pasta Pronunciation: PAH-stuh Equivalents: One pound dried pasta yields the same amount of cooked pasta as 1 1/2 pounds fresh pasta. Notes: A staple of Italian cuisine, pasta is made with a dough that's kneaded and then fashioned into hundreds of different shapes and sizes. The tiniest shapes are often used in soups, long ribbons or strands with sauces, and tubes and fanciful shapes in casseroles and pasta salads. Some shapes are large enough to be stuffed and baked, and others, like ravioli, come already stuffed. Most pasta is made with semolina, a hard wheat flour, but some producers use corn, rice, spelt, and kamut. These alternative grains yield a mushier pasta, but they're a boon to people with wheat allergies.
- Recipes that call for pasta usually intend for you to use dried pasta, since sauces cling to it better.
- The best dried pasta is made from 100% durum wheat semolina, and has a rough surface, the better to absorb sauces.
- Fresh pasta absorbs flavors and works best with cream or cheese sauces. It cooks faster than dried pasta.
- Use lots of water when cooking pasta, at least a gallon per pound. You can add salt to the water if you wish, but don't add oil. Bring the water to a rolling boil before adding the pasta. When the water returns to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a low boil. Stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking together. Don't cover the pot.
- Pasta is ready when it's "al dente." It should be cooked completely through, yet firm enough to offer some resistance to your bite.
- Drain the pasta in a colander, but don't rinse it unless you plan to use it in a casserole or pasta salad. Reserve a small amount of the flavorful cooking liquid in case the pasta becomes too dry and needs to be moistened. Serve it as soon as possible.
- For pasta salads, select short, thick tubes or shapes of dried pasta for pasta salad. Don't use egg pasta or fresh pasta.
- For casseroles, select tubes with thick walls or sturdy shapes. Cook them for two-thirds of the recommended time in water, then let them finish cooking in the oven.
- Different kinds of pasta cook at different rates, so select shapes of similar sizes if you're combining them.
- If you use a low-quality pasta, be sure to cook it in plenty of water to prevent it from getting gummy.
- Don't freeze cooked pasta unless it's in a baked casserole.
- Many pasta shapes comes in different sizes. The Italian suffix "ini" means smaller (e.g., spaghettini is a thin version of spaghetti), while "oni" means larger.
For pasta salads: penne OR macaroni OR fusilli OR ruote OR rotini OR cavatelli OR conchigliette OR gemelli
To go with heavy sauces: pappardelle OR fettuccine OR perciatelli OR fusilli OR linguine
To go with light, smooth sauces: spaghetti OR vermicelli
To go with cream or butter sauces: fresh or dried fettuccine OR fresh or dried spaghetti OR smooth penne
To go in dishes with chunky, bite-sized ingredients: farfalle OR radiatore OR fusilli OR penne rigate OR macaroni OR rigatoni OR ziti OR ruote OR conchiglie OR rotini OR cavatelli
To go in soups: orzo OR acini di pepe OR orecchiette OR tubettini OR conchiglette OR ditalini
To go in baked casseroles: macaroni OR penne rigate OR rigatoni OR lasagne OR fusilli OR gemelli
For stuffing: cannelloni OR manicotti OR tufoli
Substitutes: corn pasta OR rice noodles OR couscous OR spätzle OR rice
rods ribbons shapes soup pasta tubes stuffed pasta
black pasta = squid-ink pasta = pasta nera Notes: This is pasta flavored with squid or cuttlefish ink, which turns it black. It's best served with shellfish.
corn pasta Notes: This is made with corn flour instead of the traditional durum wheat. It's popular among people with wheat allergies, but it tends to get mushy. Substitutes: polenta OR kamut® pasta (Kamut® contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.) OR spelt pasta (Spelt contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.) OR quinoa pasta (may contain corn flour as well) OR rice noodles
dried pasta = pasta secca Notes: Dried pasta is sturdier than fresh pasta, and is the best choice for heavy sauces, pasta salads, and casseroles. Substitutes: fresh pasta
egg pasta = pasta all'uovo Notes: These have a lovely yellow color, and softer texture. Egg pasta tends to turn mushy after it's cooked, so it doesn't work well in pasta salads or casseroles. Substitutes: spätzle OR fresh pasta
fregola = fregula Notes: This Sardinian specialty is thought to be an ancestor of modern pasta. It consists of small, chewy balls made from coarsely ground semolina. It can be used as a bed for sauces, but it's also terrific in soups. Substitutes: couscous OR soup pasta
flavored pasta = colored pasta = pasta colorata Notes: Several manufacturers make flavored pastas, many of which have vibrant colors. Popular flavors include egg (egg pasta, or pasta all'uovo), spinach (green pasta, or pasta verde), tomato, beet (purple pasta, or pasta viola), carrot (red pasta, or pasta rossa), winter squash (orange pasta, or pasta arancione), squid ink (black pasta, or pasta nera), truffle (truffle pasta, or pasta al tartufo), and chile.
fresh pasta = pasta fresca Notes: Fresh pasta is more tender and absorbent that dried pasta, so it's best with light, delicate sauces. Store fresh pasta in the refrigerator for up to five days.
kamut® pasta Notes: Kamut® contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies. Substitutes: spelt pasta OR corn pasta OR rice pasta
long pasta = pasta lunga = long goods Notes: This pasta comes in the form of long rods, tubes, or ribbons. Some cooks break them up before boiling them, but purists keep them long.
malfatti Notes: Malfatti means "poorly made" in Italian, and cooks use the term for broken or irregular scraps of pasta, or for a ravioli filling without the pasta covering. Substitutes: ribbon pasta (broken into small pieces)
pasta ascuitta Notes: This term refers to dried pasta that's too big to be used in soups.
pasta sheet Notes: Use this sheet of fresh pasta in place of lasagna, or to make your own stuffed pasta. You can sometimes buy it where fresh pasta is made in-house. Substitutes: egg roll wrappers
quinoa pasta Pronunciation: KEEN-wah Notes: This is a high-protein pasta alternative for people with wheat allergies. It may contain corn flour as well. Substitutes: corn pasta OR kamut® pasta (Kamut® contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.) OR spelt pasta (Spelt contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.) OR rice pasta OR Asian rice noodles
ribbed pasta = pasta rigate = grooved pasta Notes: This refers to pasta with grooves or ribs on it, which help sauces cling. Ribbed pasta sometimes has a "rigate" or "rigati" adjective behind the pasta name (e.g., penne rigate or rigatoni rigati). Substitutes: pasta lisce
rice pasta Notes: This is a good pasta alternative for people with wheat allergies. It's also available as brown rice pasta. Substitutes: Asian rice noodles OR corn pasta OR kamut® pasta (Kamut® contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.) OR spelt pasta (Spelt contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.) OR quinoa pasta
short pasta = short goods Notes: These are pasta tubes and shapes that are relatively small, but larger than soup pasta. They tend to be sturdy, so they work well in casseroles and pasta salads. They're also easier to eat than rods or ribbons, so they're great for serving kids or large crowds. Substitutes: long pasta (broken into short lengths)
smooth pasta = pasta lisce Notes: This is pasta with a smooth surface. Smooth pasta sometimes has a "lisce" or "lisci" adjective behind the pasta name (e.g., penne lisce or ditali lisci). Substitutes: pasta rigate
soy pasta Notes: This is made with both wheat and protein-rich soy flour.
spelt pasta Notes: Spelt contains gluten, but it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies. Substitutes: kamut® pasta OR corn pasta OR rice pasta OR quinoa pasta
truffle pasta = pasta al tartufo Notes: This is an egg pasta that's flavored with truffles. It's normally served with a cheese sauce.
whole wheat pasta Notes: Several varieties of pasta are made with whole wheat instead of a more refined flour. This makes the pasta darker but more nutritious.
Copyright © 1996-2005 Lori Alden