I think one of my first memories of pasta was "Lady and the Tramp." Remember that great romance scene of the two dogs brought together by a strand of spaghetti? Ahhh, LOVE!
The funny thing is, many of us have a definite love affair with pasta and noodles of all kinds. My mom's side of the family is 100% Polish - we had homemade noodles many times each week. Then, when my folks were just trying to make ends meet and feed our family, pasta could stretch the dollar like few meals could. And the great part is that kids just think it's a good meal, not paying any attention to the fact that its one of the thriftiest meals you can make.
As we deal with this crazy economy, we're coming back to the family table so it's time to learn even more about this wonderful dinner staple.
Like I said on the show, I always thought that the different pasta shapes were like cereal - just someone's idea of food creativity. Not so. I learned that pasta shapes actually have a very real purpose - they are the vehicles for the sauce and their shape can help you make an even more delicious meal when paired with the perfect sauce.
Here's what I learned in a nutshell. I simplified it to make it really easy to shop and remember. And the key is just to explore the different pasta shapes by matching them to the correct sauce. Your family will love the fun of it!
Types of Pasta
Long and Thin -- Oil-based sauces and light broth-like sauces
Long and Wide -- Cream sauces, Alfredo and light tomato sauces
Short and Chunky -- Chunky sauces, meat sauces, pasta casseroles, pasta salads
Tiny -- Soups, stews, salads
Six Tips to Perfect Pasta
Now the details on how to cook these fun noodles. Even if you're putting your pasta in a casserole, you need to cook it first. Here are six things to remember.
Use a big enough pot and a lot of water - this will help keep the pasta from sticking.
Bring the water to a hard, rolling boil - you know, eruption type boiling.
For every 1 pound of pasta, put in 2 Tablespoons of Kosher salt - it should taste like seawater - not just a shake of salt like I always did. This flavors the pasta beautifully!
After putting in the pasta, stir it a couple of times to separate it during the first 1 - 2 minutes of cooking. This will keep it from sticking.
Drain it but DO NOT rinse your pasta - you want the sauce to stick to it and the starch on the noodles is necessary to making this happen.
Never add oil to the water - this will coat the pasta and your sauce will not stick to it.
Add your pasta to the sauce to let it absorb the sauce and flavors. Mix it together over the stove for a couple of minutes to blend flavors.
A Pasta Recipe to Try It Out
Here's my own version of a pretty traditional Pomodoro Sauce. Only 4 handy ingredients and vegetarian. If you toss on a little cheese even my picky son ate it.
Pair it with a long and thin pasta like spaghetti or angel hair.
5 Tbsp. olive oil 7 cloves garlic, minced 2 cups of chopped or diced tomatoes A bit of basil for topping, chopped finely Salt and pepper to taste
Saut garlic in oil until translucent (about 2 minutes). Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered until it cooks down until thick not watery - 30 minutes or so.
Mix cooked pasta with sauce and stir in another 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
This is a yummy, really, really inexpensive dinner.
Suddenly, I'm feeling a little less Polish and a little bit Italiano!
Live and Learn.