Make it With Pasta
In Italian, ‘pasta’ means ‘dough’, of which there are two main types dry and fresh. Best made from durum wheat, pasta comes in a plethora of shapes and sizes, with names that reflect their origins in Italy.
New Zealanders love its versatility, as you can combine pasta with an endless variety of sauces. We also love its energy – with the sustained high carbohydrate levels that give us that much needed boost.
Dry pasta has a long shelf life, is easy to store and quick to cook.
- Use a big saucepan that holds about 2 litres of water for each serve of pasta.
- Bring the water to a rapid boil before adding the pasta and stir to prevent it from sticking together or to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Dry pasta takes about 5-12 minutes to become ‘al dente’ cooked so that it’s still firm but has lost its hard starchy centre.
- Drain the pasta well but don’t rinse it – rinsing removes starch, which helps to hold the sauce and is also a rich source of carbohydrate.
Cooking the pasta just before serving, then stirring the sauce through, will prevent the pasta sticking and removes the need for additional oil.
Fresh pasta is traditionally made with eggs, but there are also varieties without eggs or with ingredients such as spinach or tomato. You can also buy fresh pasta flavoured with mushroom, saffron, garlic, basil and even chocolate!
Its great advantage, apart from flavour, is that fresh pasta cooks very quickly. Use the same method as for dry pasta but cook for only 2-3 minutes or according to packet instructions.
Tips on cooking pasta
- Matching pasta with sauce is a personal preference, but in general, the thick chunky sauces go best with pasta shapes or tubes such as farfalle (bows) or rigatoni, while creamy or simple sauces suit the long strands of spaghetti or fettucine.
- Fresh pasta and leftover cooked pasta will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Cooked pasta should be placed in the fridge within an hour of cooking in an airtight container.
- Creamy pasta sauces and filled pastas can be high-fat traps, but you can easily convert your favourite sauce into a low-fat alternative. Simply substitute evaporated skim milk thickened with cornflour for the cream or milk in the sauce (mix 1-2 teaspoons of cornflour with every 375 ml of evaporated milk).
- Cheese can quickly unbalance the fat and carbohydrate content of a pasta dish, so use it sparingly. Try using strongly flavoured cheese such as Parmesan so that you only need a small amount to get the desired effect.
With its distinctive taste, stunning array of shapes and sizes, fresh or dried, pasta continually redefines convention – and offers an infinite range of meal opportunities that the family is bound to love.