Pasta 101

Pasta: a Quick Glossary

Long – From skinny capellini to wide lasagne, long noodles span the spectrum.

  • Thin varieties are best served with light-bodied tomato or broth-based sauces, which will just coat the noodles.
  • Wider noodles, like fettuccine, are excellent with mediumbodied or heavy sauces like Alfredo because they’re able to hold up to the weightier sauce.
  • Lasagne, the widest noodles, aren’t for twirling: use them for layered, baked dishes.

Short - Whether tubular, like penne, or moulded, like farfalle, short pastas are a great match for any sauce.

  • Some short pastas even have ridges where the sauce can gather, so every bite is full of flavour.
  • Moulded pastas come in all kinds of shapes, including bow ties, shells and elbows.
  • Cannelloni and manicotti, also moulded, are designed to be filled with a meat or cheese-based mixture, covered in a sauce and baked.

The Dos and Don'ts to Perfect Pasta

Do use lots of water. The ideal amount is 4 to 6 L per 900 g of pasta. This allows the pasta enough room to cook without sticking together.

Don’t add oil. If you have enough water, you won’t need to add oil to prevent sticking.

Do add salt for flavour but not too much; remember that your sauce will also add flavour.

Do stir pasta when you first add it to the water to prevent it from sticking together and to the bottom of the pot.

Don’t throw noodles against the wall. Instead, use the cooking time on the package as a guide, then try a piece to see if it’s the right texture. Italians like their pasta “al dente” (which translates as “to the tooth” and basically means a little chewy), but you might like it softer.

Don’t rinse cooked pasta; you’ll rinse away the starch, which actually helps the sauce stick. Only rinse pasta if it will be used cold, as in a salad.

New Ways with Pasta

Time for fresh
If you’re looking to make a really quick meal, ready-made fresh pasta is the way to go – it cooks in just 3 to 4 minutes (make sure to follow package directions and don’t overcook, or it’ll become mushy). And from linguine to ravioli, fresh pasta is readily available and is also a simple way to take a dish from everyday to special.

Colourful twists
Why not add a hit of colour to dinner tonight? Green and orange pastas made with vegetables like spinach or red peppers add great interest to the plate.

Whole grain varieties
If you want to add some whole grains to your diet, whole wheat pasta is a delicious option that’s available in almost all types from spaghetti to penne.