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Know your pasta

types of pasta
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Baking pasta
These varieties are thicker, so that their strong walls can withstand longer oven cooking. Some do not need to be pre-boiled, but if they do, they should be cooked for a shorter time than normal so the pasta is still quite firm. Drain well.

  • Conchiglione - giant shell-shaped, hollow pasta
  • Tortiglioni - slightly curved, ribbed hollow tubes
  • Cannelloni - egg pasta in big, hollow shapes, which are filled and baked
  • Lasagne - egg pasta, in sheets, used for the dish of the same name

Short pasta
More suited to heavier, thick and chunky sauces, which adhere well to pasta with twists, grooves, holes and shell spaces for it to fit. Also good for salads.

  • Orecchietti - small, ear-shaped pasta
  • Maccheroni - short, hollow pasta tubes
  • Garganelli - egg pasta, ribbed and scrolled over to form a tube
  • Spiralli or fusilli - spiral-shaped pasta
  • Cellantani - spring-shaped pasta, good in soups
  • Penne - short, pen-shaped, hollow pasta, can be ridged or smooth

Egg pasta
Use for indulgent sauces rich with cream, cheese or butter, which cling to the flat ribbon noodles. Also good with spicy meats and sauces.

  • Pappardelle - the widest, ribbon-shaped egg pasta, good with robust sauces
  • Fettuccine - ribbon pasta approximately 5mm wide
  • Tagliatelle - slightly narrower than fettuccine and sometimes wound into "nests"

Long pasta
Long, thin strands are best suited to smoother, lighter sauces such as pesto, seafood, light tomato, olive oil or butter-based sauces. Heavier tomato and meat sauces suit long, thick strands.

  • Bavette or linguine - a flat shape, which suits most sauces
  • Bucatini - hollow, so suits heavier sauces
  • Spaghetti - most widely used pasta, which suits a variety of sauces
  • Spaghettini - thinner than spaghetti, suits lighter sauces

Pasta pointers

  • Bring 4 litres of water to the boil with 2 tablespoons salt. Add 500g dried pasta, stir until the water boils again. Boil, uncovered, testing the pasta two minutes before the suggested cooking time on he packet. Cook until "al dente" - firm to bit - for the best flavour and texture.
  • Drain well if using in salads or baking. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water to add to hot sauces if needed.
  • There is no need to add oil to the water when cooking quality pasta. Oil will cause the sauce to slide off rather than coat the pasta.
  • Don't rinse pasta after cooking. The starch on the outside ofthe pasta helps the sauce to cling. Rinsing also lowers the temperature of the pasta.
  • Two wooden forks are the best utensils to use for tossing pasta with sauce.

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