Types of Pasta
Basic Types | Flavors and Colors | Pasta Shapes | Pasta Sauces
Pasta is a basic staple ingredient used in cooking. It is available in hundreds of shapes worldwide and in many different flavors. Pasta can be found dried and fresh, but can also be homemade. There are many ways in which pasta can be used but it is most popular to eat it topped with a sauce. Many types of pasta can be used as the main ingredient or in smaller amounts as an added ingredient in casseroles, soups, stews, and salads. Some types do not work well as a main ingredient and are only used as an ingredient in another dish. When pasta is served with just a sauce, it is important to consider what type, shape and flavor of pasta will best go with the sauce you plan to use. The information below will provide a better understanding of the different types of pasta that are available.
Basic Types of Pasta
Dried pasta is readily available in many sizes and shapes. It is factory made and fully dried before it is packaged. Dried pasta is most often made with just semolina flour, water and salt, but it is also available made from other types of flour and seasoning. It rarely contains eggs so it can be stored indefinitely without refrigerating or freezing. The firmness of dried pasta allows it to be stored easily without damage.
Dried pasta requires a longer cooking time than fresh pasta and will swell a considerable amount when cooked.
When the same amounts of dried and fresh pasta are cooked, the dried pasta will produce approximately 60% more than the fresh pasta. You will need to take this into consideration if substituting fresh pasta in a recipe that calls for dried pasta.
Because of its firm texture, most dried pastas, except for the more delicate sized and shaped types, work well with thick sauces and sauces containing meat and vegetables.
Fresh pasta is available in a variety of sizes and shapes but not to the extent of dried pasta. It is, however, available in a greater variety of flavors. Fresh pasta most often contains eggs and has high water content, making it necessary to refrigerate or freeze the pasta to keep it from spoiling. The eggs in the pasta brighten its color, add flavor, and give the pasta more nutritional value. Fresh pasta is made daily in Italian specialty stores and is found commercially in food stores both refrigerated and frozen. If refrigerated, it should be used within 3 to 4 days of purchasing it and within approximately one to two months if frozen. Fresh pasta can be dried and stored at room temperature, but it is important that the pasta is completely dried before storing. Fresh pasta is more delicate than dried pasta, making it more difficult to store.
Fresh pasta has a softer texture than dried pasta and requires only a short cooking time. Testing often for doneness is required to prevent pasta from overcooking. Fresh pasta does not swell in the same manner as dried pasta when cooked. It will swell only slightly.
Uncooked Pasta Cooked Pasta
Because fresh pasta does not swell in the same manner as dried pasta you will need approximately 50 percent more fresh pasta to equal the same amount of dried pasta. Fresh pasta’s softer texture goes well with lighter sauces, such as tomato sauces, cream sauces and simple sauces made from oil or butter that is flavored with herbs.
Making fresh homemade pasta provides an opportunity to create many different flavors of pasta. A variety of flours, such as wheat flour, buckwheat flour, rice flour, soy flour, and oat flour can be used to provide different flavors. Also, other flavoring agents can be used, such as herbs and spices, corn meal, cheese, fruits, chilies, spinach, tomatoes, beets, and carrots. The different flavoring agents will also affect the color of the pasta and its texture.
Pasta Flavors and Colors
Dried and fresh pasta are available in various flavors and colors. The flavoring agent is the ingredient that generally affects the color of the pasta. An unlimited number of options are available to use as flavoring agents. There are pasta dough ingredients that act as flavoring agents and also extra ingredients that are added to the dough that affect the flavor and color. Some of the common agents that will affect the flavor and color of the pasta are listed below.
Flavors and Colors of Pasta - Pasta Dough Ingredients
Description Flavor Color
Unbleached White Flour A standard baking flour made from red winter wheat. Unbleached flour has not gone through all the processing that bleached flour has, so it produces a firmer dough. It is lighter than whole wheat flour and produces pasta dough that is easy to work with. Basic pasta Creamy beige
Flour that is finely ground from hard durum winter wheat. Semolina flour is used to make most dried pastas. It contains a fair amount of gluten, which provides elasticity to the dough, allowing the dough to be formed into a large variety of shapes. Basic pasta Creamy beige
Whole Wheat Flour
Flour made from whole wheat grain. Whole wheat flour is available in several different grinds and will provide heavier textured pasta than the unbleached flour. The coarser grinds are best used for flat noodles, whereas, the finer grinds can be used for most any shapes. Additional water is generally required when using whole wheat flour. Nuttier than basic pasta Medium tan to light brown
Buckwheat Flour Flour made form buckwheat seeds, which have been toasted. This is a heavy flour that produces dough that is tender but slightly gritty. To lighten its texture and provide smoother dough, it is sometimes mixed with lighter flour, such as unbleached white or fine ground whole wheat. The dough cracks easily so it is best used for thick wide noodles. Strong nutty flavor Light to medium brown
Corn Flour Flour made from corn, which provides a pasta that is wheat and gluten free. Corn flour produces a product that can be used by consumers that have an intolerance to wheat products. It provides a flavorful pasta alternative. The texture of pasta made from corn flour can be slightly grainier than wheat pasta. Corn Bright yellow
Oat Flour High-fiber flour made from oats. It has a coarse texture and can be used in the same manner that coarsely ground whole wheat flour is used for making pasta. Nutty Tan to medium brown
Brown Rice Flour Flour made from rice that has only the inedible hull removed. This flour is high in fiber and resembles pasta dough made from whole wheat flour, except the dough made from brown rice flour is a little stickier. Pasta dough made with brown rice flour works best for making flat noodles. Slightly sweet Tan to light brown
Rice Flour Flour finely milled from non-glutinous rice. Rice flour is used to make thin white translucent Chinese noodles. The noodles are deep-fried to produce crunchy strands, or soaked in warm water and then added to soups or used in stir-frying. Mild Translucent white
Mung Bean Threads Mung bean threads produce a gelatin-like noodle that has a translucent appearance. It is cooked and used in the same manner as rice flour noodles. The noodles are often called bean threads or cellophane noodles and are widely used in Asian cooking. Flavorless, absorbs the flavor of the foods it is combined with Translucent white
Corn Meal Used to add nutrition and a distinct flavor to pasta. Corn meal is always mixed sparingly with flour so the pasta dough does not become too grainy. If the dough is too grainy it becomes difficult to roll out or extrude from a machine. Corn meal dough works best for making flat noodles.
Color Note: The amount and type of corn meal added will determine how much affect it will have on the color. The corn meal may just add specks of yellow, white or blue to the color. Corn The type of flour used in making the dough determines the base color. See: Color Note.
Flavors and Colors of Pasta - Ingredients Added to the Pasta Dough
Description Flavor Color
Spinach Finely chopped spinach is added to the pasta dough according to the recipe instructions. Mild spinach Medium to dark green
Finely chopped broccoli is added to the pasta dough according to the recipe instructions. Mild broccoli Medium to dark green
Tomato paste is added to the pasta dough according to the recipe instructions. Mild tomato Light reddish-orange to dark reddish-orange
Beets Cooked beets, which are used mostly to add color, are pureed and strained, then added to the pasta dough according to the recipe instructions. Slight difference from plain pasta Deep pink to dark red
Carrot Pureed carrots or carrot juice is added to the pasta dough according to the recipe instructions. Strong carrot Orange
Red Bell Pepper Roasted bell peppers are pureed and added according to the recipe instructions. Slightly sweet Bright orangish-red
Different varieties of chile peppers, such as jalapeÃ±o, cayenne, poblano, and Serrano, can be used for chile pepper pasta. The peppers should have the seeds removed and then be chopped into fine pieces or pureed. Dried chile peppers are also used.
Flavor Note: The flavor will vary in strength according to the degree of hotness of the variety of chile pepper used.
A sharp biting flavor See: Flavor Note Color will vary according to the variety of pepper used
Squid Ink Squid or cuttlefish ink is strained from the eye “bags or sacs” of the squid or cuttlefish. It is added to the pasta recipe for a unique flavor and color. Mild seafood Dark gray, almost black
Garlic Crushed garlic cloves are added according to the recipe instructions. Garlic Creamy beige
Garlic and Herbs Crushed garlic cloves and one or more herbs, such as sage, thyme, parsley, chives, rosemary, tarragon, basil, and oregano, are added to the pasta dough. Spicy Garlic Creamy beige with green flecks
Curry Curry powder, which is a spice blend that is generally composed of cumin, turmeric, coriander, ground red pepper, and cloves, is added to the pasta dough to provide a distinct flavor. Spicy Tint of burnt orange
Saffron Saffron is added to pasta dough to give it a distinct flavor and color. Spicy, mildly bitter Bright yellowish-gold
Lemon Lemon pasta contains lemon juice and/or lemon zest, which provides a very mild lemon flavor to the pasta. Mildly tart, lemon Light yellow
berry The strawberries are simmered to soften them and then the juice is strained from the strawberries and added to the pasta dough. Mild
berry Dull pale red
Chocolate Unsweetened cocoa powder and sugar are added to the dough to give it a mildly sweet chocolate flavor. It works well in sweet pasta dishes. Mild Chocolate Brown
Although there are many pasta flavor options that provide a variety of tastes, the pasta sauce or ingredients that are mixed with the pasta or noodles will have the biggest effect on the taste of the finished dish. The lighter or simpler the sauce is, the more the flavor of the pasta will come through.
Pasta is available in many different forms and sizes. The majority of pasta shapes that are available originated in Italy but they have also been created in other parts of the world. Many types of noodles have been created in Asian countries. Certain shapes and sizes are used for specific purposes, while others can be used in several different manners. Shown below are the basic categories in which pasta shapes are found.
Shaped pastas are available in many different sizes and specific shapes. They include shapes that resemble shells, bow ties, spirals, snails, wheels and radiators. Shaped pastas are generally found dried. The smaller shaped pastas work well with a simple sauce but most shaped pastas can be paired with a chunkier sauce because they are sturdy enough to hold up with the other ingredients. They are also used in pasta salads and casseroles. See Pasta Products - Shaped Pasta for more details on specific shapes and sizes.
Tubular pastas are any pastas that are in the shape of a tube. They are available in many different sizes and shapes. Some tubes are long and narrow while others are short and wide. They are found with smooth or grooved exteriors and their ends are cut straight or at an angle. They are often served with a heavy sauce, which holds well in the hollows of the pasta tubes. Tubular pastas are also used in salads and casseroles. Some of the larger tubes that have a wide opening can be stuffed with meat and/or cheese and then baked. See Pasta Products - Tubular Pasta for more details on specific shapes and sizes.
Strand Pasta Noodles
Pasta strands are long rods of pasta, which are generally round, but they are available in a square rod also. The basic difference from one variety to the next is the thickness of the strands. The thicker strands work well with a heavier sauce while the thin varieties are better with a more delicate sauce. See Pasta Products - Strand Pasta for more details on specific shapes and sizes.
Ribbon Pasta Noodles
Ribbon pastas consist of flat strands of pasta, which are available in different lengths, widths and thickness. Some are short and wide, while others are long and narrow. Ribbon pasta can have straight or wavy edges. Many varieties are available fresh and dried. The dried ribbons are generally used with a thick, heavier sauce and the fresh ribbons are served with a more delicate sauce. See Pasta Products - Ribbon Pasta for more details on specific shapes and sizes.
Soup pastas consist of pasta shapes that range in size from small to very tiny. The larger of the soup pastas are used in thicker based soups and the tiny and smaller pasta shapes are used in light or broth based soups. Some of the soup pastas are also used in pasta salads. Soup pastas include many shapes, such as round balls, thin strands, tubes, rings, grain-shapes, bow ties and stars. See Pasta Products - Soup Pasta for more details on specific shapes and sizes.
Stuffed pastas consist of fresh pasta sheets that are stuffed with a filling. The pasta sheets are folded over and sealed or another sheet is placed on top and the edges are sealed after the filling has been added. Some sheets are folded over the filling and then twisted to form a little hat shaped pasta. Stuffed pastas are formed in different shapes, such as squares, circles, triangles and half moons. They are stuffed with a variety of fillings, which consist of a mixture of ingredients, such as meats, cheeses, herbs, mushrooms, and vegetables. Stuffed pastas are first cooked and then generally served with a light sauce. They can also be served in a broth or added to a salad after they have been cooked. See Pasta Products - Stuffed Pasta for more details on specific shapes and sizes.
Asian noodles consist of strands that vary in shape, width and length. Many Asian noodles are very long in length, symbolizing longevity. They are also found as thin straight sticks, flat strands, round strands, and wavy strands.
The noodles are made from various flours, such as wheat flour, rice flour, potato flour, soybean flour, and mung bean flour. Some Asian noodles are made with eggs but many are not. Various noodles are available fresh and dried, but some are only found in Asian markets.
Asian noodles are a variety of colors, such as translucent white, opaque white, cream, yellow, tan and brown. The ingredients used, in the dough affects the color of the noodle. Asian noodles are eaten hot and cold, and are used in soups, salads, stir-fries, and other Asian dishes. See Pasta Products - Asian Noodles for more details on specific shapes and sizes.
When Asian noodles are referred to as Lo-Mein or Chow Mein, the noodles used can actually be the same type of noodle. The difference between Lo-Mein and Chow Mein noodles is the way in which it is prepared and served. The Lo-Mein noodles are boiled and added to the other ingredients in the dish at the end of the cooking process. The Chow-Mein noodles are boiled and then served with stir-fry ingredients on tops, which have been cooked separately from the noodles.
Although there are many different types of pasta available with many different flavors, the majority of the taste from a pasta dish comes from the sauce. The lighter the sauce is the more noticeable the pasta’s taste will be. The size and shape of the pasta or noodles should be taken into consideration when determining the type of sauce to use. There are some general guidelines to follow when selecting a sauce, but do not be afraid to experiment with combining different shapes and sauces to see what appeals to your personal taste. Some general guidelines are shown below.
Matching Pasta to Sauce
Examples: Conchiglie, farfalle, fusilli, gemelli, gnocchetti, gramigna, lumache, lumaconi, orecchiette, radiatori, route, rotini, and trenne
Thick tomato sauces, meat sauces, chunky sauces, and cheese sauces
Examples: Canneroni, cannolicchi, cavatappi, garganelli, macaroni, maccheroncelli, manicotti, paccheri, penne, rigatoni, tortiglioni, and ziti
Sauce: Thick tomato sauces, meat sauces, chunky sauces, and thick cream sauces
Examples: Angel hair, capellini, chitarra, fedelini, spaghetti, and vermicelli
Sauce: Light tomato sauces, butter based sauces, light oil based sauces, and light cream based sauces.
Examples: Fettuccine, lasagne, linguine, pappardelle, riginette, tagliatelle, and trenette
Sauce: For the wider dried pastas - meat sauces, thick tomato sauces, and thick cream sauces. For narrow or fresh pastas - Light tomato sauces, butter based sauces, light oil based sauces, and light cream based sauces.
Examples: Acini di pepe, alphabets, anellini, conchigliette, ditali, farfalline, orzo, pastine, risi, stele, stortini, and tubetti
Sauce: Light sauces, mainly used in broth or soups with a light base.
Examples: Agnolotti, pansotti, ravioli, tortelli, and tortellini
Sauce: Light tomato sauce, light cream based sauce, and broth
Examples: Asian wheat noodles, Chinese egg noodles, Asian rice noodles, cellophane noodles, cornstarch noodles, seaweed noodles, and soba noodles
Sauce: Generally not eaten with a sauce. Used in stir-fries, soups and salads.
Pasta Handling, Safety & Storage
Contamination Prevention | Cooking Safety | Proper Storage
Cleanliness: A clean working environment is essential in the prevention of contamination in working with pasta and other foods. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly before handling the pasta dough. The work area, cutting boards, and utensils must be clean. Do not use the same cutting board for cutting pasta as was used for raw meat or poultry unless it has been properly washed and dried before using. When you are finished making the pasta, be sure to clean the work area and all utensils thoroughly. The eggs in the dough are a potential risk factor for salmonella. Cleaning the area with hot soapy water will help eliminate traces of the bacteria.
If you have used any type of pasta machine, be sure that you clean it thoroughly when you are done. Remove all traces of dough. So not use water to clean a hand-cranked machine because the water will cause the machine to rust and become unusable. See the manufacturer’s user manual for the best way to clean whatever type of machine you use.
Handling: As with any dough that contains raw eggs, fresh egg pasta dough should never be tasted when it is raw. It is also important that the eggs used in the dough have been handled and stored properly. Use the freshest eggs possible. Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator in the carton they were packed in. Eggs should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator where the temperature remains constant. Eggs keep best when they are stored at temperatures of no higher than 40Â°F. The ideal temperature range is 33Â°F to 38Â°F. Although salmonella bacteria is not destroyed in temperatures below 40Â°F, any of the bacteria that may be present will not grow.
Handle all equipment and utensils with care to prevent injuries from happening. Be extra careful when coming into contact with the blades and dies on the pasta machines. When you are cutting homemade pasta by hand, be cautious when using sharp knives. If holding the pasta in place with one hand while cutting with the other, be sure that the fingers on the hand holding the pasta are turned in towards the palm of the hand rather than pointing towards the blade of the knife.
When boiling the pasta, use standard safety precautions. Keep pot handles out of the way so that they don’t accidentally get bumped, causing boiling water to be spilled. Use potholders to protect your hands when handling pots that do not have heatproof handles. When checking pasta for doneness, be sure to cool the pasta before tasting. Be extremely careful when pouring boiling water and pasta into the colander for draining. It is best to cook no more than one and a half pounds of pasta at one time because that much pasta and the boiling water it takes to cook it makes it too difficult and unsafe to handle.
Uncooked dried pasta is stored differently than uncooked fresh or homemade pasta. Cooked pasta, whether it is dried or fresh, is stored in the same manner. Uncooked and cooked pasta have several options for storing. The storage options for each are shown below.
Dried Pasta: Dried pasta does not need to be refrigerated. It can be stored on the shelf in an airtight container in a dry area that is not exposed to extreme temperatures. Dried pasta can be stored indefinitely and still be safe to eat but the USDA recommends storing dried pasta for no more than two years to obtain the best quality. Some manufacturers will stamp their packages with a “best if used by” date, which indicates that the flavor, color and nutritional value may be affected if used beyond that date.
Fresh and Homemade Pasta: Fresh pasta can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. If the pasta will not be used within that time, it can be frozen and stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. Homemade pasta can be store in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days or frozen for 2 to 3 months. Homemade pasta can also be allowed to dry thoroughly and then placed in a plastic bag or airtight container. The length of time it will take to dry will vary depending on the type of pasta and its size, shape and thickness. If dried completely, the pasta can then be stored in a cool dry place for a couple of months. If you are going to be using the pasta the same day as it is made, you can allow the pasta to dry on a clean towel for a couple of hours before you cook it unless it is stuffed pasta. Stuffed pasta, such as ravioli, should be cooked within half an hour, otherwise the pasta will begin to discolor and become damp.
If it is not going to be cooked immediately it should be place on a lightly floured towel that is placed on a baking sheet, sprinkled lightly with flour, and then placed in the freezer. Once they are frozen they can be stored in a freezer proof bag or wrap and then stored in the freezer for 8 or 9 months.
Frozen pasta does not have to be thawed before it is cooked. Just throw the frozen pasta into boiling water and let it cook. It will need to cook a little long than unfrozen pasta.
Cooked pasta can be stored unsauced in an airtight container and refrigerated for 4 or 5 days. The sauce should be refrigerated separate from the pasta and can be stored for 6 or 7 days. This prevents the pasta from soaking up too much flavor and oil from the sauce, which causes the taste of the pasta to be drowned out. If the pasta is stored together with the sauce, it should be eaten within 1 or 2 days to limit the amount of sauce that is absorbed. If cooked pasta is not going to be used within the suggested time period, it should be frozen and then it can be stored for approximately 3 months. Frozen cooked pasta should be thawed in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter.
To store, cook the pasta as you normally would and then rinse with cold water and allow it to drain well.
* Add a small amount of olive oil or butter to help prevent the pasta from clumping together while it is stored. Use only enough oil or butter to lightly coat the pasta. * To refrigerate, place the pasta in an airtight plastic bag or an airtight container and place in the refrigerator. To freeze, place in an airtight plastic freezer bag and press out as much excess air as possible and place in the freezer. * If storing sauced pasta, eat within 1 to 2 days to prevent the pasta from absorbing to much sauce.
When refrigerating or freezing cooked pasta, be sure it is stored in a well sealed container so that it does not absorb any odors.
Cooked lasagne and baked pasta dishes can be refrigerated or frozen in the same manner as plain cooked pasta. The lasagne and casseroles should be first cut into individual servings before placing them in a sealed bag or container. This will make it easier when reheating.
If you have an entire lasagna or pasta dish to refrigerate or freeze, it can be left in the baking dish and tightly covered before storing.
The lasagna and baked pasta dishes can be refrigerated for 3 or 4 days or they can be placed in a freezer and kept for approximately 3 months. If frozen, the pasta dish should be thawed in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter.
Pasta Tips and Techniques
Shopping Tips | Homemade Pasta Tips | Reheating Tips | Handling and Safety Tips
Checking Doneness | Light Tips | Cooking Tips
* When purchasing fresh pasta, it is important that you check for the expiration date to ensure that the pasta will be fresh when you are ready to use it. * If substituting a pasta shape, for best results, select a substitution that is similar in size and shape to the pasta called for in the recipe. * When purchasing eggs for homemade pasta, check the "sell by date" to ensure freshness and check your recipe to find out what size eggs it is calling for so that you purchase the required size. * When selecting dried pasta, check the package to see that semolina flour was used to ensure good quality pasta. * If purchasing fresh pasta in place of dried, you will have to purchase a larger quantity of fresh to equal the required amount of dried. Dried pasta approximately doubles in size when cooked and fresh increases very little.
Tips on Making Homemade Pasta:
* Strengthen your homemade pasta dough by substituting Â½ cup or less of semolina flour in place of an equal amount of all-purpose flour. * If using a processor to mix the dough, it will not need as much kneading as when it is mixed by hand. * If the pasta becomes sticky at any point while working with the dough, dust it lightly with flour. Also, dust the equipment you are working with, such as the rolling pin or the rollers in the pasta machine, to prevent the dough from sticking. * When putting pasta dough strips through a rolling machine to thin the dough, if the strips become long and hard to handle, cut the strips in half to make them easier to work with. * Allowing the pasta dough to dry for approximately 15 minutes before cutting will result in cleaner cuts. * Drying the cut pasta noodles or shapes for 15 minutes or more before cooking will allow the pasta to firm up a little and prevent the pasta from sticking together when cooking. * Save the trimmings when cutting pasta noodles or shapes, press the trimmings together, reroll, and cut additional noodles or shapes. * When making stuffed pasta, work as quickly as possible to prevent the pasta dough from drying out and becoming difficult to work with, and to prevent problems with the pasta sealing properly.
Pasta Reheating Tips:
* When microwaving leftover pasta, heating individual serving size portions one at a time works better than trying to reheat several servings at once. The individual servings will heat more evenly. * Using a round or oval microwave safe dish for reheating in the microwave allows the pasta to reheat more evenly. A square cornered baking dish has a tendency to allow the corners to overcook. * When reheating lasagne in the oven, poke several small holes in the top of the lasagne and pour a small amount of milk over it and then cover the lasagne tightly with foil. Place in a 350Â° oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling. The little bit of milk will help keep the lasagne moist.
Handling and Safety Tips:
* Wash all work surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards with hot soapy water before and after working with the pasta dough. If working with egg pasta, periodically sanitize cutting boards with a bleaching solution consisting of one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. * Wash hands with hot soapy water before mixing, rolling and cutting the pasta dough. * If using a pasta machine, be sure to thoroughly clean all traces of pasta dough from the machine. * Be sure to properly refrigerate any fresh or homemade pasta that contains eggs. * Do not taste the dough of fresh or homemade egg pasta because the eggs cause the dough to be a potential risk for salmonella. * Do not try to break cellophane noodles up with your hands. The noodles have a tendency to break into sharp fragments that can injure your hands. Use a kitchen shears or chop the noodles with a cleaver if you need to break them into pieces. * If you are using chile peppers as a flavoring agent in your pasta or as an ingredient for your sauce, be sure to keep exposed hands away from the eye area and other sensitive areas of the body, such as nose and lips. The chile oil that your hands are exposed to can cause severe irritation. Wash hands immediately after exposure or wear rubber gloves to protect against exposure.
Tips for Checking Doneness:
* When cooking dried pasta, begin to check for doneness 1 or 2 minutes before the minimum cooking time stated on the package. * Do not overcook pasta, cook the pasta to an "al dente" state, which is tender but still having a slight bite to it. Overcooking will cause the pasta to become mushy. * Undercook pasta that is to be used in dishes that require further cooking. * Fresh pasta cooks very quickly, start checking for doneness as soon as the pasta begins to rise to the surface of the water
Light Tips for Pasta Dishes:
* Prepare dishes flavored with vegetables and herbs rather than meats and cream sauces. * When possible, use low-fat cheese, such as ricotta or cottage cheese in place of other cheeses. * Reduce the amount of cheese that is used on the top of baked dishes. * When making sauces that call for butter, replace it with olive oil. * When making a cream sauce, use skim or low-fat milk instead of cream. * In dishes that call for meat, reduce the amount of meat and increase some of the other ingredients that contain less fat, such as vegetables.
* When cooking fresh pasta, watch it very closely and test often for doneness because it cooks quickly. * To prevent the pasta from sticking together, be sure to use plenty of water and stir the pasta when first adding it to the boiling water. * To prevent soft, mushy pasta, do not allow the pasta to be in the water any longer than necessary by adding it only when the water is at a full boil and by keeping it at a steady boil throughout the cooking time. * Adding salt to the water when cooking pasta will help firm the pasta and bring out its flavor. * Add a tablespoon of oil to the water when cooking lasagne. Because lasagne noodles are long, wide and thick, they have a tendency to stick together when they cool. The oil in the cooking water will help to prevent them from sticking together. * Pasta should be cooked as close to serving time as possible because it cools down quite rapidly. Serve the pasta on a heated plate or in a heated bowl to help keep it warm. * To warm a large bowl for serving pasta, put the serving bowl in the sink and place the colander in it. When the pasta is done, pour it into the colander, allowing the hot water to drain into the bowl. Pull the colander out of the serving bowl and let the pasta drain. Empty the hot water from the serving bowl and pour the pasta into the warm bowl. * When cooking fresh or homemade pasta, be sure to have everything ready that you will need to prepare the pasta for serving, such as the colander in the sink, the sauce made and warmed bowls or plates ready to be filled. Fresh and homemade pasta cooks rapidly and having everything ready ahead of time will assist in serving warm pasta. * To bring pasta water to a boil more quickly, cover the pot with a lid while you are heating the water. Do not cover the pot while cooking the pasta. * When making lasagne, use the "no need to cook" lasagne noodles to save time. * To prevent pasta from boiling over, place a wooden spoon or fork across the top of the pot while the pasta is boiling. * When saucing the pasta, if the sauce seems a little dry, add a few tablespoons of the pasta's cooking water. * Don't worry about cooking too much pasta, the leftover pasta can be refrigerated and used later in other dishes, such as salads, casseroles or soups. It can also be reheated and eaten plain or with a sauce. * If combining different pastas, be sure to select shapes and sizes that are similar so that they will cook in the same amount of time.