Pasta, pasta, pasta, how we love pasta. It’s got that delicious texture that we all love. And it comes in different flavors and aromas that will surely make eating them very enjoyable. With their unique shapes and sizes, they are sure to be a culinary experience.
There’s still a raging debate as to who created the first oodles of noodles. Right now, China is staking its claim. Seems like some Chinese guy made a bowl of noodles about 4,000 years ago, beating the Italians or the Arabs (Actually, I’m still not sure which of the two did theirs first) by nearly 2,000 years. But really, I don’t really mind who did first. All I want is my serving of spaghetti with meatballs.
But really, have you ever wondered why pastas are in different shapes and sizes? Apart from looking cute, there’s got to be other reasons, too. From the humble macaroni to the elaborate agnolotti, they are created to match the sauces they are served with perfectly. Below are some examples of noodles shapes and the appropriate sauces to be mixed with them.
They are great for thin sauces. They hold hell, and they slide smoothly in the mouth. Whether they are dry or fresh, they have a bit that makes them a treat. Some examples of these is spaghetti, vermicelli, capellini, and bucatini
They are similar to the long noodles, but they are flatter instead of round. They are also perfect for thin sauces. The reason they are flat is because they can add texture and body to plate. Fine examples of this shape are the fettuccine, lasagna, linguine, and tagliatelle.
These shorter needles are designed to hold thick sauces. This is possible because of the different shapes that they have. Also, their unique flavors enhance the sauces that come with them. A well-known example of this category would be penne. There are others, too, like cavatappi, fusilii, garganelli, and rigatoni.
These are what add variety on any pasta dish. Their unique shapes, various ingredients, and ability to catch sauces well make it a very appetizing and satisfying eating experience. Examples of these would be campanelle, farfalle, lantern, and radiatori.
As their name suggests, these pastas are very small. Usually, they are used as in soups or as substitutes in case grains like rice is not available. Being of the specialty-types, they are rarely seen outside of Italian restaurants, so consider it as a treat if you are ever served one. Some examples of these dishes are alfabeto, couscous, fregula, funghini, and tarhana.
Obviously, this variety is prepared by stuffing them with sauce or other appropriate ingredients. The stuffing could be anything from meat, cheese, or herbs and spices. They are also prepared in different ways. For example, they could be simply served with the stuffing, glazed, or mixed with sauces and other ingredients. Agnalotti, fagottini, pelmani, ravioli, and tortellini belongs to this category.
Often hand-made, these pastas are meant to add life and variety to the dishes they are prepared with. In addition, the unique ingredients found in the dishes leaves a good flavor and texture to the palate. And since they are made by hand, their shapes would depend on the artistry of its maker. They are perfect for soups and thick sauces. Examples of these unique pastas are gnocchi, pasatelli, and spatzle.
If you can’t remember all the names in the names of pasta, it’s fine. According to “Geometry of Pasta” by Caz Hildebrand and Chef Jacob Kennedy, there are about 1,200 names of pastas. The kinds are not that many, of course; it’s just that they are named differently depending on region. And the list keeps on growing. It also appears that the Industrial Revolution contributed in the names, with some pastas called fusilii (spindles) and eliche (screws). There is even one in the list called radiator (radiator).
As for cooking the perfect pasta, it depends on how good you are in following instructions. Ideally, cooked pasta should be al dente (firm to the bite), which mean you have to keep it from being over-cooked. Some pastas, like those made from millet, are very tough and can sustain overcooking, but there are other varieties that even a few minutes in excess can ruin a very good pasta. Anyway, as long as you read the instructions thrice, then there should be a problem cooking them.
The reason why pastas behave in such a manner is because of the ingredients it contains. For example, under Italian law, dry pasta can only be made with durum wheat or durum wheat semolina. That’s because this particular wheat variety withstands overcooking well, and has a very good texture and taste. In other places, regular flour is used, so it can’t be cooked al dente at all. And if eggs are added as binder, the noodles will become soggier. Fresh pasta is also cooked in a different way, too.
Pastas will always be part of our meals. As long as bear in mind what each kind is used for, then it won’t be hard to create great pasta dishes. Just don’t forget to follow the cooking instructions.
Mom, is that your pasta burning?