, so check the advice on the packet. Once opened, dried pasta should be stored in an airtight container and used within 9 months.
Figure 6 Cooking pasta steps
HISTORY OF PASTA
Although pasta is associated with Italian food, but researchers claim pasta to be a Chinese invention that was brought by Venetian merchant Marco Polo to Italy after his famous trip to the Middle Kingdom in the 13th century.The idea that Marco Polo brought pasta from China to Italy is as similar to Italians as the idea that the hamburger came from Germany is to Americans. No one argue that the Chinese have made pasta, from many more kinds of flour than Europeans have, since at least 1100 B.C. Italians insist as a point of national pride that they invented pasta in their part of the world, despite considerable evidence that they did not. They cite as proof a set of reliefs on an Etruscan tomb dating from the fourth century BC, which carved a knife, a board with a raised edge that resembles a modern pasta board, a flour sack, and a pin that they say was made of iron and used for shaping tubular pasta. The Museum of the History of Spaghetti, owned by Agnesi (a pasta manufacturer near Turin) makes much of these reliefs, as do most histories of pasta-including the standard one, Anna del Conte’s Portrait of Pasta. The reliefs do not persuade the American historian Charles Perry, who has written several articles on the origins of pasta. “There are plenty of things to do with a pin besides shape pasta,” he says. In fact, Perry says, no sure Roman reference to a noodle of any kind, tubular or flat, has turned up, and that makes the Etruscan theory even more unlikely, given that the Romans dominated Italy soon after the Etruscans did.
The first clear Western reference to boiled noodles, Perry says, is in the Jerusalem Talmud of the fifth century A.D., written in Aramaic. The authors debated whether or not noodles violated Jewish dietary laws. (Today only noodles made of matzoh meal are kosher for Passover.) They used the word itriyah, thought by some scholars to derive from the Greek itrion, which referred to a kind of flatbread used in religious ceremonies. By the tenth century, it appears, itriyah in many Arabic sources referred to dried noodles bought from a vendor, as opposed to fresh ones made at home. Other Arabic sources of the time refer to fresh noodles as lakhsha, a Persian word that was the basis for words in Russian, Hungarian, and Yiddish. (By comparison with these words, noodle, which dates from sixteenth-century German, originated yesterday.) In the twelfth century an Arab geographer, commissioned by the Norman king of Sicily to write a sort of travel book about the island, reported seeing pasta being made. The geographer called it itriyah, from which seems to have come trii, which is still the word for spaghetti in some parts of Sicily and is also current in the name for a dish made all over Italy-ciceri e trii, pasta and chick-pea soup. The soup reflects the original use for pasta, which was as an extender in soups and sometimes desserts. Serving pasta as a dish in itself with a bit of sauce does seem to be an Italian rather than a Greek, Persian, or Arab invention. (Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, a wonderful book by EddaServiMachlin, has delicious pasta recipes that show some of the many influences that the Arab world had on Italian food.)
The Marco Polo myth has refused to die. Italians accuse Americans of promulgating it, beginning with an influential article in a 1929 issue of Macaroni Journal (now Pasta Journal), an American trade magazine, which has inspired countless advertisements, restaurant placemats, cookbooks, and even movies. (From 1919 on, Macaroni Journal occasionally published articles purporting to give the history of pasta, usually-though not always-labeling the less plausible ones as lore. The 1929 story began, “Legend has it . . .”) In the 1938 film The Adventures of Marco Polo, Gary Cooper points to a bowl of noodles and asks a Chinese man what he calls them. “In our language,” the man replies, “we call them spa get.”
In the centuries after Marco Polo’s voyage pasta continued to be a luxury in Italy. By 1400 it was being produced commercially, in shops that retained night watchmen to protect the goods. The vermicelli, as dried pasta was known, was kneaded by foot: men trod on dough to make it malleable enough to roll out. The treading could last for a day. The dough then had to be extruded through pierced dies under great pressure, a task accomplished by a large screw press powered by two men or one horse.
This somewhat gamy procedure was not used for other kinds of dough, but commercial pasta dough has never been normal dough. The flour used to make it-semolina-is granular, like sugar, and has a warm golden color. Semolina makes a straw-colored dough that must be kneaded for a long time, which is why it has always been far more common in commercial than in homemade pasta. Semolina is milled from durum wheat (Triticum durum; durum means “hard”), a much harder grain than common wheat (Triticumvulgarum), which is used to make ordinary flour. (The harder the grain, the more energy required to mill it.) All durum makes firmer cooked pasta than common flour does, but not all durum is alike in hardness or quality. The kind of durum milled into semolina and how a manufacturer makes and dries the dough determine the firmness of the pasta when it is cooked.
Durum wheat was suited to the soil and weather of Sicily and Campania, the region around Naples, and so the pasta industry developed there, in the eighteenth century, and led Italian production into this century. Naples had a perfect climate for drying pasta. The alternation of mild sea breezes and hot winds from Mount Vesuvius ensured that the pasta would not dry too slowly, and thus become moldy, or too fast, and thus crack or break. The number of pasta shops in Naples went from sixty to 280 between the years 1700 and 1785. Young English aristocrats making the grand tour in the eighteenth century were shown the city where pasta hung everywhere to dry-in the streets, on balconies, on roofs. Neapolitan street vendors sold cooked spaghetti from stalls with charcoal-fired stoves, working with bowls of grated Romano cheese beside them. Customers would follow the example of the barkers, who lifted the long strands high and dropped them into their mouths. The grand tourists assumed that the fork hadn’t yet caught on in Italy, whereas it was the Venetians who in the sixteenth century had introduced the fork to Europe.
EVOLUTION OF PASTA
As we look into the history of Italian pasta cooking, we will see that the food used as a basic type of food in the Italian diet has not always been so. While till the 1500s, macaroni (the term used for any dried pasta) was considered an exotic food, cooking pasta in an Italian household was considered very expensive chiefly due to the high costs and the time-intensive labor required for making pasta and was reserved only for the upper class. However, after the 17th century, the variation of the pasta industry saw a sea-change along with rapid industrialization and technological advances, finally making Italian pasta cooking a hot favorite among all classes. For this reason, Italians embraced pasta as an essential part of their daily diet. Eventually, the diversity, distinctive flavors and unique specialty dishes originating from Italian pasta made Italian cuisine a hot favorite among the whole of Europe and America. Italian pasta of course rules the roost, being the most important of food culture throughout all of Italy.
Through the course of time, the role of Italian pasta has changed greatly throughout Italy’s culinary history. Once enjoyed by Italy’s elite as a handmade specialty, today cooking pasta is made the foundation of Italian cuisine all over the globe. Today, a large amount of Italian pasta products available in the market consist of both fresh and dried pasta and range in size from tiny soup pasta to large sheets of lasagna noodles. Furthermore, there are shaped Italian pasta available in many different sizes and specific shapes.
While the basic cooking method used for cooking pasta is boiling, a few other methods are also used to cook specific types of pasta, including baking, stir-frying, and deep-frying. Accomplished with a minimal amount of equipment like a large pot, a large spoon, and a colander, Italian pasta meals are known for their flavor and paired with healthy ingredients like tomato sauce, fresh vegetables, olive oil and fish. The meal is low in fat and contains nutrients and antioxidants to nurture body as your palate.
Human diet on pasta
PASTA IS A MEAL
Generally, pasta is a simple dish, but comes in large varieties because it is a versatile food item. Some pasta dishes are served as an appertizer in Italy because the portion sizes are small and simple. The servings are usually accompanied by a side of meat. Pasta is also can be prepared as main course, such as salads or large portion sizes for dinner.
HOW DO ITALIANS EAT PASTA?
They serve pasta in warm, shallow and wide bowls instead of on dinner plates. In Italy, they call this a “piatto fondo” or deep dish. The rims of the bowl should be just enough to spin the fork against. They don’t have to use the spoon. They put smaller portions of spaghetti on their fork before start to twirl. Then, twirl the pasta with a fork keeping the fork tip in contact with the plate. By doing so, they avoid the need to slurp and the need for a bib.
DO ITALIANS EAT PASTA EVERYDAY?
Yes, they eat pasta every day. In Italy, pasta is the most dishes that are dressed really simple and with few ingredients. They always use fresh and natural ingredients, dress lightly and most of all don’t overcook. This is because overcooked pasta sends blood sugar higher than pasta cooked al dente. Italians believe that overcooked pasta is harder to digest and doesn’t leave them feeling sluggish. When pasta is overcooked, it means it has absorbed its maximum amount of liquid. On the other hand, pasta cooked al dente can still absorb more during the digestive process and therefore digests more easily.
PASTA SERVING SIZE
Portion size of pasta is different depending on the ways that they eat pasta:
Two to four ounces dry spaghetti as an appetizer
Four to six ounces for a main course
WHY EAT PASTA WITH SAUCE?
Pasta sauces vary in taste, color and texture. Different types of pasta are served with different types of sauce according to the general rule that must be observed. For example, simple sauces like pesto are ideal for long and thin strands of pasta while tomato sauce combines well with thicker pastas. Thicker and chunkier sauces have the better ability to cling onto the holes and cuts of short, tubular, twisted pastas. Sauce should be served equally with its pasta. It is important that the sauce does not overflow the pasta. The extra sauce is left on the plate after all of the pasta is eaten.
WHY PASTA POPULAR IN ITALY?
Pasta is a traditional food in Italy and it is popular because it can be made into lots of shapes and pasta dishes. People can create lots of different dishes with it. It tastes delicious and it’s filling. Now, it became modern cooks because it is easy to prepare and convenient. It’s also has a long shelf life
Commercialization of Pasta
Commercialization enables manufacturers to take the right product into the right place, at the right time, to satisfy end-consumers. In fact, the commercialization of pasta could only have developed in a strongly urbanized society.
Due to its ease of preparation, low cost, versatility, palatability, long shelf life, and nutritional value, pasta is a popular commercial food product. Pasta products are commonly produced by extrusion, and their main ingredients are durum wheat semolina and water. Celiac disease is an immune-mediated disease triggered by the ingestion of the protein composite gluten. The only treatment for celiac disease is the permanent exclusion of sources of gluten (wheat, rye, and barley products) from the diet. It is important that high-quality cereal products made from alternative grains are available to this segment of the population. Recently, research on the improvement and development of gluten-free pasta has enahnced. Meanwhile, the number of gluten-free pasta products available on the market has increased dramatically.
Preparation of Pasta
BLT PASTA SALAD
(BLT — Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes)
250gm any spiral/corkscrew pasta (Riccioli)
½ cup milk
200gm bacon, sliced small
200gm cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 head of cos lettuce or 5 heads of baby romaine, torn to small pieces
(basicallycos lettuce or romaine is the same thing)
70gm natural set plain yogurt
4 tbsp chopped spring onions
salt& black pepper
1. Cook the pasta as per instructions on packaging until al dente. Drain and mix with milk. Set aside. (toss it from time to time to distribute the milk)
2. Fry bacon in pan (no oil) until crispy and the bacon oil oozes out. Tilt pan and let the oil drain off the bacon. Dish up bacon. Set aside.
3. Pour away most of the oil in pan, leaving behind about 2-3 tbsp of it. On medium heat, sauté garlic until fragrant and pour in the halved cherry tomatoes. Just spread in pan but don’t toss them. Let it cook until the garlic is golden. Tilt pan, push tomatoes to the higher side and let the oil collect at the lower side. Dish up tomatoes and as much garlic as you can. Set aside.
(the tomatoes should not be mushy, but just cooked)
4. Prepare salad dressing, mix everything together and sprinkled the final 1 tbsp of spring onion as garnish.
400gm pasta (shell pasta)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
400gm beef, minced
4 tbspchilli Paste
1 large carrot, diced
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 ½ c peas
4 eggs, beaten
1 c cheddar, grated
A handful of fried scallions
A handful of parsley, chopped
Salt & sugar for seasoning
1. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling water until 2/3 cooked. “Season” with salt. Drain and set aside.
2. Then, heat wok with oil and butter.
3. Cook onion until soft and slightly caramelized.
4. Add in garlic.
5. Add the beef and cook until slightly brown.
6. Add chili paste and cook until the oil starts to bubble on the surface.
7. Add in carrot and stir well until slightly soft.
8. Add in tomatoes and let it cook until soft. Then mix in the pasta.
9. Switch the heat off, add parsley and season well with salt and sugar.
10. Make a well in the center of the wok and pour in beaten eggs. Let it scramble and stir to mix.
11. Combine the ingredients well.
12. Put the combined ingredients in a casserole dish.
13. Sprinkle the cheese and fried scallions evenly over the top of the mixture and bake at 150oC for 20-25 mins.
GREEK MEAT PASTA
1 package rotini pasta (16 ounce)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 pound ground beef
6 tomatoes, grated
1 sweet yellow onion, grated
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½tsp white sugar
½tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & ground black pepper to taste
4 cups shredded Mizithra cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; cook the rotini at a boil until tender yet firm to the bite, about 8 minutes; drain. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
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2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; cook and stir ground beef until browned, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, onion, water, tomato paste, cinnamon, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper; stir to combine. Simmer meat sauce over medium-low heat until flavors combine, 20 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 o F (175 oC).
4. Pour meat sauce over rotini; mix well. Pour half the pasta mixture into a casserole dish; sprinkle with half the Mizithra cheese and half the mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining pasta mixture; sprinkle remaining Mizithra cheese and mozzarella cheese.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 40 minutes.
10 medium-sized prawns, peeled and deveined
2 handful of clams
4 pcs of frozen fish cocktail
1 can of tomato pasta sauce
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti exactly according to the packet instruction. Drain and set aside.
2. Oven-baked the fish cocktail as per the packaging instruction. Cook and set aside.
3. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan. Sauté the garlic till fragrant. Add the clams and prawns to stir-fry for 1 minute.
4. Pour in the pasta sauce and water. Cook and stirring for 2 minutes.
5. Toss with spaghetti and serve with baked fish cocktails.
MUSHROOM PASTA WITH TRUFFLE OIL (vegetarian)
200g pasta (I prefer to use spaghetti or angel hair pasta)
100g grey oyster mushrooms, sliced thinly
A handful of cep mushrooms, soaked and chopped roughly (optional)
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley, finely chopped
1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to pack instructions (al dente should take about 8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and drain, run under cold water to stop from cooking further.
2. Heat olive oil in frying pan on medium high heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes until golden brown, then add the mushrooms and fry for 1-2 minutes until cooked.
3. Finally add the pasta, parsley and mix thoroughly, and then season with salt and pepper.
4. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Add a dash of truffle oil to finish.
Significance of Pasta