Types of Pasta, How to Cook it & More
Why Pick a Certain Type of Pasta Over Another?
It really all boils down to the sauce. You want to pick a pasta that will hold as much sauce (as well as the protein, veggies and whatever other ingredients are included) as possible. From ridges to tubes, your choice matters when creating a delicious pasta dish. Check out the next section for a breakdown of when to choose a certain pasta and why.
What Are Some of the Most Popular Types of Pasta?
You’ve likely heard of most of these, but have you ever found yourself noodling about using the appropriate noodle? Every sauce has its perfect pasta match, and we’re going to help you choose and prepare the right one for the right dish.
1. Spaghetti - Thin, round and perfect for twirling around your fork, this popular pasta goes well with light sauces that coat the strands evenly.
Best Ways to Prepare - In a carbonara or with light seafood sauces, tomato sauces, and cream or oil-based sauces. Feel free to add fresh herbs and diced tomatoes to incorporate more complex flavor.
2. Fettuccini - This flat, ribbon-like pasta easily handles rich sauces thanks to its wider surface area.
Best Ways to Prepare - Pair with simple cream sauces, like Alfredo, and lighter proteins, like seafood.
3. Macaroni - The small, narrow and curved tubes are ideal for holding sauces.
Best Ways to Prepare - Excellent for baked pasta dishes with lots of creamy cheese sauce, soups and pasta salads.
4. Penne - These short tubes, sometimes with ridges along the sides (the ridges make it easier for sauces like pesto to cling to the pasta), are cut at an angle and very versatile.
Best Ways to Prepare - They’re ideal for a ragu, Bolognese, creamy pasta dish, pasta bake, soup or salad. The larger the tube, the more veggies, meats and creamy sauces the pasta can catch.
5. Farfalle (Bowtie) - The ruffles, ridges, curls and cones that make up the structural shape of these pasta varieties give them a sturdier bite.
Best Ways to Prepare - They’re perfect for holding rich, hearty sauces featuring proteins and vegetables. They’re also great for pasta salad.
6. Orecchiette - This translates to “little ears” in Italian due to its soft, rounded shape.
Best Ways to Prepare - With meat, veggies, pesto, tomato sauce and in pasta salad.
How Do You Cook Pasta?
Cooking pasta seems like a no-brainer – you boil water, toss in your pasta and voila. But for perfect pasta, there’s a little more to it. Have you ever had pasta that sticks together? Pasta that’s a little mushy or hard in the center? Put all that in your pasta past. When you follow these steps, you can achieve restaurant-level dishes.
1. Use a large pot. This will give the pasta lots of room to move.
2. Add a lot of water. Use 5 or 6 quarts for 16 oz. of pasta (that way every piece of pasta is submerged in water). To make boiling faster, add a lid to the pot, leaving it a bit uncovered so you know when the water is boiling.
3. Add salt to your water. We’re talking a good amount, about a tablespoon for 6 quarts of water. It makes the pasta even more flavorful.
4. Bring your water to a rolling boil. Once you add the pasta, it will cool the water. You can pop the lid back on to get the water back to a boil quickly.
5. Stir to keep the pasta from sticking. Do this when the water begins boiling again, and give the pasta 2 or 3 good stirs.
6. Try the pasta 2 minutes before it’s finished. The package will let you know how long it should stay in the boiling water. Safely scoop out a piece of pasta, allow it to cool, then give it a try. You’re looking for that perfect bite…pasta cooked al dente. Al dente translates to “to the tooth” in Italian, and it means that the pasta is firm when bitten into.
Tip: Cooking times can vary by pasta shape, amount and type. You’ll know stuffed pasta, like ravioli, is ready when it rises to the surface of the water and floats.
7. Save a cupful of pasta water before draining. This starchy water will work its magic by binding the sauce and pasta together, or by thinning down thicker sauces so they’ll coat the noodles.
8. Drain, toss with sauce and serve. Place a colander in the sink, drain your pasta and add the drained pasta back into the pot with sauce. Then, add your pasta water, toss to evenly coat and serve hot.
Tip: Don’t rinse your pasta when it’s done cooking. You want to keep all the starches that bind the sauce to your pasta. Most pastas last in the fridge 3-5 days.
What Are the Differences Between Fresh & Dry Pasta?
- Fresh pasta contains eggs and extra water. Dried pasta is made with semolina flour, water and salt.
- Fresh pasta takes less time to cook – about 2-3 minutes total.
- Fresh pasta is stored in the fridge, and dried pasta is stored at room temperature.
- Fresh pasta is ideal for cream- and dairy-based sauces, and dried works well with heartier sauces.
- Fresh pasta isn’t served al dente. It should be tender and almost velvety. Dry pasta should be served al dente.
Are you ready to put your pasta prowess to the test? Check out delicious pasta recipes below to take your new noodle knowledge for a twirl. Find more easy meal ideas on our Meal Solutions page.