Know Your Pasta

Pasta, in our country has almost become synonyms with fast food now. Every place from hi-end restaurants to casual caffe’ to even roadside stands sell this Italian treat. I had my first stint with it a very long time back in a neighbourhood mall with a friend, when spending Rs 60 was bit of a big deal for us. We had ordered a pasta with cheese sauce and were handled a dish with a layer of slightly toasted cheese. I do not remember much about the taste but i was definitely hooked to whatever is it that the country had to offer me in terms of food. 
I do not want to get into deep details about Pasta because truthfully speaking there are hundreds of varieties available. But what i do want to talk about are some of the most easily available varieties, the basic types of sauces that it can be eaten with and some of the essential elements that one must keep in mind while cooking and buying pasta. 
Today morning, an Italian gentleman, told me that best way to kill an Italian is to serve them overcooked Pasta. “Serve us overcooked pasta and we will never visit your house again,” he said, laughing, recollecting his experience in some Indian households. While this was just supposed to be a joke, it is nonetheless true. 
Most people are the impression that it is the sauce that makes a Pasta dish, while the truth could not be far from it. The most important ingredient of a pasta dish is the pasta that you buy (or make) and how you cook it. Look at it as having cooked excellent Dal Makhni only to eat it with mushy, overcooked rice instead of well cooked Basmati rice. 
Good quality pasta, when boiled to perfection is so delicious that it can just be eaten with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Do not compromise on the brand when making the purchase.  I had myself made this mistake once when I used low quality Spaghetti for my ‘meatballs in red sauce’ recipe and though my sauce and meatballs were spectacular, they could not hide the fact that the Spaghetti was not. The three brands that are easily available in the market that you can choose from are Barilla, De Cecco and Sunfeast Benne Vita. 

How to boil the pasta? 

Sure it sounds like i am writing an article about boiling water but though simple to do, one can often easily screw up this task. I myself almost always ask my husband to boil the pasta because of he is more precise and patient than me. And of course, i get to chill in front of the television while he does it. When cooked right Pasta has a little bite to it which is called ‘Al dente’ which literally translates to ‘to the teeth’. 
1. Use a large utensil and it filled with water. 
2. Boil the water. 
3. Add a spoonful of salt after the water comes to boil. 
4. Add the pasta. 
5. Imp – Keep it in the boiling water for the time specified on the package. (8-12 minutes)
6. Stir the pasta a little so that it won’t stick. 
7. Please stand in front of the pot so that you do not forget and overcook the pasta.
8. Remove and drain the water out after the required time. 
9. Add the sauce and Buon Appetito! 

Types of Pasta? 

As I had mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of varieties of Pasta. But they can be divided into four basic types: 

Long Pasta 

  Fettuccine (coiled narrower Tagliatelle)

Short Pasta 


Flat Pasta 

  The sheets of lasagne are baked between layers of sauce in oven. 

Stuffed Pasta

Pasta which are filled with spinach, meat, poultry, mushrooms etc before being cooked. 
While cooking, except for stuffed pasta and lasagne, the rest can just be boiled in water and eaten with a sauce or vegetables. And given the rich nature of Indian cuisine, whipping up some vegetables, meat or poultry in a pan to add to the pasta should not be a difficult task for most. If the vegetables are fresh and the pasta is well cooked, the result would always be good. 
Long pasta should be served with thin, clinging sauces and Short Pasta goes well with pretty much everything. One of the things i enjoy about cooking and eating pasta is that I can experiment what i eat it with because there no one way to eat it. You can eat it with creamy mushroom sauce, sautéed vegetables, spicy tomato sauce, rich cheese sauce, in a soup, with eggs, the options are endless. So are you ready to experiment?

Coming up next – Pasta Sauces and recipes. 

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