Pasta has existed since the days of the Roman Empire and remains one of the most versatile cooking ingredients, as no storage room or cupboard should be without it. It can be combined with meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, or even a simple herb sauce to create a mouthwatering and nutritious meal within minutes.
Most pasta is made from durum wheat flour and contains protein and carbohydrates. It is a good source of slow-release energy and has the additional advantage of being value for money.
There are as many as 200 different pasta shapes and about three times as many names for them. New shapes are being designed and named allt the time and the same shape might be called a different name in different regions in Itally. Some types of pasta are the agnolotti, anelli, bucatini, cannelloni, capalletti, ditali, elicje, farfalle, fettuccine, fusilli, lasagne, linguini, macaroni, penne, ravioli, rigatoni, spaghetti and tagliatelle. Many can be found in both dried and fresh forms, but unless you have access to a good, Italian delicatessen, it is probably not worth buying fresh unfilled pasta, even from supermarkets that sell high-quality tortellini, capalletti, ravioli, and agnolotti. Best of all is to make fresh pasta at home. It takes little time, but is quite easy and well worth the effort. You can mix the dough by hand or prepare it in a food processor. Pasta may be colored and flavored with extra ingredients that are usually added with the beaten egg.
To cook pasta, first bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and one tablespoon of olive oil, but do not cover the pot or the water will boil over. Quickly bring the water back to a rolling boil and avoid overcooking. When the pasta is tender, but still firm to the bite, drain and toss with butter, olive oil, or your prepared sauce. The cooking times provided here are guidelines only:
– Fresh unfilled pasta: 2-3 minutes
– Fresh filled pasta: 8-10 minutes
– Dried unfilled pasta: 10-12 minutes
– Dried filled pasta: 15-20 minutes
Pasta can be used to make anything, from soups to more substantial pasta-based meals, which are as delicious and unusual starter, or as a quick and easy lunch or light supper. Others are subtle and delicate. Combining vegetables, meat, fish and cheese with every type of pasta, from linguine to lumache, one can enjoy a nutritional and delicious meal from start to finish.