- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Many Shapes of Pasta
Pasta can be found in an extraordinary number of varieties and shapes. A comprehensive list would be encyclopedic in length, not to mention that a definitive lexicon is not really possible. The same shape of pasta can have a different name depending on the region it is from. Sometimes the same name can even be used for a number of different shapes, depending on where you are. When I first visited Verona to create a cooking school in its beautiful wine country, I was quite taken aback when I ordered lasagne at a restaurant and was served what to me were tagliatelle, noodles that are slightly wider than fettuccine (which, by the way, are called lasagnette in Verona). The dish of baked lasagne that the rest of Italy is familiar with is called pasticcio in Verona. Filled pasta shapes can be even more confusing. The square-shaped filled pasta known as tortelloni in the Romagna part of Emilia Romagna may be called ravioli, tortelli, or pansotti in other regions. In Bologna, which is in the Emilia part of Emilia Romagna, tortelloni are the large version of tortellini, the bishop's hat–shaped pasta, which in Romagna are instead called cappelletti.
The variety of pasta shapes that are available is not simply fanciful: most sauces are best suited to certain shapes. Long pasta shapes, such as spaghetti and linguine, are usually best with smoother sauces that don't have chunks of vegetables or meat. Chunky sauces are best suited to tubular shapes such as penne, rigatoni, and maccheroni, and many of the special shapes such as fusilli, shells, and cartwheels. Listed below are the shapes that you are most likely to encounter in Italy and that I use in this book. I have divided them into two main categories: flour-and-water pastas and egg pastas.
Flour-and-water pasta shapes:
Spaghetti: Probably the best known of all pasta shapes, spaghetti are a masterful invention. Their sturdy texture makes them a perfect vehicle for a wide variety of sauces, but not usually meat sauces or ones with large chunks. Ideal pairings: Spaghetti Carbonara; Spaghetti with Cheese and Pepper; Spaghetti with a Savory Tomato Sauce.
Spaghettini: Literally, little or thin spaghetti. It's especially important to use a premium brand of spaghettini and not to overcook them. They go well with simple, savory sauces, but not heavy sauces. Ideal pairings: Spaghettini with Tomatoes and Olives; Spaghettini with Olive Oil and Garlic; Spaghettini with Fresh Herbs.
Linguine: Linguine means "little tongues" and in Italy they are used mostly in the southern part of the country. They go well with sturdier pasta when a bit more surface area for sauce is desired. Ideal pairings: Linguine with a Pink Shrimp Sauce; Linguine with Lobster and Asparagus; Linguine with Fresh Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella.
Bucatini: Also called perciatelli by some manufacturers, these hollow spaghetti are wonderful with the robust sauces found in south-central Italy. Ideal pairings: Bucatini with Fresh Tomatoes and Thyme; Bucatini with a Spicy Tomato Sauce.
Fusilli: This fun shape can be either long, resembling a coiled telephone cord, or short like a corkscrew. They are great with sauces with chunky bits that cling well to the pasta. Ideal pairings: Fusilli with Yellow Squash and Grape Tomatoes; Fusilli with Green and Yellow Peppers; Fusilli with Sausage, Ricotta, and Fresh Tomatoes.
Penne: Penne are probably the most commonly used of the tubular pastas. They are available either smooth or ridged and in a variety of sizes. Penne go well with tomato sauces, sauces that have small chunks, and some heavier cheese sauces. Ideal pairings: Penne with Four Cheeses; Penne with Mushrooms and Ham; Penne with Tomatoes and Prosciutto.
Maccheroni: Historically the name was synonymous with pasta when it first made its appearance in the aristocratic courts of southern Italy. Now maccheroni refers to a straight-edged tubular pasta, which like penne can be either smooth or ridged. Many sauces that are good with penne are also good with maccheroni. Ideal pairings: Maccheroni with Pancetta and Ricotta; Maccheroni with Tomatoes and Sage.
Rigatoni: These large, wonderfully chewy and satis–fying tubes are a classic, popular shape in Italy. They are traditionally served with meat sauces, but are also good with chunky vegetable sauces. Ideal pairings: Rigatoni with a Veal Roast Sauce; Rigatoni with Onions, Pancetta, and Pecorino.
Cavatappi: Their name means "corkscrews," but unlike the short fusilli, they are hollow inside, somewhat like an enlarged section of the long fusilli. Their twisted shape wraps itself around chunky vegetable sauces wonderfully, and they are also great in certain hearty soups. Ideal pairings: Vegetable Soup with Pasta; Egg Drop Soup with Zucchini, Amalfi Style.
Orecchiette: These are a specialty of Apulia, where they are usually served with a broccoli rabe sauce; the name means "little ears." They are traditionally made by hand from a flour-and-water pasta dough pressed between the thumb and palm. Ideal pairing: Orecchiette with Broccoli.
Farfalle:Farfalle in Italian means "bowties." Their convoluted shape makes them excellent for meat sauces and chunky vegetable sauces. Ideal pairings: Farfalle with Fresh Salmon; Farfalle with Peas and Lettuce; Farfalle with Salami and Tomatoes.
Conchiglie: The name means "shells," and conchiglie are available in a variety of different sizes. The smallest ones are usually used in soups, the larger ones for sauces. One of my favorite pairings is with butter and cheese because there is so much surface area for the sauce to coat. Ideal pairings: Shells with Sausage and Cream; Shells with Butter and Cheese.
Ruote: Also called ruote di carro, which means "cartwheels," this pasta shape pairs well with chunky vegetable sauces, meat sauces, and sauces that are good with rigatoni.
Lumache:Lumache is Italian for "snails," and they are similar to the curled shape of a snail's shell. Meat sauces go especially well with this pasta. An ideal pairing is Shells with Sausage and Cream.
Strozzapreti: The name, which literally means "priest stranglers," supposedly came about after a priest's gluttony led to a fatal encounter with this pasta. They are, of course, quite harmless and are traditionally made by hand from flour-and-water pasta dough in the south or from egg pasta in Romagna. They are about 1½ inches long and resemble a piece of stretched telephone cord. They are similar to gemelli, or "twins," and casarecci, and would go well with sauces I've paired with fusilli in this book.
Egg Pasta Shapes
Fettuccine: This is probably the best known of the ribbon pastas. It is narrower than tagliatelle and best suited to delicate cream-based sauces. Its most famous pairing is probably the Roman Alfredo sauce. Ideal pairings: Fettuccine Alfredo; Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables; Fettuccine with Lemon
Tagliatelle: Bologna is the home of tagliatelle, flat noodles slightly wider than fettuccine. In 1972 the Accademia della Cucina Italiana, an organization devoted to preserving authentic Italian cuisine, created a replica of the "ideal" tagliatella in gold. Its width was determined to be exactly 1/12,270 the height of the Torre Asinelli, Bologna's famous medi–eval tower, or about 6.5 millimeters. Its most classic match is with Bolognese meat sauce. Ideal pairings: Tagliatelle with a Quick and Simple Meat Sauce; Tagliatelle with Prosciutto; Tagliatelle with Peas.
Pappardelle: These are wide ribbons that in Bologna are also known as larghissime, which means "very wide." They are good with most sauces for tagliatelle and where you want lots of surface area to be coated with the sauce. Ideal pairing: Pappardelle with Shiitake Mushrooms.
Capelli d'Angelo: The name means "angel hair" because capelli d'angelo are extremely thin. They are traditionally served in a soup of homemade meat broth. In Italy they are never served with sauce because they are too light and delicate.
Tagliolini: Except for capelli d'angelo, this is the narrowest of the ribbon pastas. It is occasionally used with a sauce but more commonly served in homemade broth. Ideal pairings: Tagliolini in Broth; Tagliolini with White Truffle.
Maltagliati: The name literally means "badly cut," and they are cut from a rolled-up sheet of pasta into irregular triangles. To approximate them you can break up pappardelle into 1-inch pieces. Ideal pairings: Pea Soup with Pasta; Cannellini Bean and Pasta Soup.
Soup Pasta: There are many different types of small shapes that are used in soups, some of which probably exist simply to appeal to children, such as alphabet pasta, stars, tiny rings, and shells. Some are small tubes and some resemble rice or melon seeds. They are best suited to simple broths and light soups. An ideal pairing is in the Children's Pasta Soup.CHAPTER 2
The Pasta Pantry
Cooking simply and with few ingredients requires great care and high-quality ingredients. There are many pasta dishes that can be prepared with a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator, without having to go shopping first. Non-perishables such as dried porcini, capers, and anchovies are all very useful things to have on hand. What perishables to keep on hand will depend on how often one cooks. Here I list the items I always have a supply of in my kitchen.
Olive oil: The Romans considered olive oil the noble condiment and butter fit only for barbarians. Among the things Romans brought with them when they settled in con–quered lands were olive trees. Never use anything other than extra-virgin olive oil. The degree of "virginity" of an olive oil is determined by the level of acidity. The lower the acidity, the better the oil. To be labeled extra-virgin, its acidity cannot be more than 0.8 percent by law. Most good extra-virgin oils are less than 0.5 percent. In addition, the oil must be obtained from the first pressing of the olives without the use of heat or any chemicals, hence the term "cold press" so often seen on labels. When I use olive oil it is for the flavor it gives a dish, so I always try to use the best. It is just as important to use a high-quality olive oil for cooking as it is for dress–ing salads and drizzling on a finished dish. If you were to taste a dish of spaghetti with olive oil and garlic made with a premium olive oil next to one made with an inexpensive olive oil, you would be amazed at the difference.
Salt: Salt is essential in coaxing flavor out of food. Using spices instead of salt only succeeds in adding extraneous flavors that may mask ingredients instead of enhancing their taste. I rarely give measurements for salt because seasoning with salt is something you really need to develop a feeling for. I use sea salt exclusively because it doesn't add any bitterness or aftertaste.
Bouillon Cube: When I do not have any homemade meat broth available, I prefer using a good bouillon cube rather than canned broth. To approximate the lighter flavor of Italian broth, use 1 large cube to 4–5 cups water.
Hot Red Pepper Flakes: Italian food is not generally spicy, but occasionally we do like a little heat. In Italy I like using whole dried hot peppers, but in the States I usually use hot red pepper flakes, which are easier to find. If you can get the whole dried peppers, use one whole dried pepper in place of ? teaspoon flakes.
Beans: I am a firm believer in good-quality canned beans. Fresh beans, when available, are certainly superior, but otherwise I highly recommend the convenience of canned beans. The varieties used in this book are cannellini beans, chickpeas, and cranberry beans (borlotti in Italian).
Dried Porcini: Though not really a substitute for fresh porcini, the luscious Italian wild mushrooms, dried porcini deliver a concentrated burst of wild mushroom flavor. They can be used to add porcini flavor to regular cul–tivated mushrooms. Look for packages with slices of the caps as well as the stems. They will keep a long time—several months.
Capers: Capers are available preserved either in salt or in vinegar. The advantage of the ones preserved in vinegar is that they last a long time, even after the jar is opened. Unfortunately, capers in vinegar inevitably take on a vinegar flavor that will not go away even if you rinse them. Capers preserved in salt do not last as long, but the salt imparts no flavor, so they only taste of capers. You can tell when they spoil because the salt turns yellow. When using salted capers, first soak them in several changes of water to rinse away the salt. Once the container is opened, both kinds must be refrigerated.
Anchovies: Look for anchovies packed in glass jars, which are usually of better quality than anchovies packed in tins and much easier to store in the refrigerator once opened. Anchovies, contrary to what you might think, do not add a fishy flavor to a sauce. Most of the time you can't even tell they are there. However, they do add a distinctive richness of flavor to many pasta sauces.
Breadcrumbs: The breadcrumbs used in the recipes in this book are plain, fine, dry breadcrumbs, not seasoned crumbs. If you'd like to make your own, remove the crust from day-old bread and bake in the oven at 250°F for about 5 minutes. When the bread has cooled, pulse it in a food processor until you get fairly even-sized crumbs that are not too fine. Use for recipes that call for coarser crumbs. For recipes that call for fine crumbs, pulse them finer, then put the breadcrumbs through a medium-mesh strainer. Store in a jar in the pantry. They'll keep for several weeks.
Garlic: An Italian pantry without garlic is inconceivable; however, less garlic is used in Italian cooking than most people believe. Garlic's rich and slightly pungent flavor should complement a dish, not dominate it. When you buy garlic, make sure it is firm, with no green shoots sprouting. Store garlic in a dry, ventilated location, not a refrigerator, for no more than a couple of weeks.
Onions: I use sweet yellow onions predominantly, but unless sweet onions are specifically called for, regular yellow onions are fine. They should be stored just like garlic, unless you have a cut piece of onion left over, which should be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator.
Fresh Tomatoes: Whenever tomatoes are called for in this book, I always mean fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are better suited to recipes where they cook for 45 minutes or longer, which breaks down their acidity, resulting in a concentrated tomato flavor. The recipes in this book use tomatoes for their fresh flavor and are cooked briefly. Out of season, when I am limited to supermarket tomatoes, I like using what are called "ugly ripe" tomatoes. Otherwise, choose the best-looking ripe tomato you can find. Don't keep tomatoes in the refrigerator, as it will rob them of flavor.
In the Refrigerator
Parmigiano-Reggiano: The king of cheeses and the cheese of kings—well, fortunately not anymore. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a cow's-milk cheese of incomparable flavor, texture, and richness, prized as a table cheese as well as a grating cheese. Made the same way for eight centuries, this cheese is still dependent on the skill of it's maker, passed on from generation to generation. Only buy cheese that has the words Parmigiano-Reggiano imprinted on the rind. Always grate Parmigiano-Reggiano as close to when you need it as possible. Never buy pre-grated cheese. Even if you are certain it is the real thing, by the time you use it, it will have dried and lost much of its fragrance. A choice piece will easily keep for several months. When you get home, divide it into two or three pieces so that you only unwrap and re-wrap one smaller piece at a time. The other pieces will keep better without being opened all the time. Keep the pieces in individual Ziploc bags, making sure to squeeze all the air out. It's possible that some mold may form on the surface. It's nothing to be concerned about—simply scrape it off with a knife.
Excerpted from Guiliano Hazan's Thirty Minute Pasta by Giuliano Hazan, Joseph De Leo, Luisa Weiss. Copyright © 2009 Giuliano Hazan. Excerpted by permission of Harry N. Abrams, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.