Pasta recipes are typically thought of as Italian staples although they are widely used in other cuisines as well, notably Asian cooking.
Pasta is noodles made of a paste (hence, pasta) of flour that is rolled or extruded into a variety of shapes and either cooked while fresh or allowed to dry. Most versions are made of wheat flour, although Asian noodles are often made with rice flour.
Shapes for Your Pasta Recipes
Pasta comes in a variety of shapes for different uses.
- Spaghetti - long, thin 'strings' suitable for a variety of sauces. If thinner than normal spaghetti noodles, it is vermicelli and if very thin, angel hair.
- Macaroni - short tubular shape with a bend, often called 'elbow macaroni'. Most familiar to many in 'macaroni and cheese', but great with a variety of sauces or even chili to form the comfort-food 'chili-mac'. Other tubular pastas include ziti, penne, and rigitoni.
- Lasagna - large, flat, and wide noodles are cooked and layered with sauces, cheeses, and meats or vegetables to form a dish also called 'lasagna'. Eggplant lasagna is one of many favorite pasta recipes for vegetarians.
- Shells - shell-shaped noodles. Small ones are used in soups such as minestrone. Some pasta recipes call for large shells and are stuffed with fillings and baked.
It is best to cook pasta per package directions. Some pasta recipes suggest you add oil to the water when cooking pasta to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Don't do this! You will wind up with slick noodles and any sauce will slide right off. It is better to prevent noodles from sticking while cooking by stirring them early in the cooking process - there's a small window of opportunity early during the cooking when they will, if left unattended, weld themselves together. Once that time (two to three minutes into the boiling) has passed, you're safe from sticking noodles.