Name covering several hundred different ways of mixing flour and eggs or water to produce pasta of many different shapes and sizes which is boiled and baked, stuffed or served with sauce or melted butter. Some say Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from China, but in the Pompeii Museum, an ancient equipment for making pasta is on display. Sorry, China!
Some time ago I interviewed slim, trim, terrific Sir Robert Helpmann. And he insisted his favourite food was fettuccine – Fettuccine al’Alfredo. Strewth, I’d have thought he’d want to eat light airy-fairy food rather than heavy, hold-you-to-the-ground pasta. But when I thought about it, Sir Robert needed carbohydrates to give him the power to work the muscles his high-protein food had built up. So as long as you don’t eat fettuccine at every meal and you’re a bubbling, budding ballet dancer, pasta can’t hurt you. Anyway, it never hurt Sir Bob.
Tips on cooking pasta.
- Buy only the best quality pasta made from Durum wheat. This is a high protein wheat therefore it holds its shape after cooking and has the best texture.
- Add pasta gradually to a large saucepan of rapidly boiling water. Stir for the first 2 minutes to ensure pasta does not stick together. Allow 1 litre of water for every 100g of pasta.
- Add salt to boiling water for pasta with discretion ; salt toughens the protein in the pasta.
- Fresh pasta only takes 3-5 minutes to cook. It usually floats to the top when cooked.
- Follow cooking directions on packet for dried pasta. Do not overcook. Cook until al dente, or firm to bite.
- When cooking pasta for a pasta salad, add a little oil to the water. For hot pasta dishes, do not add oil to the water as this will make the pasta slippery and the sauce will not cling.
- For hot pasta, drain, do not rinse. Rinsing cools the pasta and makes it too slippery for the sauce to cling.
- For a pasta entrée for 4 people allow 250g of pasta. For a pasta main course for 4 people allow 375g of pasta.
- DO use plenty of water in a large saucepan as this will prevent pasta from sticking.
- DO bring the water to a rapid boil before adding the pasta. Add a little salt to season.
- DON’T add oil to the water if you’re going to serve the pasta hot.
- DO cover the pan to return it to the boil quickly once you’ve added the pasta, then remove the lid so it doesn’t overflow, and cook until the pasta is tender (there’s usually a guide on the packet).
- DO keep a tablespoon or so of the cooking water in the saucepan after draining the pasta in a colander. Return the pasta to the pan and stir through the sauce. The small amount of cooking liquid helps the sauce to cling to the pasta because of the starch in the water.
- DON’T store and reheat plain pasta unless you coat the cooked pasta with a little olive oil. To reheat, plunge it in boiling water for a minute or two.