Spaghetti, Spaghettini, Spaghettoni
If you think that browsing the pasta section of your local grocery is an exercise in finding the strangest shape pasta for your dish, let's change your thinking. Pasta is a beautifully simple ingredient that's easy to make and provides a strong basis for your dish. Countless dishes from dozens of countries have arisen with pasta as their basis – it's cheap, filling, and good for you. Since it's been around so long – the earliest discoveries of pasta-related items in China date from 2000 B.C.E – it's been mixed, matched and rethought hundreds of times.
The multitude of shapes that pasta can be rolled, cut, extruded or almost molded into all came about for one reason or another. A lot of the short-cut extruded pastas are fanciful designs, named for their resemblance to common items – conchiglie - “shells,” farfalle - “butterflies,” and radiatore - “radiators,” just to name a few. Kid's macaroni, shaped like movie or cartoon characters, fall in the same group. The squat, stout shape of these pastas lend them well to thick, rich sauces, such as – you guessed it – an extremely cheese-y mornay.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the longer, rolled-and-cut noodles, like linquine - “little tongues,” fettucine - “little slices,” and capelli d'angelo - “angel hairs.” These can be used for a wide variety of sauces and dishes, with the thinner, lighter noodles better for soups, broths, or chicken and fish based sauces. The thicker, wider noodles, like lasagna and pappardelle, do great with very thick and robust sauces. Most pasta rollers have at least two different pasta cutters on them, so even if you're making pasta at home you can match the size of your pasta cut to the dish you're composing.
The last type of pasta that needs to be mentioned are the 'minute' pastas – orzo, cous cous and the like. These are more difficult to make at home, and are typically store bought. These pastas, due to their extremely small size, do best as a dish on their own or as a salad, but they can also be added to soups as garnish, where they will mix in evenly with the rest of the ingredients.
So now that you know about the reasoning behind the nigh-limitless types of pasta, go out and mix and match on your own. If you treat your pasta choice with the same reverence and respect as you would your wine, you'll find a better match for your dinner than you would think possible.
- 4c Semolina Flour
- 4 Egg
- 2tbs Olive oil
- 1ts salt
- Water as needed
Semolina flour is high-protein flour made from Durum wheat, makes better pasta than all-purpose flour. It creates a stronger gluten structure, allowing for more pliable dough.
Salt provides flavor, and the eggs create richer dough, along with binding the dough together.
Olive oil is sometimes added for flavor, or, if the pasta is to be dried, water is used instead of eggs.
Kneading the dough creates the important gluten structure that holds the pasta together. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook or paddle simplifies the process: just add the ingredients and mix till dough comes together.
Start with a large, clean work surface. Make a mound of the flour and salt with a well in the middle.
Add the eggs to the well, and start stirring with a fork, slowly incorporating all the flour until the dough comes together. This will be messy
Knead the dough until it is soft and pliable. This might take several minutes.
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