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Why everyone should love pasta

Why everyone should love pasta

Pasta, for me, is the ultimate comfort food. In Italy, it’s generally eaten at least once a day, and for many Italians a meal would feel incomplete without it. This is reflected in my beautiful new release, The Pasta Book.

From a simple spaghetti served with olive oil, garlic and chillies (olio, aglio, peperoncino) to more elaborate baked dishes like a beautiful classic lasagne, pasta can be quick, simple, healthy, nutritious and versatile. I see pasta as “fast food” because it’s quick to cook and the best sauces are uncomplicated and equally speedy to make; while the pasta is cooking in one pot, the sauce is bubbling away in another! Pasta is a meal in itself and most recipes don’t require a lengthy preparation, meaning you can get a family meal on the table in just a few minutes.

There is a pasta shape and recipe for each day of the year and more! In Italy there are over 600 different pasta shapes on the market and new inventions every day, so there is always something new to discover and taste. Italians feel strongly about certain pasta shapes being paired with certain sauces (something I think is only really understood in Italy). In my new book, I have generally followed these rules: long pasta such as spaghetti or linguine tends to go with quick-cook, light sauces such as a simple tomato or fish sauce, and short shapes such as penne or farfalle marry well with heavier, more robust-tasting sauces.

Nutritionally, pasta can also be excellent – perfect for growing kids and all the family, especially if you go wholemeal. It is an ideal carbohydrate because it releases energy slowly; it is highly digestible and the lack of fats makes it suitable for low-calorie diets. Contrary to popular belief that pasta is stodgy, it can be as light, fresh and summery as you like. Mix some pasta with my simple tomato sauce or homemade pesto for a quick and nourishing fix, or try my wild rocket and pecorino orecchiette (from the book) for a light but perfectly balanced meal.

Wholemeal pasta, in particular, is a source of several difference micronutrients like iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and several B-vitamins, which we need to keep our nervous systems and metabolic systems healthy. Some experts claim pasta is not only healthy and nutritious but also boosts serotonin levels, a substance associated with feelings of peace and contentment. When I was young, my mother, of course, knew nothing of this, but when I was in a foul mood she used to make my plate of pasta a bit larger than normal and tell me to eat it all up and I would feel better. And, as if by magic, I did.

I was brought up cooking with fresh seasonal, locally grown ingredients, and I have always stuck to this philosophy as a chef and when cooking at home. It made perfect sense, then, to split The Pasta Book into seasons.

As a child, I looked forward to each new season in anticipation of the delights it would bring. Autumn is probably my favourite time of year, with its wild mushrooms, walnuts, chestnuts and more. Spring has serious merits, though; there something so special about its fresh peas, broad beans, asparagus, herbs and young salad leaves. And summer brings our beloved tomato, ready to be preserved so we can enjoy them in pasta dishes throughout the coming year, as well as abundance of peppers and aubergines. Even winter has its charm, with comforting pasta bakes and rich game sauces. Combining seasonal produce with pasta is a sure and simple way to ensure you are eating a healthy balanced diet which is also kind on your purse.

I love the versatility of pasta; it can be egg-based or made with water, and sauces vary greatly region to region. In Southern Italy, for example, flavours are stronger, with lots of garlic and chilli; by the sea, sauces are fish-based; and in Northern Italy sauces tend to be more delicate and creamy. The north is also famous for filled pastas, like ravioli and tortellini, and bakes such as lasagne and cannelloni.

Pasta can also be made in advance and served for parties or on picnics. I love making pasta salads when entertaining for a large crowd, like my pasta salad with grilled peppers and olives. You can add whatever you like – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, red onion, tuna, olives, pickles, sliced leftover sausages, prawns, cannellini or borlotti beans – the list is pretty much endless. My daughter loves it so much she often has it cold with her favourite ingredients as a packed lunch at school.

It is also traditional in Italy to use leftover pasta to make a pasta frittata. I like to take these with me on picnics, or when I go foraging into the woods; they make a wonderful, nutritious meal when you’re out and about, and taste lovely cold, too.

I have included a wide variety of pasta dishes in The Pasta Book; recipes reminiscent of my childhood, like involtini of beef in tomato sauce (a Sunday lunch favourite), or octopus linguine, and sausage & broccoli spaghetti. Each chapter includes a filled pasta, such as cappellacci or ravioli, to suit each season, as well as a baked pasta dish, ideal for making in advance and perfect for catering for larger numbers. There is also a section on handy tips for making and cooking pasta, as well as a chapter on basics to help you get started, from simple tomato sauces to making your own fresh pasta dough.

I hope you will enjoy recreating my recipes from The Pasta Book – it’s a perfect year-round guide to Italy’s most popular and versatile food.

Happy cooking, and buon appetito!

Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube: The Pasta Book by Gennaro Contaldo is available to buy on Amazon now.


10 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cooking Pasta

There is nothing quite as comforting as a steaming plate of fresh pasta. It doesn't matter if it's covered with a rich tomato sauce or creamy alfredo — pasta is one of our favorite dishes. It's also easy to make. We've all had the experience of boiling water and tossing in some noodles. In fact, many of us probably survived on this in college. However, when it comes to pasta, your form matters. There's a big difference between light, al dente pasta and that gooey mess you sometimes end up with — and it all comes down to how you cook it. Here are some of the top pasta offenses and how to prevent them.


Cathy commented: “I tried this recipe for your mom’s spaghetti sauce, and it was perfect ! I’m Italian and was taught many years ago how to make a good sauce. But over the busy years, it started not tasting so good, and it seemed okay to just buy a nice jar already prepared. But after reading your recipe which was very close to my mom’s, and being inspired to try again, now I’m hooked and loving it. Thank you for turning my “cooking” back on . This is a great recipe!”


Why everyone should love pasta - Recipes

The classic of all classics, spaghetti and meatballs, is a fantastic go-to dish for any dinner occasion. Dress it up with a handmade pasta, such as papparadelle, for a dinner with friends or keep it basic for a party of one. The meatballs in this recipe are truly easy to make they only take a few minutes of mixing, rolling, and heating. We suggest making a double batch so you can bank some in your freezer.

You probably didn’t spend much time perfecting your cooking skills during college chances are you learned to make a decent bowl of ramen noodles, or you headed up to your common room kitchen and filled a baking dish with pasta and whatever cheap ingredients you could find. And then you got your first apartment, bought some pots and pans, and ate lots of filling and budget-friendly mac and cheese. If you’re stuck in a pasta rut and haven’t really learned how to get creative (and nutritious) with this most versatile food, here are some ideas to help you take your pasta-making to the next level.

Pasta is one of the simplest and most adaptable foods to prepare and many great dishes require very little prep work yet result in a fantastic and well-composed meals. If you’re on a tight budget, need a complete meal in little time, or are concerned that your cooking skills aren’t up to par, pasta is the way to go. Learning how to make a few basic but satisfying dishes will always come in handy.

Besides being incredibly easy to prepare (can you boil a pot of water?), pasta dishes often require very few ingredients. Many of them can be made with items that are likely sitting in your cupboard or refrigerator at this very moment. With a little chopping, a little mixing, and about 30 minutes of prep time, you can have a filling and crowd-pleasing dish. Evenhandmade meatballs or a creamy Alfredo sauce can be made quickly with a few smart tricks.

(Credit: Shutterstock)
Flavorful, hearty Bolognese sauce requires some patience — the flavor takes time to develop — but it will be well worth the work. This recipe calls for ground beef, but you can make a mixture of ground beef, veal, and pork in whatever ratio you prefer to add a bit of complexity to the flavor.

Pasta Carbonara

(Credit: Shutterstock)
If you’ve ever made this dish before and followed a recipe that asked you to use any sort of milk or cream, you were deceived! The ingredients for a good pasta carbonara are few, so if a tight budget is the issue, this is right up your alley. If you’re a carbonara novice, it’s egg yolk that makes this pasta dish so creamy, not cream.


The Psychological Reason Why People Hate Spicy Foods

As one of those people who douses everything she eats in a light (or, more often than not, generous) layer of hot sauce, I&aposve never understood people who tell me that they can&apost "handle" spicy foods. Sure, there are some food that are so spicy they might literally kill you, and everyone should probably avoid those. But some people get overwhelmed by the addition of red pepper flakes in a dish, which, to me, seems like just a starting point. So why do some people hate hot sauce and other delectably spicy foods while others, like me, can&apost get enough?

The answer is based in science𠅋ut not genetics, as many people think. It turns out that there is no such thing as a spice-loving gene, and no one is born loving hot sauce. Instead, affinity for spicy foods is learned, a result of repeated exposure to peppers—specifically capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers taste hot and make your mouth burn. This process of learning to love heat is what Paul Rozin, professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who basically invented the study of the psychology of disgust, called "benign masochism" in the Washington Post.

When you eat foods with capsaicin, like chili peppers, certain receptors in your mouth pop off, and that tricks your brain into thinking that your mouth is on fire. As part of your response to this stress, your body will produce endorphins, to help stem the pain of these transmissions. And as Elle Woods from Legally Blonde would say, "Endorphins make you happy!" So when you&aposre talking about getting a "rush" from hot peppers, you&aposre generally talking about feeling the endorphins, trying to tamp down the bad feelings. It&aposs this one-two punch of pain from capsaicin, followed by the rush of endorphins, is how so many people learn to associate hot foods with happy feelings.

What&aposs interesting is that folks who eat a lot of spicy food don&apost have numbed or otherwise inured receptors or taste buds than people who can&apost stand the stuff. As Rozin wrote in 1980, "Chili likers are not insensitive to the irritation that it produces. They come to like the same burning sensation that deters animals and humans that dislike chili." The difference is a "hedonic shift," meaning that they&aposre more used to the burning sensation, with stronger associations between pain and pleasure, than those who don&apost really eat it. This is why people theorize that those who were exposed to spicy foods in their childhood are more likely to like it. (Rozin&aposs research also indicates that those with thrill-seeking personalities might be more inclined to go heavy on the hot stuff, which makes sense when you compare the thrill of going on a rollercoaster to that of successfully crushing a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos.)

But this also means that those who hate spice can actually train themselves, over time, to love the stuff. All it takes is a little bit of patience and a small tolerance for discomfort. If you do get in over your head, though, just drink a glass of milk or chug a beer. It&aposll be over before you know it. Promise.


Gnocchi: Why Every Pasta Lover Should It A Try

If you, like many people, are a hardcore pasta lover, then you may want to expand your pallet and give something new a try. More specifically, gnocchi. If you aren’t already familiar with this heart, delicious entrée, then there is no better time to learn more about gnocchi, as you may be surprised by how delicious this dish really is.

Upon first glance, gnocchi and pasta may not seem all that different, in fact, they typically look pretty identical. However, gnocchi is not a form of pasta. It is actually a dumpling made out of potatoes. You can serve gnocchi with a variety of sauces and toppings such as cheese, tomato sauce, cream or pesto, just like pasta. While gnocchi originated in Italy and often is made with Italian flavors and spices, there are other forms of gnocchi that have different variations and are styles of gnocchi from South America, France and even Croatia.

The word gnocchi actually means “lumps” in Italy, which is a fairly accurate description of how this dish looks—it simply looks like lumps of cooked potatoes. Traditional gnocchi is fairly plain, much like pasta, which is why it is served with hearty sauces. However, some chefs will make “flavored” gnocchi such as pumpkin gnocchi for a unique spin on this classic.

When making gnocchi, chefs actually mix together cooked potatoes with flour and boil them. The result is a light, airy and fluffy piece of dumpling that is typically shaped and cut into bite-sized pieces. They often look like shells. This is why so many people easily confused gnocchi with pasta when it is presented.

Gnocchi should never be fried, it should always be boiled, light and fluffy.

A Brief History of Gnocchi

Gnocchi is a traditional Italian dish, however, depending on who you ask, they may tell you different things about what region these dumplings really came from. The word derives from the Italian word for knuckle, and there are many Italian regions that lay claim to the fact that they invented this dish.

Depending on where your gnocchi is from, it may be prepared in different ways or with different sauces and serving styles. In areas such as Lombardy, gnocchi is typically served in a simple butter dressing, while in Verona, it is typically prepared in tomato sauce. If you are trying gnocchi in America, you can find virtually any traditional Italian sauce on top of this dish.

Why You Should Give Gnocchi A Try

If you haven’t given this unique Italian dish a try before, then you should step outside your comfort zone to give gnocchi a try. If this is your first time, try it with a pasta sauce that you already know you like, in fact, you may be surprised by how much it tastes like your favorite pasta dish. The only real difference is in the light, creamy dumplings that you’re eating instead of pieces of pasta. In fact, most people like gnocchi dumplings more than the taste of regular pasta.

There are several variations of this dish, but in many preparations, gnocchi is actually a slightly healthier alternative than traditional white pasta which is another major perk. But, most importantly, you should try gnocchi because it is delicious and a true example of what makes Italian cuisine so popular.

Now that you have some background on this dish, you can don yourself a gnocchi connoisseur, and are ready to order. Next time you are out to eat at Bottiglia Enoteca in Las Vegas and want to take a break from your normal pasta routine, give gnocchi a try, it may just be your new favorite dish.


The Kitchen's Best Pasta Recipes

Photo By: Chris Amaral ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Fresh Pasta with Parmesan Butter Sauce

Yes, it really is possible to make authentic homemade pasta with just four ingredients. If you don&rsquot have a fancy stand mixer, you can also make it by hand.

Pasta with Lemon Herb Yogurt Sauce

This sauce requires no cooking at all, just mixing cool ingredients like Greek yogurt, feta, lemon zest, oil and herbs. Add fettucine noodles and a splash of pasta water until the sauce is nice and creamy.

Rigatoni with Spicy Chicken Sausage, Asparagus, Eggplant, and Roasted Peppers

This hearty pasta gets a five-star rating from our fans it&rsquos quick to make and full of flavor.

Burrata Ravioli with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Parmigiano and Basil

The secret here is starting with ready-to-go fresh pasta you don&rsquot have to make your own!

Baby Shells Bechamel

You&rsquove had mac and cheese before, but we bet that you haven&rsquot had it like this. The bechamel sauce is super creamy and soaks into each baby shell.

Beef Stroganoff

The addition of sour cream delivers a welcome tang to classic stroganoff.

One-Pot Super Easy Fusilli

This dinner is as simple as dumping everything into a pot &mdash dry noodles, tomatoes and all &mdash and letting it simmer. The liquid from the stock will absorb into the pasta and create a rich, flavorful sauce.

Fettuccine with Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

Picture this: All the creamy richness you know and love in a classic alfredo sauce but without any of the actual cream. Sold yet? That's the scene here in Katie's game-changing recipe. The secret is boiled cauliflower, which becomes smooth and creamy when pureed with milk.


Let’s make pasta sauce!

First, get your ingredients:

  • 10 Medium sized tomatoes
  • 2 Medium sized onions
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 5 g Fresh oregano leaves Basically the leaves of 3 big stems of oregano. Feel free to replace with basil
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 400 ml Boiling water
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil Optional
  • 1 teaspoon Coarse pepper Optional

Preheat a pot (or saucepan if you don’t have a pot) on high temperature
Mince the garlic, or substitute with 1 teaspoon of garlic powder

Add 150ml of boiling water to the saucepan, as you cook this sauce, you’ll have to add water little by little, since we are not using the oil, the pan should always have enough boiling water, so it does not burn the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients

And then add the garlic and leave it for about 1 minute

Add the onion to the saucepan and add a little bit of water if it already consumed. Leave this to simmer for about 2 minutes

Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes in pieces of around 2.5 cm (1 inch). Don’t get too crazy measuring, but they should be relatively small. Note: I like to use the whole tomato, however! many chefs recommend removing the seeds because it might make the sauce a bit bitter

Add the tomatoes and then add more water to continue the cooking in simmering

Add only the leaves of the oregano to the saucepan. If you want to include the pepper, add it at this point, as well

At this point, use a turner to move the sauce every minute or so. Once the tomatoes start to become a sauce, you should use a pestle to mash the tomatoes and make them more “sauce-like”

Continue this process for another 10 minutes until it looks like this

Add the olive oil once the sauce is done, this will accentuate the flavour in the sauce! that’s why I prefer to add it as the last step.


Why It's Okay If Your Kid Eats Pasta All the Time

Use the "power of pasta" to introduce more variety in meals and see your child learning to enjoy a more balanced diet without mealtime drama.

Imagine this scenario. You found time in your busy day to schedule and prepare a family dinner. You included protein and vegetables to make it balanced, only to see your child piling pasta on his plate. then more pasta. and eating nothing else but pasta!

Sound familiar? You are not alone. I have met many parents who were concerned about their child&aposs love for plain starchy foods like noodles, bread, rice, or mashed potatoes.

A seemingly logical step would be to implement portion control and encourage the child to eat in a more balanced way. But limiting food does not work for children (or grown ups) who tend to react to dietary restrictions with intense cravings and usually find a way to get what they want. I remember counseling a family in which a five year-old girl was sneaking bagels into her bedroom after her health-conscious parents started "watching" her portion sizes.

But the question is, are starchy foods bad for your child?

Far from it. Starchy foods are rich in carbohydrates. This makes them a great option for kids. Here&aposs why:

  1. Kids have a innate penchant for sweet and starchy foods, which is logical from an evolutionary stand point. These foods make an efficient source of fuel for developing bodies and rapidly growing brains.
  2. Although many adults choose to limit carbohydrates or eat only whole grains for weight and health reasons, I typically do not recommend doing the same for children unless directed by a health professional for medical reasons. First of all, carbohydrates are a great way to meet high energy needs since they are easy for even the pickiest eaters to like. Secondly, too many fiber-rich foods may fill kids&apos small stomachs before children get enough calories or nutrition. Aiming for a 50/50 ratio of refined to whole grains is a good goal for most kids.
  3. Although many starchy options like pasta and potatoes get a bad rep as "empty carbs", they are far from being nutritionally void. Potatoes, for example, are a good source of fiber (if you do not peel them before cooking) and vitamin C. And did you know that just one serving of pasta contains around 1/3 of a toddler&aposs daily protein needs? And if you take into account that many starchy foods like pasta and cereals are fortified, it&aposs clear that these foods are quite nutritious.

But it&aposs easy to fall into the trap of preparing the same starchy foods, even nutritious ones, over and over again. For example, my kids went to three playdates last week and were served some kind of pasta at every single of them. And guess who made noodles and mac &aposn&apos cheese for dinner the same week?

Here are a few ideas to increase variety without making your child feel carb-deprived:

  1. Experiment with other grains and vegetables. Explore the grain and starchy vegetable aisles in your grocery store. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with wheat unless one has a gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy, it is very easy to over rely on it, mainly because it is so ubiquitous in our food supply. Toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, crackers for snack, and pizza for dinner make up a fairly typical menu. What about granola, cooked oatmeal, or buckwheat pancakes for breakfast? Corn tortillas with guacamole or veggie chips with hummus for a snack? Potato fritters, roasted sweet potato wedges, grilled corn on the cob, polenta, boiled potatoes, rice, or quinoa for a dinner side?
  2. Think of veggie and protein "safe food" options. Do you always include a familiar and liked option in family meals for your child? If so, great! I am a big proponent of the Division of Responsibility in feeding, where parents carefully and lovingly plan meals while kids choose what and how much to eat. To make it work for your family, make a list of your child&aposs preferred or safe foods, divide them into foods groups, and include one or two in every meal you plan for the whole family. Remember, the safe food you include does not always have to be starchy. Try serving a familiar veggie or protein instead and combine them with a new or less liked starch. Example: breaded chicken and peas (both safe foods, perhaps) served with quinoa (a less familiar food).
  3. Mix it up. It is absolutely fine if your child eats only white pasta or rice, but, for the sake of variety, why not introduce their whole grain cousins? To start, mix a small amount of whole grains into the refined option and increase the ratio of whole grains gradually over time.
  4. Set up a "bar". Instead of offering plain noodles or a naked baked potato, set up an exciting mix-and-match toppings bar. Make sure to include some conventional options like cheese, butter, or tomato sauce as well as more interesting toppings like olives, canned tuna, avocado, corn, herbs, fresh tomatoes, cooked chicken or ham, crumbled bacon, wilted or fresh spinach, saut or fresh onions, and even jalapeño peppers.

Starchy foods are most kids&apos all-time favorites. Instead of limiting them in the hope to get children to explore other dinnertime offerings, use the "power of pasta" to introduce more variety in meals. Chances are you&aposll see your child learn to enjoy a more balanced diet without mealtime drama.


7 pasta dishes everyone should know how to make

Pasta is one of the best options for a tasty, hearty dinner that can be on the table in no time. Here, we run through the pasta dishes that every home cook should be able to pull together. If you need a quick refresher course on how to cook pasta perfectly, our back-to-basics tips will have you doin’ it al dente in no time.

1. Cacio e pepe

Truly traditional Italian pasta dishes are rarely complicated — in fact, their simplicity is often what makes them so delicious. Cacio e pepe is one such dish, combining cheese and black pepper into a bowl of beauty.

Ready in minutes, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without this in your repertoire.

2. Lasagne

It may not fit into the “quick and easy” category, but Ireland’s long love affair with lasagne means it should still be on your list. Whether it’s the classic recipe below, a veggie version or a seasonal twist, once you’ve mastered the method it’ll become your go-to dish for feeding a gang.

Feeling extra-Irish? Add chips and coleslaw and watch your Italian friends weep!

3. Bolognese

You knew it was coming! This family-friendly dinner is one of the most popular midweek meals in Ireland. If you’ve got the time, we HIGHLY recommend you try our ultimate slow-cooked version — you’ll never look back. For a quicker fix, our chorizo Bolognese is big on flavour vegetarians or those looking to sneak more veg into the kids’ dinners will love our cauliflower Bolognese and we’ve even got a tasty vegan option, here.

Honestly, this is as good as it gets.

4. Spaghetti with anchovies, crumbs and capers

When we’ve got nothing in the house and the thoughts of going to the shops are enough to make us cry, this is the dinner we turn to time and again. For something that’s made out of practically nothing, you’d be surprised at the depth of flavour, and the crunchy crumbs add all the texture you need. If you can rustle up a chilled glass of white, you’ll be laughing.

One for the (very lucky) grown-ups.

5. Pasta bake

Everyone needs a good pasta bake recipe in their arsenal. Not only are these cost-efficient ways to feed a group of people, they’re also infinitely appealing to kids, and can easily be customised according to your preferences. This chicken pesto pasta bake is suitable for even fussy eaters, while this cheesy, creamy version is ideal comfort food on a cold evening. Let’s not forget baked mac ‘n’ cheese, our all-time fave: this roasted garlic mac is the best we’ve made (yet).

Creamy, cheesy sauce, soft garlic flavours and crunchy crumbs — what’s not to love?

6. Pasta with meatballs

Pull a Lady-and-the-Tramp and top your pasta with meatballs in a rich tomato sauce (this is our favourite basic recipe). Try this tasty twist using sausage meat, or stick to the classic beef-and-pork combination with pappardelle and some piquant Pecorino cheese.

7. Something creamy

The last pasta dish you learn for life should be something creamy, cheesy and comforting. Why do you need this? For those days you’ve missed your bus in the lashing rain, had your heart broken or been passed over for that promotion. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a spicy ‘nduja rigatoni, a quick creamy tomato fusilli or this gorgeous chicken, bacon and spinach fettuccine alfredo — you just need to have one in your repertoire that you can throw together quickly, even while crying softly. You can thank us later.

Comfort food at its finest.

Which pasta dishes do you think are necessities? Are there any we’ve missed? Tag us in your creations of social media, we love seeing what you’re cooking!


The Secret Reason Why Different Shaped Pastas Taste Differently

Which pasta-style did you prefer when you were a cheesy, carb-craving kiddo: shells or elbows? Odds are you fell solidly in one camp or the other, and heated debates across the Internet prove that many people have very strong opinions about which noodle is number one.

But is there really a difference in flavor between different pasta shapes?

"Pastas in varying shapes should taste similar if cooked correctly. An off-the-shelf dry pasta can taste different than a fresh restaurant-made pasta, but that's not due to the cut," says Miles Mitchell, chief academic officer, and corporate executive chef at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, Illinois.

Basically, shape matters little, but it's the ingredients that matter a lot. Morgan Bolling, senior editor of Cook's Country Magazine (a part of America's Test Kitchen) in Boston, Massachusetts, concurs.

"Dried and fresh pastas likely taste a bit distinct since fresh pasta often contains eggs. Similarly, with egg noodles, soba noodles, or rice noodles, you'll notice different flavors due to divergent ingredients," Bolling says. "Any other differences in taste sensation are more about how they absorb the sauce they're cooked in or topped with."

So it doesn't really come down to different types of pasta having different tastes, as it's more to do with the sauce you choose to pair the noodles with that seems to change the actual flavor of the pasta. That settles a big debate now, doesn't it?

A general rule of thumb from Ronnie Schwandt, executive chef at Maretalia and Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge in Coronado, California: "Use thinner and smoother pastas when using lighter sauces and ingredients. For a heartier and more robust preparation, thicker and ridged pastas are more appropriate."

To maximize your pasta pleasure (the average American scoops or slurps up about 20 pounds per year!), follow these shape and sauce combination tips from the pros below that make the most of every shape. Plus, don't forget to check out which store-bought noodles are the best, according to the experts—Italian chefs themselves.

The best pasta and sauce pairings:

Linguine

"The word linguine means 'little tongues' in Italian. It's flatter than spaghetti, but not as wide as fettuccine, so it absorbs lighter sauces well and can hold mix-ins in place," Bolling says. Try it tossed with pesto or a white wine and olive oil clam sauce.

Spaghetti

While Schwandt prefers sticking to the classic pairing of spaghetti Bolognese, Bolling thinks its uses stretch far beyond slow-cooked sauces. "I'd argue this is the most versatile pasta. It's thick enough that it doesn't get lost in meat sauces, but it is also thin enough that it can go with a quick olive oil sauce. I love marinara with spaghetti since it soaks up the rich tomato flavor. But I also love aglio e olio, which is essentially just extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes," she says.

Penne or Rigatoni

Ragus and chunky vegetable-based sauces are stellar with tubular noodles, Mitchell says. "Match the hollow in the pasta to the size of the components in the sauce so it captures them and provides a burst of full flavor." Bolling agrees and adores "meaty ragus with large shreds of beef or pork, or a pasta salad dressed with a vinaigrette, but packed with peas and feta."

Macaroni

"Every American knows elbow pasta is for mac and cheese. It also works well in baked pastas," Schwandt says. While some appreciate the nostalgic connection, Mitchell finds it to be challenging. "I tend to avoid elbows because of their association with macaroni and cheese. It makes it hard to take a sophisticated sauce seriously when you pair it with elbow pasta," he says. "Considering there are over 300 pasta shapes, I prefer to rely on other varieties."

Farfalle

Thick and wide, bowtie pasta can stand up to chunks of vegetables and other sturdy mix-ins. "I like matching it with other ingredients about the same size. For example, an oil-based pasta sauce with big chunks of asparagus or a lightly creamy sauce with sauteed mushrooms," Bolling says. Mitchell also enjoys them with creamy sauces, which nestle in nicely at the pinched center of the bowtie.

Orecchiette

The little ear-shaped pasta "are great with cream sauces and spring vegetables such as fresh green peas," Mitchell says. You can also toss them in soups and stews to catch smaller ingredients like peas and diced carrots in the cup-shaped side.

Pappardelle

"This shape can be a little harder to find at the grocery store based on where you live, but these long, wide noodles hold on to sauce really well," Bolling says. "As a general rule, the thicker the pasta, the more it can hold up to a bulky, creamy sauce." Try a rich partner such as Alfredo or a tomato-vodka cream sauce.

Nope, it's not rice. This short, grain-shaped pasta is a nice subtle addition to other recipes, according to Bolling. "Small cuts like orzo and ditalini [small rings] are delicious in soup and give bulk without taking over," she says.

And after trying out all these dishes, now it's time to dive into all of the many ways to use leftover pasta sauce! Our love of pasta never ends.


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