| Pastas and Noodles |
Pastas and Noodles and couscous, dumplings and wontons, macaroni, rigatoni, spaghetti, tubetti, vermicelli, fettucini—this is only a few of the many varieties, the most diverse food made from grain. Preparation of all types begin with a dough, or paste, made by mixing ground grain or flour and liquid. The ingredients, their proportions, and the methods of mixing and shaping the dough all are variables.
Most Western noodles are made from finely ground wheat flour. Good-quality dried ones from wheat flour are customarily made from durum semolina. Many Oriental types are based on rice flour or starches derived from potatoes, beans or even acorns. The dough may be colored and/or flavored with vegetables, such as spinach, peppers, or tomatoes, and formed in many ways. Once shaped, the noodles can be used fresh, but can also be dried and stored.
All share certain characteristics: flavor that is subtle and texture that is tenderly firm. Noodles are perfect vehicles to be used in combination with almost any other food. Some are coated with sauces; some mixed with meat, seafood, vegetable and cheese; and some give body to soups.
Noodle shapes have been made commercially in Italy since about 1400, and in the United States since 1848. By extruding dough through dies, or molds, manufacturers have created hundreds of forms. Most shapes can be used interchangeably to vary the appearance of differing dishes. As a rule, twisted and curved shapes are used with meaty sauces, as they trap more chunky particles than strands and ribbons do. The wide bands of lasagna are best reserved for layered casseroles, the broad tubes of manicotti for filling.
Commercial, dried pasta can be stored almost indefinitely if it is kept in a tightly sealed package or a tightly covered container in a cool, dry place.
Cooking and Draining Pasta
Noodles must be cooked in a large quantity of rapidly boiling water so that individual pieces can float freely; otherwise they will stick together in a gummy mass, and cook unevenly. Allow 4 quarts of water for each pound. Never try to boil more than 2 pounds at a time. It will not cook or drain properly.
Oil should not be added to the cooking water. It does not prevent the pieces from sticking together, but only coats the noodles, preventing it from fully absorbing the sauce after draining.
When draining, reserve at least half a cup of the cooking water. The noodles will continue to absorb moisture after draining, and it is often necessary to add some of the water to the serving bowl so that sauce and noodles combine well.
Fresh noodles For 1 pound (500g: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt, according to recipe, and the nodles. Stir and then cover the pan. Bring back to a boil, uncover and cook for 5 seconds for fine noodles, 15 for thicker cuts. Total cooking time should not exceed 1 ½ minutes, or 3~5 minutes for stuffed. Drain without delay in a large colander. Combine with the sauce, adding some of the reserved cooking water, if necessary.
Dried Pasta Cooking dried noodles in too little water crowds the pan as it swells, making the final product gummy. For 1 pound (500g), Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 ½ tablespoons salt (undersalted or unsalted pasta is virtually tasteless), and the pasta. Cook according to the times printed on the packaging, but you should lift a piece out and taste.
Acini di pepe – Probably the smallest variety of pastina, acini di pepe is tiny, pellet-shaped noodle and is made with wheat flour.
Anellini – Medium-small, ridged, tubular pasta cut in thin rings.
Arrowroot Vermicelli – Very thin, Chinese noodles.
Bucatini – Long, “holed” sting noodles. These long, think hollow tubes of pasta are used with pesto and sauces containing pancetta, vegetables, and cheeses.
Candele – Long, large, tubular shaped. Traditional with Neapolitan-style ragu, candele are ideal for all meat sauces.
Cannelloni – Large cylinders. The thinnest sheets of pasta are cut into 3½ x 4½ inch rectangles and stuffed with a variety of fillings.
Capellini or Capellini D’Angelo/Angel Hair – Very, fine, solid, cylindrical pasta.
Capellini Tagliati – Broken angel hair.
Cavatappi – Medium-thin, hollow, ridged pasta twisted into a spiral and cut into short lengths.
Cellophane noodles – Cellophane noodles or bean starch noodles are made from the starch of mung beans and come as vermicelli or as flat, wide noodles. They are difficult to cut and separate when dried, so buy them in small bundles. They need to be soaked in boiling water for ten minutes or until soft, and then drained. You can also deep-fry them direct from the package.
Conchiglie or Shells – Large or medium with a ridged shell shape. Use medium shells for tomato, meat, and butter sauces. Giant shells may be stuffed and baked.
Conchigliette – Little shells. Used in light soups containing vegetables or lentils.
Couscous – Fine granules of pasta made from semolina flour. Of North African origin, couscous is traditionally cooked by steaming it over boiling water or a pot of stew.
Cresti di Gallo – Ridged, hollow, elbow-shaped noodles with a ruffled crest along one edge.
Ditaloni Rigati – Narrow tubes cut in short lengths. These “thimbles” which are available in smaller sizes and ridged or smooth, should be used in soups with beans.
Egg Flakes – Tiny, flat squares.
Egg Noodles – Usually ribbons in varying widths; may be cut long or short. They are packaged loose or in compressed bundles, and may have spinach or other flavorings.
Elbow Macaroni – Narrow, curved tubes cut in short lengths (about 1 inch).
Farfalle – Butterflies. Flat, rectangular noodles pinched in center to resemble a butterfly or bow. They may have crimped edges. Pair these with simple oil-based sauces, butter, tomato, and cheese-based sauces.
Fedelini – Very fine ribbon pasta, similar to vermicelli.
Fettucini – Long, flat, ribbon-shaped, about ¼ -inch wide.
Fiochetti or Bowties – Rectangles of flat noodles curled up and pinched slightly in the center to form bow shapes.
Funchetti – Little mushrooms. This quirky mushroom-shaped egg pasta works well in hearty soups.
Fusilli – Corkscrews. Long, corkscrew-shaped strands, thicker than spaghetti. Springy shape for meat sauces that are traditionally served with Neapolitan ragu. They can be used in baked pasta dishes.
Fusilli Corti – Short twists. These short, tight twists form hollows that will effectively trap meat, ragu, and ricotta preparations.
Gnocchi – Dumplings made from ricotta or more often with potatoes. Use gnocchi with tomato, butter, or meat sauces.
Hokkien – Hokkien noodles are round, yellow wheat noodles available from the refrigerated section of Asian and some super markets. Place noodles in a bowl and cover them with hot to boiling water. Soak for 1-2 minutes or until noodles have softened. Drain and use, as recipe requires.
Lasagne – Large, flat noodles about 3-inches wide; usually with curly edges.
Linguine – Thin, slightly flattened, solid strands, about 1/8 – inch wide. Traditionally, linguine are used with “white” clam sauces, pesto, and delicate oil-based sauces.
Macaroni – Thin, tubular pasta in various widths. They may be long like spaghetti or cut into shorter lengths.
Mafalde – Flat, curly-edged, about ¾-inch wide. Sometimes called lasagnette or malfadine.
Manicotti – Thick, ridged tubes that may be cut straight or on an angle.
Mostaccioli – Medium size tubes with angle-cut ends. May be ridged.
Orecchiette – Smooth, curved rounds of flat pasta; about ½ -inch in diameter. Pair with thick, rustic sauces or with vegetable sauces and ragu.
Orzo – A tiny pasta shape that resembles large grains of rice.
Pansotti – Pot-bellied dumplings. These are cut from 2 inch squares, stuffed, and folded into triangles. They may have straight or fluted edges.
Pappardelle – The name pappardelle derives from the verb “pappare,” to gobble up. The fresh types are ¾-1 inch wide and have fluted edges. Dried egg pappardelle have straight sides.
Penne Grandi (Sardi) – These spacious tube shapes are for use with ragu, meat, and robust vegetable sauces, such as those containing broccoli or cauliflower.
Penne Lisce– These pennes are smooth, rather than ridged. Tomato sauces, including more chunky versions, meat sauces, and cream sauces are compatible.
Penne Mezzanine – The smallest of the pennes, these half-thickness pastas are best matched with light vegetable sauces and tomato sauces.
Penne Rigate – Ridged penne are designed to take oil or butter based sauces, meat or vegetable creations, and cheese sauces. unctuous
Ramen – Ramen noodles are used extensively in Japan, although they are Chinese in origin. They can be purchased fresh, but are much more readily available dried. They are used in Japanese noodle soups. The fresh noodles need to be boiled until they are tender before being added to a soup. Most dried ramen noodles are instant and only need boiling water poured over them to be cooked.
Rice Noodles – Noodles in various widths (up to about 1/8 inch). Rice sticks are long, straight ribbons, and rice vermicelli is very thin.
Ravioli – Stuffed squares of pasta, filled with cheese, vegetable, or meat fillings, made by hand or in molds.
Rigatoni – Thick- ridged tubes cut in lengths of about 1-½ inches. Choose this robust shape for meat and sausage sauces, fresh tomato sauces, vegetable sauces, and baked timballi.
Rotelle – Spiral shaped.
Rotini – Small, round, 6-spoked wheels. The “spokes” of these pasta wheels effectively trap meat and cheese sauces.
Shanghai – Shanghai noodles are soft, flattish, fresh wheat noodles. They are found in the refrigerated section of Asian supermarkets. They have a firm texture when cooked and are used in Chinese soups and stir-fries.
Soba – Soba noodles are long, thin Japanese noodles made from buckwheat. Sometimes wheat flour is added as well as flavorings such as green tea, shiso leaves and black sesame seeds.
Somen – Somen noodles are fine white Japanese noodles made from wheat and water or egg yolk. These noodles are often cooked lightly in boiling water and served cold with a dipping sauce or in soups.
Spaghetti – Solid, round strands ranging from very thin to thin. Use spaghetti with tomato or fish sauces, or oil-based sauces.
Taglierini – Paper-thin, ribbon pasta cut about 1/16-inch wide. Also known as tagliarini, tagliolini, and tonnarelli.
Tagliatelli – Very thin and delicate flat noodles, about ¼ inch wide. Use with cream sauces and other sumptuous sauces.
Tortellini – Little pies. Made from 2-inch disks of pasta and filled with either meat or cheese.
Tortiglione – Hollow spirals. Also called succhietti (from the word for a drill bit), these short hollow spirals are for use with meat or cheese sauces.
Tubetti – Medium-small (usually about as thick as elbow macaroni), tubular. May be long or cut in lengths of about an inch. Perfect for minestrone.
Tubettini – Little tubes used in light soups.
Udon – Udon noodles are soft, creamy, buff-colored Japanese wheat flour noodles. They are usually boiled in stock or soup broth and served as an informal snack.
Vermicelli – Very fine cylindrical pasta. Similar to capellini and fedelini. Choose fine vermicelli and fedelini noodles, broken up, for broth-based soups. Thicker varieties are suitable for sauces.
Ziti – Medium-size tubes. May be ridged; and may be long or cut in approximately 2-inch lengths. Use with ragu and meat and vegetable sauces.
Buon appetito always!
Brought to you with love from
Aunt Aletha and Dear Old Dave
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