Monday, September 19, 2011

Basics of Italian Cooking - I (Pasta)

A Mini Pasta Encyclopedia

Pastas come in varieties of shapes that serve for both decoration and act as carriers for different kinds of sauce. Everybody feels that they are pretty decent when it comes to cooking up a great Italian pasta dish. But just whipping up different sauces and getting any kind of pasta from the store and tossing them together is “NOT” authentic Italian cooking. 

When you go to the supermarket to get your dry pastas I am sure you spend a lot of time at the pasta aisle trying to decide which ones to buy and ultimately you pick out the ones that looks colorful, pretty or the ones that sound familiar. That is wrong.  To be an expert in authentic Italian cooking one “MUST” have the basic knowledge of the kinds of pastas that are available on the market shelves.  Every pasta is different in flavor, texture and requires different methods of cooking and sauces. A mismatch of pastas and the sauces really does have a huge impact on the recipe’s flavor. 

Let me take you through a lesson on the basics of pasta where I shall explain to you about the different kinds of pastas and some recipes and sauces that you can whip up. This will not only make your recipes more authentic but will also help you decide what to order from the menu card when you go to an Italian restaurant.

Pasta Lunga – Long Pasta

These are all long and noodle like pastas and are best suited with olive oil and tomato sauces rather than sauces with large chunks of meat or vegetables. Best way to eat them would be to twirl them on a fork as that is when the sauces cling to the pasta. The various kinds of Lunga pastas available at the market are – 

·         Spaghetti – Best known of all the pastas, are textured to go with variety of sauces.

·         Spaghettini – These are “thin” spaghetti ideal for light and spicy sauces.

·         Capelli D’Angelo – Also known as “Angel Hair”, makes a good desert and is never served with sauces.

·         Linguine – Means “Tongue” they are flat and slippery and interestingly found only Outside of Italy.

·         Bucatini – These are spaghettis with holes or hollows, like drinking straws, wonderful for robust sauces. 

·         Fusilli Lunghi – these are long spirals like telephone cords and are good with chunky sauces as they cling to the curves in the pasta.

Some well known recipes/sauces for Pasta Lunga – Spaghettini Alle Erbe,Fusilli Lunghi Alla Rustica, Linguine Al Sugo Di Vongole E Zucchine, Bucatini Alla Sorrentina, Spaghetti Alla Checca  Spaghetti Aglio E Olio.

Fettuce – Ribbons

This is the most popular type of pasta that is usually made with eggs in them. These are delicate and porous. So these are good for butter and cream based sauces as they have high absorbency rate. The various kinds of Fettuce pastas available at the market are – 

·         Tagliatelle – It originate at Bologna.  Classic match – Meat Bolognese Sauce, 8mm width.

·         Pappardelle – It is the widest ribbon pasta and are either straight or saw edged, 2cm width.

·         Pizzoccheri – Made of a combination of plain flour and buck wheat, is from Lombardy.

·         Tonnarelli –It originated in Abruzzi and resembles square spaghetti, 1.5mm width.

·         Fettuccine-Most famous ribbon pasta. Classic match – Alfredo sauce, 5mm width.

·         Tagliolini- Narrowest ribbon pasta usually served with broth and not sauce, 2mm width.

·         Paglia E Fieno – Combination of plain and spinach pasta (green colour).

Some well known recipes/sauces for Fettuce – Tagliolini Alla Romagnola, Pizzoccheri Della Valtellina, Fettucini Alfredo, Tagliatelle Coi Gamberi E Asparagi, Paglia E Fineo Ai Funghi, Tonnarelli Ai Gamberi E Funghi.

Tubi – Tubes

Tubular pastas are sturdy and filling. They go with variety of sauces. The hollow in the tubes are good for trapping sauces and meat in them thereby making them very flavorful. The various kinds of Tubi pastas available at the market are – 

·         Penne – Most widely used in the world. Called that as they resemble nibs of ink pen. Comes in different sizes. Some are plain and some have vertical texture on them.

·         Garganelli – Traditional handmade tube pasta that looks like a folded napkin.

·         Elicoidali – These are straight with no edges. They have circular circumference in edges.

·         Cavatappi – They look like corkscrews as they have twisted shapes.

·         Maccherroni – Mostly used in soups or mixed with butter and cheese for small kids. 

·         Rigatoni – Large and chewy. Best tossed in Parmigiano – Reggiano, butter and cream cheese.

·         Gigatoni- Largest tube pastas. Good for baked recipes.

Some well known recipes/sauces for Tubi – Penne Al Cavolfiore E Panna, Cavatapi Alla Boscaiola, Elicoidali Ai Pollo, Rigatoni Di Ragu Di Agnello, Maccheroni Alla Salsiccia E Ricotta.

Forme Speciali – Special Shapes

There are newly shaped pastas coming out in the market all the time but the traditional ones are always predominant. Each shape produces a particular sensation on the palate and is best suited to a particular type of sauce. Most recipes do not warrant sauces. The various kinds of Forme pastas available at the market are – 

·         Farfalle – Also known as bow-ties.

·         Conchiglie – Also known as shells come in different varieties. The smallest are usually used in soups, middle size is sauces and largest ones are stuffed.

·         Gnocchi – They are like potato dumplings. Are also made with sweet potato.

·         Lumache – They resemble the shells of snails.

·         Orecchiette – Hand made and resembles little ears.

·         Radiatori – They resemble little radiators or heaters.

·         Fusili – They resemble short springs

·         Ruote Di Carro – They are from Sicily and resemble cart wheels.

Some well known recipes/sauces for Forme – Fusili Corti Alle Zucchine, Farfalle Al Salmone, Ruote Di Carro Con Peperonata, Conchiglie Alla Salsiccia E Panna, Lumache Ai Carciofi, Pasta Salad.

   Pasta Per Minestre – Soup Pasta

These small shapes are collectively referred to as pastina or little pasta. They are good with homemade meat broth. They were created to amuse children. They are shaped and named after squares, rice, corn kernals, tubes, melon seeds, alphabets, peppercorn and stars.
Eg: Quadrucci, Risoni, Orzi, Tubetti, Semi di melone, Alfabetini, pepe, stellini.

Some well known recipes for Pasta Per Minestre – Minestra di pasta e verdure,  Minestrina dei bambini, Pasta e fagioli.

Pasta Ripiena – Stuffed Pasta

These are stuffed or layered pastas. The shape decides the quantity of stuffing. Mostly these recipes are baked recipes. The various kinds of Ripiena pastas available at the market are – 

·         Raviolini – These are meat filled pastas.

·         Pansoti – They are filled with ricotta and local greens, served with walnut pesto.

·         Tortelloni – Square, saw edged pastas filled with Swiss chard served with butter, parmigiano – reggiano or burro e pomodoro sauce.

·         Tortellini – Served with broth on New Year’s Eve or with cream sauce. 

·         Capppelletti – resemble Chinese wantons or fortune cookies.

·         Lasange – These are large sheets of pasta, sandwiched with layesr of meat, seafood or vegetables and baked.

Some well known stuffings – Sweet potato parsley and mortadella, Ricotta minced beef and mortadella, Spinach ricotta and prosciutto.

My Italian origin friends and neighbours, Giuliano Hazan and pictures from the Internet (Google Images)


The Mad Jammer said...

This is such an useful post, Deeps! Thanks much

Lady (Go)diva !!! said...

Part -2 coming soon :D

Krithi's Kitchen said...

Interesting read... thanks for sharing...
Krithi's Kitchen
Event: Serve It - Steamed