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If you're a pasta lover, you've probably encountered the age-old debate: dried pasta vs. fresh pasta. Both have their place in the kitchen and on our plates, but today, we're exploring the world of dried pasta. Although convenient and versatile, and available in an array of shapes and sizes, there are still some rules of thumb to follow when choosing, cooking, and pairing dried pasta to ensure the finished dish is the best it can possibly be. We’ve made this handy guide that will answer (nearly) any questions you’ve had about dried pasta.
The difference between dried and fresh
Dried pasta and fresh pasta both contain the same key ingredients – flour and water – but the key distinction lies in their moisture content. Fresh pasta is made with eggs, giving it a tender and delicate texture. On the other hand, dried pasta is made with just flour and water, and the absence of eggs means it's shelf-stable for a long time. This convenience makes it a staple in most pantries.
Identifying a high-quality dried pasta
Not all dried pasta is created equal. When choosing the best quality, keep an eye out for durum wheat semolina as the main ingredient. This type of ‘hard’ wheat is high in protein and gives the pasta a firm texture, helping it hold its shape when cooked.
Opt for brands that use traditional manufacturing methods, as they tend to have superior flavour and consistency. We like I Due Pastori and Pasta Borella. One key characteristic to look for is the surface texture. Premium dried pasta is often shaped using bronze or ceramic die extruders, giving it a rough and porous surface. This might sound odd, but trust us, it's a mark of great pasta! This roughness allows the pasta to hold onto sauces more effectively, unlike the smooth surface of cheaper mass-produced alternatives, ensuring that every bite is infused with flavour.
Remember, investing in high-quality dried pasta is like laying the foundation for a delicious and satisfying meal. So, don't hesitate to spend a little extra on a brand that takes the time to craft their pasta using traditional methods. The difference in taste and texture will be well worth it!
How to Cook Dried Pasta
Cooking dried pasta is a breeze, but there are a few tricks to make it perfect every time:
What is al dente and is it necessary?
'Al dente' is an Italian term that translates to "to the tooth." It refers to pasta that is cooked to be firm when bitten. Cooking pasta al dente is crucial because it retains a slightly chewy texture, signifying that it's not overcooked, and nobody likes mushy pasta.
Different pasta shapes and the best sauces to pair with
Shapes really do matter! Not all pastas go with all sauces. The pairing of different shapes and sauces is all about the eating experience.
These are good with sauces that will cling to the lengthy strips. Thick long pasta can handle big hearty sauces and thinner pasta is best suited to lighter sauces.
Good for trapping heartier sauces with chunks of meat or vegetables, or textured sauces like pesto.
Easy to scoop up, so perfect for soups and salads.
20m prep | 20m cook
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