Pasta in Italy is a general noun to call a huge variety of a dish that can have endless shapes and cooking solutions. It can be handmade, fresh, prepared with or without egg. Every region has its own tradition when preparing it and even types peculiar to a place or another. Preparing it is really easy, as it is making a good dish. I have been asked a lot of questions about it, and as for pizza, trying to answer them is really fun. I’ve also dug into google to see what are the most researched things about pasta. Let’s see what are the main doubts or even misconceptions about one of the most popular, easy and democratic dish of Italy.
1. Are pasta and spaghetti the same?
No, spaghetti are a type of pasta. More precisely, spaghetti are long and thin and require very little time to cook. More precisely: it takes a couple of minutes after you have put them into boiling water to have them “al dente”.
2. Are pasta noodles?
No, noodles belong to the asian tradition. It is what you generally find in ramen. They are also used in other parts of Europe such as Germany and I’ve mainly seen them cooked in broth. As far as I know, I’m not an expert of oriental cuisine, the consistency is different, softer, I’d say. Good though. I love noodles.
3. Are pasta carbs?
This is easy: yes as it is generally made with wheat. It can contain a protein source when prepared with eggs or have a protein filling such as agnolotti stuffed with meat.
4. Can pasta go bad?
Yes if you overcook it. It can become very sticky and hard to digest. And after you have cooked it it can generally last one or two days in the fridge. Before cooking it, and if it is well preserved, it has a very long expiring date. But pay attention to very hot storage areas: with heat pasta can develop worms and infest your entire cupboard.
5. Which pasta resembles ribbons?
Fettuccine or tagliatelle, the latter being a traditional preparation made with eggs. It comes from Emilia and it is generally prepared with a meat sauce called ragù. Also mushrooms are a popular ingredient to serve tagliatelle.
6. Is pasta healthy? Or can it make me fat?
Pasta is prepared with wheat and water. It can be cooked with a bit of salt, oil and maybe a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. How could it not be healthy? It is all a matter of quantities. Find the right daily or weekly quantity for you with the help of a nutritionist and it will also help you stay fit.
7. Can I make it in the slow cooker?
Yes but what for? I can understand preparing the meat sauce, which requires many hours, in the slow cooker. But it takes 20 minutes to boil the water and from few to some 10 minutes to cook it, why using a pot to slow down the process? I generally cook it while doing something else. When I come home, even if tired, I put the pot with water on the cooker, add salt, get undressed, wear my home clothes, then check if water is boiling, throwing the pasta into the boiling water and after some minutes…voilà your dish is ready to be topped with any sort of sauce.
8. What pasta goes with meatballs?
None. I’m sorry but meatballs do not belong to pasta in Italy. Many tourists, especially Americans, ask for meatballs on pasta and they get surprised or even disappointed when they receive a no from cooks and waiters. Meatballs in Italy are a second dish, while pasta is a first course. We do not mix them. It might seem we are not flexible. It is just not part of our tradition and when it comes to cooking we prefer to stick to them.
9. Will pasta cook in the oven?
Well lasagne are baked and when we have some pasta leftovers we love to put them in a baking pad, add some mozzarella cheese and cook in the oven until a brown crust appear. It is a delicious solution to serve pasta the day after in a new way.
10. Why pasta sticks together?
This is easy: because it is overcooked. Always respect the cooking time written on the package.
11. Who invented it?
It is difficult to travel back in time and provide an answer. Some historians say pasta was invented by the Chinese, others that it was brought here by Marco Polo. What it is clear is that Romans and Greeks already had some sort of lasagna, thin layers of pasta cooked with meat in the oven. We have also plenty of ancient tools that witness how pasta was prepared. And this was way before Marco Polo returned from Asia.
12. Can pasta be frozen?
Yes but it depends on the preparation. I generally keep agnolotti and ravioli in the freezer before cooking it. When I have to prepare them, I take it out and let it naturally defrost. Do not use the microwave the defrost it. Don’t ask me why, I just think it is not good for the filling.
You can also freeze some already cooked dishes while you do not need to store packets in the freezer. A cupboard is enough.
13. Where can you buy pasta in Italy?
Supermarkets generally have fresh and locally produced pasta. But if you want to be sure what you buy is handmade, check for pastificio, which is the shop that makes and sell it.
15. What pasta is best for carbonara?
Generally carbonara is prepared with spaghetti. But fettuccine, flat ribbon like spaghetti, are also commonly used.Another option is to use maccheroni.
16. Which pasta goes with which sauce?
This is probably the hardest answer to write, with thousands of varieties and as many sauces or toppings. My advice is to search for traditional recipe and see what type is indicated for the preparation. Agnolotti are often used with broth, sea fruit top spaghetti, while shell-shaped pasta is generally used with beans and legumes.
And finally, be creative. As long as you do not put meatballs, there are no limits in conceiveng ways to prepare and eat pasta!