How to Eat Pasta
Pasta]is a time honored tradition in Italy, and an exciting option for dinner in most developed countries. Eating pasta requires knowing which pasta to choose, how to cook it, then how to eat it with finesse.
Choosing Fresh or Dried Pasta
Decide whether you'll use fresh or dried pasta.You can cook either fresh pasta (pasta fresca) (and the faster of the two), or you can use the typical dried pasta (pastaciutta). The difference between the two is obviously freshness, but for ease of use the dried pasta is often readily available in the pantry, while fresh pasta needs to be purchased as it's needed or made from scratch (the latter being a time-consuming but enjoyable kitchen exercise). Or, you can use layers of pasta between sauces and filling to make lasagna and cylinders of pasta to make cannelloni.
- Most dried pasta is made in a factory. It is quality controlled and comes in a wide variety of shapes.
- Fresh pasta can be purchased from specialty stores, from supermarkets or made at home. If eating pasta at a restaurant of good quality, it is preferable that the pasta be made fresh.
- The dough is usually made from hard durum wheat; this produces an elastic quality in the dough that makes it easy to stretch into shapes.
Choose a pasta shape.There are many different types of pasta shape, and some are purely about preference, while others may hold certain sauces better than others. While there are hundreds of different shapes, some of the typical shapes include spaghetti, penne, spirals, farfalle bows, macaroni, curled pasta and lasagna sheets.
Choose a pasta flavor.It is possible to get flavored pasta beyond the standard version without flavoring. This is perhaps for special occasions and it's not necessary if it doesn't interest you. Some of the flavors include spinach, chili, squid ink or tomato. Egg may be added too, which can color and flavor the pasta (known as pasta all'uovo).
Cooking the Pasta
Read the label accompanying the package of dried pasta or purchased fresh pasta.This will tell you the amount of time the pasta should be cooked for, and this will vary depending on the brand and shape/filling of the pasta. Standard cooking times:
- Dried pasta: About 8 to 10 minutes.
- Fresh pasta: About 2 to 3 minutes.
- Filled pasta: About 12 minutes.
- Lasagna or cannelloni: About 25 to 45 minutes.
Use a large saucepan to cook pasta.Pasta needs the space to move around and will cook unevenly if in too cramped a space. Fill with a lot of water and ensure that it is boiling before adding the pasta.
- For each person, add about 75g or 3 ounces of pasta. A little extra can be added and if not eaten, can be reheated the next day or used to make a pasta salad.
Add the pasta.If it is long, such as spaghetti or linguine, drop one end into the boiling water, then gradually push down the rest of the pasta as it softens through cooking. This won't take long, and watch out for the hot water and your fingers!
Cook until it isal dente, meaning that it has some resistance when bitten.It should not be a mush. Test before it is due to be ready; it is better to be too early than too late.
Take the saucepan off the heat.Drain the pasta and get it ready for serving.
Adding a Sauce
Choose a suitable sauce.Dried pasta tends to be better for strong sauces with thin textures. Fresh pasta is often stuffed with cheese, vegetable or meat fillings, making it delicate, so it is usually best with fine cream or cheese sauces.
- Smooth pasta (no ridges or curls): Creamy, cheesy sauces, meat sauce.
- Bumpy, ridged or curled pasta: Same as above but also butter, oil, vegetable and tomato sauces.
Serve the cooked and coated pasta in a decent sized dish or plate.Eat as you would normally. A little seasoning always goes down well. Use a small pinch of salt and enough pepper to fill the center of your palm. Afterwards, season according to taste.
Separate a portion of pasta with a single tine of your fork.This will pull it aside from the main mass of pasta.
Use the twirl for long pasta.This action helps you to get sufficient pasta on your fork without losing sauce or making a mess when eating it. Wrap the fork tightly around the spaghetti and place it in your mouth. Chew the spaghetti thoroughly, then swallow it.
- A more proper method is simply twirling it on your plate, still keeping the twirling separate from the main mass of pasta.
- This works only with stringy pasta (spaghetti or linguine).
- Don't overdo the seasoning. You could always put more on if you need to but once in the sauce, it cannot be removed.
- Cook sensibly and use lightly salted water to cook the pasta.
- Always read the pasta packet label.
- If you are a child, ask an adult for help and supervision.
- Be careful of boiling water. It can scald you if splashed on skin.
- Keep children supervised by a responsible adult or older child.
- Do not eat pasta with a spoon. It is considered the worst of manners in Italy and other European nations.
Video: How to Eat Spaghetti: With a Spoon or Without?
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