Italian Pasta description excerpted from Wikipedia
Pasta (Italian pasta, from Latin pasta “dough, pastry cake”) is a generic term for foods from unleavened dough of flour and water. Sometimes it’s a combination of egg and flour. The word pasta is also used to refer to dishes in which pasta is the main ingredient. It’s usually served with some type of sauce.
Pastas include noodles in various lengths and shapes. There are also filled varieties such as ravioli and tortellini.
Many different cultures eat some sort of noodle-like food. You can find dishes in nearly all cultures that contain a food with the characteristics of pasta. Pasta usually has a high gluten content and is made with a technique that results in a pliable dough.
Pasta is categorized in 2 basic types: dried and fresh. Dried Italian pasta (made without eggs) has a shelf life from 6 months to 2 years under ideal conditions. Fresh pasta will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to 6 months. Italian Pasta is easy to keep and easy to cook (generally cooked by boiling). Why not build your own unique variety to have on hand to suit your family’s preferences?
My regular, homemade pasta is a simple combination of water, flour (I use semolina, but you can use all-purpose too) and eggs. Depending on what I’m making, it can also contain mashed potatoes, semolina, cheese, and garlic.
There are over 600 different shapes of pasta! Here are some commonly used Italian Pasta shapes, many of which I keep as staples in my kitchen:
bucatini long, thick, hollow strings
cappelletti fun, wide-brimmed hat shape, as the name suggests (cap)
cappellini fine strands of ribbon pasta – I’ve always referred to this as “angel’s hair” but there is an even thinner version called cappelli d’angelo, which is the true “angel’s hair”
cavatappi short, thick corkscrew shapes
farfalle bows – I love these in my summer pasta salad with Italian vinaigrette
fettucine narrow, ribbon pasta
fusilli short spirals – this is also good in pasta salad
gemelli “twins”, 2 pieces wrapped together – my favorite since I’m a Gemini!
lasagne flat, rectangular pieces – widely available in the ‘no cook’ version
linguini long, flat ribbons
orecchiette Tiny disk shapes – often described as “little ears”
orzi tiny, shaped like grains of rice – great in soup
pappardelle widest ribbons, like a wide egg noodle – I use in my chicken noodle soup
penne short, thick, ridged tubes with diagonal-cut ends – very popular in my house!
rigatoni thick, ridged tubes – also one of the most-used in my kitchen
spaghetti fine, medium-thick rods – this is probably the most used in American kitchens, but I don’t use it much
vermicelli fine, slender strands – usually sold in folded “skeins”
Italian Pasta: Nutrional Value and Facts
You may think that pasta is a fattening food. But more likely, it’s not the pasta that piles on calories, it’s the sauce we choose to serve with it. Pasta is generally served with some type of sause. Common sauces in Northern Italy include pesto and ragu alla bolognese (usually contains meat). Southern Italy makes sauces that are paired with fresh vegetables and seafood. They contain spicy tomato, garlic and olive oil. In Central Italy (which is where the Abruzzo region is and where my family origins are) they make simple sauces cooked with tomatoes, pork and cheeses.
Cooked, plain pasta contains very little fat and is low in calories. A 1/2 cup serving contains only 99 calories, less than a 1/2 gram of fat and less than 5 milligrams of sodium.
2 ounces of dry pasta = 1 cup of cooked and is equal to 2 grain servings on the food pyramid.
You can boost the grain serving and nutritional value by trying the newest whole wheat pastas. If you don’t like the taste of all whole wheat, try mixing half regular and half whole wheat together. Once cooked, you can’t tell them apart and it’s a good way to get a bit more nutrition into your family’s diet! Here’s additional nutritional information for pasta from ilovepasta.org.
If you add fresh vegetables, lean meat or seafood to your pasta, and season with herbs/spices you can make a very healthful dish!