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How to Select and Cook Pasta

Thank you Marco Polo, the man who brought pasta to the west or did he?

Pasta is generally made from grains. There are all types these days from brown rice to durum wheat. Durum wheat is considered the best and comes from Italy. Pasta is almost always served as a separate course in Italy, not as a side dish like we see in many eateries in the United States. Regions of Italy may call the same pasta by different names.

Pasta can be classified into two categories. Fresh, which uses eggs and is quicker to cook, and dry pasta, which doesn't have eggs.

Pasta is easy to make. You need 4-6 quarts of water per pound of pasta. The reason why pasta often sticks is because most people don't add enough water. Unless you're both bloody pigs, all you will need is 1/2 cup to 1 cup of dried pasta per person. For long pasta it's about as much you could cram into a 1/2 inch diameter circle (the size of nickel). You don't have to add salt or oil to your pasta when cooking.

Bring your water to a boil; add pasta, stir, and return the cover to pot. Stir occasionally as your don't want the pasta to stick. Use the directions of the package as a guide. Cooking times will vary due to the intensity of heat, the proportion of water to pasta, the altitude and so forth. The only way to get pasta done right is to periodically taste the pasta. You want it to be. Al Dente which means firm to the tooth. That is what the pasta should feel like when it's properly cooked.

Do not rinse your cooked pasta with cold water. You don't want to wash off the starch. The starch will act as a glue to your sauce. Another mistake Americans often make is they over-sauce their plate. Don't drown your pasta in sauce, that's not right. Since pasta is all about the sauces, below is a simple chart to stir you in the right direction.


The Shape Name of Pasta Sauces


Long and thin

Angel hair, thin spaghetti, vermicelli, capellini

Great with oil-based sauces and light thin broths.


Long and wide (get your mind out of the gutter)

Fettuccine, spaghetti, linguine, pappardelle,  lasagna, tagliatelle

Heavier sauces, cream sauces, alfredo and light tomato sauces.


Short and girth like.

Ziti, penne, fusilli, farefalla,

shells (manicotti) , rigatoni, macaroni

Chunky sauces, meat sauces casseroles, primaveras, cheese sauces, pasta salads,



Orzo, small shells, ditali.

Soups, stews, salads,

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