Pasta can be made with various types of flour including wheat, rice or Kamut. Dried pasta can be further categorized based on shape: dried pasta can be short or long, flat or ridged, thin or thick. Other characteristics that can be used for classification include whether or not the dough was made with egg, whether or not it is stuffed and if the pasta should be baked in the oven.
The type of pasta you use should be based on the recipe you plan to make. Ridged pasta, for example, is best for absorbing pasta sauce.
Every type of pasta has a different cooking time. Egg pasta, for example, cooks much more quickly than dried wheat pasta. When cooking pasta, bare in mind that it will continue to cook even once it has been drained, tossed with the sauce and served. If you like your pasta al dente, or plan to finish cooking the pasta in the pan with the sauce, t is advisable to drain the pasta 2 minutes before the time indicated on the box.
The average portion size is 3.5 oz (100g) per person. If your menu includes multiple courses, consider serving only 3 oz (80g) per person.
In Italy, the golden rule for cooking pasta is 7, 10, 100 or 1 liter of water, 10 grams of salt for every 100 grams of pasta. Converted for American cooks, the rule should be 1 lb pasta, 1 gallon of water, 1TBS and 1 TSP of salt.
These proportions will give the pasta plenty of room to cook in and will allow the water to come to a boil quickly.
With regards to the actual cooking process, just be sure to follow these simple steps:
- Fill a large, tall pot with water and place over high heat.
- When the water begins to boil, add salt. After the salt has dissolved and the water is really boiling, add pasta to the water and stir frequently the first two minutes, then occasionally until the end of the cooking process. Before draining the pasta, taste it to see if it is cooked to your liking.
- If the pasta is “al dente,” you should feel a slight resistance when you bite into it or cut it with a fork. There should also be a thin white vein at the center.
As mentioned before, if you plan to toss the pasta in a pan with the sauce, you should drain it when it is al dente. If, instead, you plan to serve it with pesto, it is advisable to follow the cooking time on the box. If you plan to make a pasta salad, place the pasta in a bowl of ice water and olive oil immediately after draining to stop the cooking process.