Watch any cooking show these days and eventually you will encounter the statement “Fresh pasta is always better than dried.” Restaurants boast of making their own pasta and we homecooks are being shamed for not doing one yourself because “Oh it’s not that hard to make your own pasta.” Perhaps, but welcome to real life. Don’t get me wrong, if you insist on making your own pasta or buying fresh pasta all the time, all the power to you, but at the end of the day, I have a life that I need to attend to and making fresh pasta isn’t high on the priority list, with that, enter dry pasta. They are convenient and last forever in the pantry.
For me there are three major points in cooking pasta:
1. Boil them in a lot of (salted) water while keeping them separate at the start of the cooking.
2. Never overcook pasta
3. Finish cooking the pasta with the sauce on a pan (yes I have been guilty of not doing this for photography purposes because let’s face it, that image of unspoilt pasta topped with meat sauce on top is just food porn at its best)
Back to the pantry discussion however, I always have few shapes of dry pasta: thin noodle, flat noodle, ‘spoonable’ pasta, and ‘filler shaped’ pasta. Oh and I always have lasagna sheets ready too. Thin and flat noodles are pretty self explanatory, usually spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine, parpadelle, etc. What I mean by spoonable pasta is pasta in whatever shapes that can be eaten using a spoon, like penne (tube), spiralli, or fusilli. This category of pasta should be able to stand on their own as the mass of the dish, if they’re too small, then they fall to the next category, what I call the ‘filler’ pasta. I use these mainly as addition in salads or soups- and honestly, unless you’re a purist, most pasta shapes are quite interchangeable.
“But, what if I don’t like Italian cuisine? Why do I want to stock up on pasta?” you asked. Well don’t think pasta, think noodle (which they are!) The Japanese in fact created their own version of spaghetti bolognese called ‘Spaghetti Neapolitan’. Other application included adding pasta into Asian stews (don’t use the noodle shaped ones for this.) And in an emergency, you can also convert pasta into ramen noodle by adding baking soda while boiling it. Good luck with your food adventure and always keep dry pasta in the cupboard.
Try this Spaghetti Neapolitan recipe