I love pasta; in fact, I’d venture to say it is a glorious food product! And it doesn’t really matter how it’s prepared (condiment or sauce-wise, that is); I’ll eat penne rigate with good olive oil (recipe) and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Bucatini with a fresh, tomato, pan sauce (recipe), or linguine fine with a homemade pesto sauce (recipe). The condiment for any pasta is important, but what’s key is that the pasta is not over or under cooked and that the water used to boil the pasta is both salted and abundant (don’t crowd your pasta during the cooking process).You’ll also hear the word al dente thrown around a lot but it’s the food equivalent of drinking only Bordeaux; that is to say, you can cook pasta al dente most of the time (and be happy), but all pasta does not need to be cooked, “to the tooth” at all times (large rigatoni is a good example).
Moreover, dry pasta is not inferior to fresh pasta and, in fact, the very best dry pastas are superior to average, fresh made, pasta. I always aim to keep, at the least, 5 varieties of dry pasta in my pantry, including:
The pasta cooks very fast and is great for loose sauces like tomato
or cream based sauces, like the ubiquitous Alfredo. I also use linguine fine when I cook up a batch of super simple Aglio e Oli pasta
The fastest cooking dry pasta on the market. You need an abundant condiment for this type of pasta or you’ll get lumpy bundles of thin pasta. My mom used to make angel hair for me during the school year (with plenty of tomato sauc
e and freshly grated cheese); in fact, every time I have Angel Hair I’m brought back to lunch time during my elementary school years.
Another pasta staple that goes well with pesto or baked in the oven with fresh mozzarella, ricotta and a bit of tomato sauce.
Ah, this was the go to pasta for Nonna Rosa. Nonna Rosa preferred the large type rigatoni and she would often serve the pasta with a ton of olive oil (mixed with a bit of corn oil because she liked to save money) and freshly grated Pecorino Romano
. Large rigatoni is also the base for my white wine dark turkey meat Bolognese sauce (pictured above).
This is a thick spaghetti with a hole in the middle. Bucatini is a hardy pasta that, because of the hole at the center of the pasta, takes any sauce surprisingly well. I like bucatini with anchovy, hot peppers flake, garlic, freshly chopped parsley, and olive oil.
Pasta is a wonderful food ingredient. It gets a bum wrap in the US because most Americans tend to have pasta as a main dish when having dinner (this will lead to you getting fat!). Pasta, if proportioned correctly, can be used to start a meal 2-3 times a week (as they do in Italy on most nights). The correct portion is about two ounces. And if the condiment or sauce is made well (and used sparingly) you will feel very satisfied (the problem occurs when there’s no taste in your sauce and you look for additional pasta to make up for the lack of taste). Good pasta also needs two key ingredients to thrive: olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano
. Moreover, don’t forget to save some of the golden water used to cook your pasta
(you may want to add a little bit with your condiment/sauce when mixing it with pasta) and always bring your pasta to your pan containing your condiment/sauce
(never the other way around).
Finally, you may want to know which dry pasta brand is best. In terms of large, well known, and readily available brands I like De Cecco
. I also think Colavita
makes a good dry pasta. I used to consume Barilla but I think their quality has suffered a bit in the last ten years or so (I’m not sure what it is but De Cecco
pasta tends to have more flavor and a better consistency). There are also tons of small production type dry pastas from Italy (such as Rustichella
), but you really just need to try them and stick with what you like (many are also outrageously priced and, in my view, not worth the extra money).