The Italian cuisine is rich and varied in all its aspects, but pasta has been its pride and glory through much of its history. Pasta is an Italian food made from dough using flour, water, egg is an optional ingredient.
There are many variations of shapes and ingredients that are all called pasta. A few examples include spaghetti (solid cylinders), macaroni (tubes or hollow cylinders), fusilli (swirls), and lasagna (sheets). Pasta can also denote dishes in which pasta products are the primary ingredient, served with sauce or seasonings. The tiniest shapes are often used in soups, long ribbons or strands with sauces, and tubes and fanciful shapes in casseroles and pasta salads. Some shapes are large enough to be stuffed and baked, and others, like ravioli, come already stuffed. Pasta normally is white-yellow, but other colours exist.
How to Select
Pasta and its varieties are readily available at the grocery store of different brands. Look for a renowned brand. Also pasta is fortified with extra vitamins and mineral. Choose the shape as per the recipe. Read the ingredient label and check on the packaging material used. The pasta should have a rough surface and not too smooth, as smooth pasta will not hold onto sauce. The pasta should be compact and heavy for their size in order to stay together when cooking. Remember to stay away from mass-produced cheap pasta; you will just be disappointed come dinnertime. For fresh pasta look for the expiration date on the package and take a good look at the pasta. If it looks cheap then it probably is, if the pasta feels heavy in the package and has a nice color and texture it is worth buying.
The nutritional value of the pasta will also be shown on the label or package. It will show calories, fat and cholesterol content, and it will list the nutrients contained. The food label or package may also contain other information such as cooking instructions and estimated serving sizes.
Boil plenty of water in a large pan with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil.Add the pasta to the boiling water by adding a few strands or one sheet of pasta at a time.
Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally and gently until the pasta is tender. Cooking times may vary with the size and the thickness of the pasta. Very small pasta (like macaroni, fusilli, conchiglie, penne) may cook in 5 to 7 minutes, while larger shapes (like spaghetti, fettuccine, dried lasagne sheets) may require 10 to 12 minutes.
Immediately drain the cooked pasta into a sieve or a colander. Transfer to a bowl of cold water to refresh it. Drain again and keep aside.If the pasta is not to be used immediately, add 1 tablespoon of oil to it and toss it.
" When creating an impromptu pasta dish, remember that "less is more" and limit the number of ingredients that you use. Oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and hot pepper flakes is one delicious combination
" A good rule is to remember simple pasta works best with simple sauces while complex shaped pastas are ideal for thicker sauces. Fresh, tomatoes make wonderful sauces for your favorite pasta dishes.
" Tempt yourself with these healthy dishes found Three Bean Pasta, Pasta Stir-Fry with Citrus and Asparagus, and Vegetarian Spaghetti Pizza.
" Pasta salads are one of the easiest dishes to prepare. You can use pasta salads for lunches, dinners and even special occasions. Pasta salads are a great addition to any meal.
" Try the traditional Italian recipes using the classic baked noodle and pasta.
" Garlic bread is the perfect complement to pasta.
" Pairing pasta with legumes, such as beans and lentils, or low-fat dairy products makes for protein-rich, but inexpensive and delicious meatless meals. Pasta cooked with lentils is an exciting variation!
" Simple and fast to make, pasta dish celebrates its Italian heritage with a topping that combines olive oil, garlic, canned sardines, parsley, bread crumbs, and grated Parmesan cheese
" Pastas on Pizzas with all your favourite toppings are a must recipe to experiment.
" Be creative! Toss pasta with a little vegetable oil, tomato or broth for a simple sauce.
" Try a no-cook sauce by marinating tomatoes chopped fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves in a little oil. Toss with hot pasta for a quick, delicious meal.
For a change of taste, try pureed roasted red peppers as a sauce.
" For a nutrient-packed meal, top pasta with chopped or mixed vegetables and a favorite bottled sauce.
" When creating a sauce, start with broths or vegetables, and vegetable purees as a base instead of cream and butter. Experiment with spices and fresh herbs to add interest and flavor. Experiment with ingredients that stimulate the texture of fat - without the fat.
" Use a blender or a juicer to create your own combinations of vegetable purees. Then just bring to a simmer with your favorite herbs and spices and toss with pasta.
" Add leftover pasta to your favorite soup. If you use dry pasta, simmer the soup for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Top pasta with leftovers - cooked vegetables or combine with a low-fat salad dressings or spoonful yoghurt.
" Use fruit to balance spicy dishes. Tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapple temper hot flavors, and balance and brighten, as well. Apples work well with curries, and bananas add a delicious counterpoint to hot chili peppers.
" Think texture as well as flavor. Add a toss of toasted pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts to a creamy pasta sauce for added interest.
" Pasta made with whole grains offers superior nutrition, containing the precious nutrients-protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals-that are concentrated in the outer membrane and germ of the grain.
" Make mealtime more enjoyable by serving different, fun shapes - stars, letters, wheels and the all-time kid favorite ... spaghetti. Introduce young pasta eaters to finger-friendly sizes like ziti, rotini (spirals), and radiatore (radiators).
" Pastas filled in Lunchbox will give your youngsters a nutritious and enjoyable alternative to the age-old jam sandwich.
Points to remember while cooking pasta -
" 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.
" 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 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.
" 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.
How to Store
Store it, unopened, in a cool, dry cupboard for six to eight months or as per the expiry date. Dried, fresh, and cooked pasta need to be stored in different ways. Fresh pasta will keep for 1-2 days in the refrigerator and can also be frozen. Stuffed pasta or fresh pasta made with eggs will keep for 1 day in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer. Cooked pasta will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge or freezer. Cover it well to prevent the absorption of odors.
" Pasta is high in complex carbohydrates, which provide a "time release" of energy rather than a quick boost. For individuals that are concerned about their carbohydrate intake, there are low-carb pastas available. The amount of carbohydrates contained in these pastas may vary slightly from one brand to the next but they contain significantly less carbohydrates than regular pasta.
" Pasta has always been a top nutrition "player" in our diets. Most athletes include complex carbohydrates in their diet to save up the energy in their body. The carbohydrates become glucose stored in the muscles. The glucose energy is then released when needed during long, tiring exercise, like long-distance running or biking.
" Consuming pasta a minimum of three times a week is an easy way to help meet that goal.
" Pasta was once considered to be fattening and have very little nutritional value. Nutritional experts now realize the value of pasta in our diet.
" The carbohydrates provide our bodies with vitamins, minerals and energy.
" Some of the ingredients used in making the low carbohydrate pastas are soy products, wheat gluten, egg whites, rice flour, and salt. The low-carb products are also higher in protein and fiber than regular pasta.
" Although pasta is nearly fat free, the sauces and other toppings added to the pasta are what add calories and fat. To maintain the low fat, low calorie advantages of pasta, it is important to keep the sauce low-fat also.
" The protein contained in pasta varies according to the type of flour used.
" If eggs have been added to the dough, the protein content will go up slightly and the cholesterol will increase.