Pasta is a generic name for an international range of foods made from a basic mixture of
wheat flour or semolina and water. Eggs may be used in place of the water to give a firmer texture and a yellowed colour.
Historians are divided on its origin. It is a staple food in many cultures, so it is doubtful that only one person or culture invented it. It is clear that both the Chinese and the Italians were familiar with it long before it became popular internationally. Pasta made from durum semolina is considered to be superior to that made from flour.
TYPES OF PASTA
There are basically four types of pasta, each of which may be left plain
or flavoured with different ingredients:
· Dried or durum wheat pasta
· Egg pasta
· Semolina pasta
· Whole wheat pasta
Some chefs make their own pasta, using a strong (bread) flour, or whole-wheat flour. The commercially produced pastas are available in two forms:
· Dried – Regarded as the best for straight and simple shapes. It has a firm texture and
goes well with the heavier sauces. For people who like their pasta al dente, dried pasta
cooks up best. An Italian expression, al dente translates as ‘to the tooth’, meaning the
food offers slight resistance when bitten into.
· Fresh and frozen pasta (i.e. pre-prepared) – Often made with whole egg, giving it a
softer, smoother texture which goes well with cream and lighter tasting sauces. These
products offer a considerable choice, particularly for stuffed pasta shapes and filled
BASIC RECIPE FOR FRESH EGG PASTA
Fresh free range eggs are best for pasta-making as battery eggs don’t seem to have the
right sticky texture or golden yolks that give pasta its yellow colour.
250-280g Plain flour
3 Free range eggs
1. Put the flour in a bowl or on the table and make a well in the centre.
2. Break the eggs into the well.
3. Using the fingers of one hand like a fork, beak up the eggs and start
mixing in the flour.
4. Continue drawing in the flour until you have a thick mass.
5. You want to end up with a moist, pliable – but not sticky – dough you can knead.
6. There may be some flour left since eggs vary in size, and therefore the amount that will be absorbed will be affected. Allow to rest, wrapped in cling film, for 30 minutes.
READ ALSO : PIZZA DOUGH RECIPE
PREPARING FRESH PASTA
Fresh pasta is easy to make, requiring almost no special equipment and only a few staple ingredients. The basic form is the sfoglia, a thin, flat sheet of dough that is cut in to ribbons, circles or squares.
Pasta comes in over 200 different shapes, with more than 600 names for
Although pasta dough can be kneaded by hand, stretched and rolled with
a rolling pin and cut with a Chef’s Knife, pasta machines make these tasks
much easier. Pasta machines are either electric or manual.
Some electronic machines mix and knead the dough and then extrude it
through a cutting disk. An extrusion machine is most practical in food
service operations that regularly serve high quantities of pasta.
The pasta machine more often encountered is operated manually with a
hand crank. It has two rollers that kneed, press and push the dough in to a
thin, uniform sheet. Adjacent cutting rollers slice the thin dough in to various widths for
fettuccini, spaghetti, capellini and the like.
Spaghetti and pre-prepared stuffed pastas need no preparation – they have simply to be taken out of the packet and put straight into boiling salted water. The other ingredients for the dish will have to be chopped or sliced (e.g. vegetables) and possibly grated (e.g. cheese) before being mixed together.
Dishes that involve layering the pasta e.g. lasagne or stuffing it e.g. cannelloni may require more time-consuming preparation. If you are using dried pasta, it will have to be cooked first (to become tender). After boiling, the pasta should be cooled quickly under cold running water and then drained thoroughly.
Some varieties of lasagne and cannelloni are pre-cooked and can be put straight into the dish with the sauce etc. As the pasta will absorb some liquid while cooking, use a thinner sauce than usual (about one-third more liquid). If you do not have enough sauce to do this, boil the pasta in water for about five minutes, then cool under running water and drain.
Pasta can be sauced, stuffed, layered and baked.
There is virtually no limit to the combinations that are possible with vegetables, seafood, pulses, cheeses and meats. As a general guide, the longer, thin and flat varieties, such as spaghetti, are more suitable for the thinner sauces, while the shapes such as macaroni and penne are ideal for the thicker sauces that find their way into the holes and folds.