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La pasta – A quick guide to understand the holiest Italian dish

This is a quick guide. 

Do not expect to be reading the Pasta’s Bible, which I believe could be an impossible thing.

It is very easy and complex at the same time. There are a lot of unwritten rules that you learn during a lifetime and you’ll never get all the knowledge around this dish. Here you will find the rules you learn as an Italian child, just by watching your parents or listening to your grandma. Breaking these rules is considered almost like a murder (but it won’t get you in prison). 

Plus: Every kind of dish has its own rule. This means “Spaghetti alla Carbonara” might have completely different rules from “Spaghetti all’amatriciana”. Here you’ll find the basic pasta rules.

Pasta’s Three golden rules 

There are a few unwritten rules you want to respect when cooking pasta. These are the most important three: 

  1. AL DENTE: Pasta’s consistency should be soft outside, but slightly hard inside. The “al dente” consistency is quite hard to reach, but your pasta should definitely not be totally soft and squishy. Here’s the secret: do not respect the cooking time on the Pasta box, but taste your pasta while it is cooking. Usually if the box says 10 minutes, let your pasta cook 7 minutes and then taste it. Follow your feelings and remember: you should feel the little hardness inside with your teeth. 
  2. BOILING WATER: It is absolutely forbidden to start cooking pasta if the water is not boiling. You should put the pasta in deep boiling water and stir it often while it cooks, otherwise you’ll have a gluey pasta, covered in the starch released by the pasta itself while boiling. 
  3.  SERVE WARM: Serve the pasta as soon as it comes out from the hob. Do not freeze or eat it the day after unless you are intentionally cooking a “Cold Pasta” which as its own rules. 

Kinds of pasta 

There are 2 famous kinds of pasta: 

  1. Wheat Pasta (Pasta di grano duro)
  2. Egg Pasta (Pasta all’uovo)

WHEAT PASTA

Spaghetti, Penne, Fusilli, Conchiglie, Bucatini, Rigatoni, Mezze maniche are very common varieties of wheat pasta. Wheat pasta is the one you buy at the supermarket, it is dry and very difficult to produce in your house. 

It must be cooked for around 8 minutes in deep boiling water, with a bit of salt in it (which must be poured before the pasta, right after the water starts boiling). Don’t forget that cooking time depends on the shape of the pasta you use. 

EGG PASTA

Tagliatelle, Maltagliati, Tortellini, Ravioli are all made with Egg pasta. This pasta is a lot easier to be prepared and it is the pasta grannies prepare for Sunday lunch. It is prepared mixing white flour, Egg Yolks and water. It must be a little bit rough and wet. It is used alone for Tagliatelle or Maltagliati with tasty sauces such as Ragù or Bolognaise, which is famous outside of Italy. It is often used as a base for stuffing. The shape and the stuffing give the name to the pasta: it could be Tortellini, Cappelletti or Ravioli. 

Well, now you now a little more about pasta. 

But remember: pasta always comes with a sauce. 

So let’s jump straight to the next guide:

THE SAUCE THREE GOLD RULE

Here you’ll discover the ancient secrets and mysterious recipes that we’ll make you a great SAUCE MASTER. 

Well, see you soon and remember: AL DENTE!

Andrea

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