So the renovation of my grandmother’s house/our rental home is really coming along! There are a few changes from the last update, although they’re not incredibly visible on pictures, like the wall paint, trim paint, and we’ve painted the walls downstairs as well:
The kitchen cabinets and appliances will come in next week. Then comes installation, then countertop installation, and then finishing touches. If all goes well, we should be moving in by the end of June!
Anyway, on to the actual point of this week’s blog.
This post begins a new series all about that pantry staple, pasta! I’ll cover the basics of pasta, how to cook store-bought pasta, how to make pasta from scratch, and finally a pasta recipe! I won’t be covering other types of noodles such as Japanese soba, Japanese/Chinese ramen, and rice noodles. That will have to wait for another post.
On this week’s blog, I’ll go over a general overview of pasta types (if I wrote about every single type of pasta, we’d be here forever…), pasta flours, and a few extra bits like how to store different types of pasta.
The Basics of Pasta
There are many, many types of pasta out there. Too many types, in fact, to go over them all on this page (we’d be here forever). There are two major types: fresh and dried. From there, there are over 400 varieties! They come as long strands, sheets, shapes, curlicues, and cylinders, with different flavors, and a huge variety of fillings. Some pastas are even specific to each region of Italy.
Pasta is generally made with water and flour, such as semolina flour, soft durum wheat, or high-gluten 00 flour (the 00 refers to how finely ground the flour is). Fresh pasta is made with the addition of an egg. I will expand on this in just a few weeks.
Why All the Shapes? (And What Do You Do With Them?)
I have to admit—I got a little stuck on this post trying to figure out what to include, so I polled my sister and her cousin-in-law to see what they wanted to know as not-so-sure-about-cooking cooks. This was one of those subjects.
Is there a reason for so many shapes? Well, not each and every shape. However, look at it the Italian way. In Italian, sauces are called condimento, meaning that the sauce is there as a compliment to the pasta. Certain pasta shapes hold certain sauces better. Some are even rough and/or have ridges just to help sauce hold better.
Think about it. You’re eating spaghetti with, let’s say, a sauce with a lot of meat or with peas. Doesn’t most of the meat and/or peas just slide ride off, leaving you with a meat-less pasta and a pile of noodle-less meat/peas at the end?
Now think about a meat sauce with this orecchiette:
The general rule (well, more of a guideline) is as follows: delicate noodles are for delicate sauce and thicker noodles are for heavier sauces. A hearty sauce includes heavy meat sauces, like Bolognese, while lighter sauces include carbonara and butter sauces.
Dried vs. Fresh
Besides the fact that one is dried and one is fresh, there are further differences between dried and fresh pasta. Fresh isn’t always preferable over dried—they just have their different uses, although they aren’t huge differences.
Because it’s dried, dry pasta tends to hold up better to heavy sauces or in casseroles and lasagna. Fresh pasta is better with light sauces that will enhance its fresh taste.
Dried pasta is dried slowly at low heat over several days, a process that slowly extracts any liquid. This means dried pasta can last a really long time on your pantry shelves in the closed box or an air-tight container (just check the box for the expiration dates).
Fresh pasta should be kept in the fridge up to three days. You can also freeze fresh pasta and it will keep for up to 9 months.
Next week, I’ll be talking about tips for cooking dried pasta. So ’till then!