Nowadays, excellent pasta can be enjoyed in so many parts of the world. The majority of pasta used is either in dried form or in fresh form, dependent on what the recipe calls for. It is a common and somewhat easy dish to prepare and is found in most homes. There are roughly 350 distinct shapes and types of Italian pasta being used. Many are quite common and known to most of us, however, other pastas are unique and are only found in certain regional areas of Italy. The Shapes and sizes used in Italian cuisine can range from the classic tubes and strands to the more unique bow tie (farfalle) or butterfly pasta.
Like many countries, the Italians take their food seriously and their pasta dishes carry even more significance. So much so, that the law in Italy, specifically in the South, states that all dried pasta must be made with pure durum semolina flour and water. This standard is also followed by a majority of pasta makers around the world. This is the only type of dried pasta used in gourmet Italian cuisine.
Dried Italian Pasta is designed to hold onto the sauce, (after all, what is Italian pasta without the sauce?) due to the fact that it is often made with ridges or bumps. The technique of creating the bumps and ridges in pasta is referred to as extrusion. Copper molds are also an integral part of the pasta making process. Pasta is squeezed out of molds and then sliced or cut into their ideal length before the drying process begins.
Unfortunately, a large majority of North American pasta is created using a steel mold. This is problematic at it results in a pasta that is too smooth. This makes it difficult for the pasta to hold onto the sauce. Fortunately, chefs are starting to recognize this problem and they too now are gravitating towards using the copper molds.
The process of drying pasta is another art form that affects the quality of the Italian dish. Pasta needs to be dried for a very specific amount of time at extremely accurate temperatures, dependent on the type of pasta being prepared. In Italy, the pasta maker insists that the pasta dry naturally and at low temperatures. Assembly-line type companies dry them at higher temperatures for faster production. We pay the price for this as it reduces the quality of the pasta and the final Italian dish.
Fresh pasta is required for certain recipes where it is meant to be eaten fresh and soft. Its ingredients differ from dried pasta. For example, in North Italy, the ingredients used are all-purpose flower and eggs whereas South Italian pasta, as mentioned above, is made with semolina and water. Note that different recipes call for different varieties of pasta. These variations give that unique and distinct twist to Italian food and gives each region’s Italian cuisine its own specific flare. Fairly simple or so it seems; some pastas are meant to be dried, others are meant to be fresh.
Some may argue in favor of one or the other. However, cooking fresh pasta is definitely a point of pride among many Italians and Italian chefs alike . It not only reflects the quality of the meal but it also represents the passion put into the dish. Although we have put a focus on Italian Pasta, this cuisine has a uniquely global history.
Many believe pasta to be of Italian decent, however, its roots are actually quite difficult to trace. A common theory is that pasta was brought to Italy from China during the 13th century, however, the Spanish also had their own spin on pasta. They were also were one of the first to bring this savory, comfort cuisine to America. Regardless of where it comes from, pasta is a wonderful dish with comforting qualities. It has changed very little over the years as is still made with the classic ingredients it began with.
Here is a great use of Fusilli in a Red Hot way.
1 tablespoon olive oil 2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup fresh minced parsely
4 cups ripe fresh harvest tomatoes chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped 1 tablespoon oregano leaves crushed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt ground red pepper or cayenne pepper to taste
8 oz uncooked fusilli pasta
1/2 pound cooked chicken breast diced into 1/2 inch pieces
Heat oil in medium saucepan. Add garlic and parsley sauté until golden
Add tomatoes and spices and cook uncovered under low heat until thickened.
Add chicken and cook for another 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through
Cook pasta in unsalted water until firm. Spoon sauce over pasta, sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!