I am sure when we talk about pasta; it is one such thing that is loved right from children to the adults in each and every home.
It is a staple Italian food. There are 2 varieties of pasta:
1. Fresh Pasta
2. Dried Pasta
Pasta is generally made from durum wheat flour. Durum in Latin means ‘hard.’ The protein content in the durum wheat is high and hence, the dough stretches very well. Traditionally, pasta is made without addition of any water. Only eggs are used to knead the dough and it is kneaded with hands.
Today, we have bigger machines in which pasta dough is kneaded. Many hotels use imported refined flour and semolina to make the pasta instead of durum wheat. To make eggless pasta, eggs are replaced with water. The ingredients that traditionally make the pasta dough are flour, eggs, salt and olive oil.
The procedure goes somewhat like this: the pasta dough is made and then it is passed through a pasta machine. The machine rolls the pasta dough evenly. The attachment has different thicknesses and you can adjust the thickness of the pasta accordingly. There are attachments for different shapes of pasta as well. Once your dough is rolled, you need to pass the dough through different attachments depending upon the choice of the shape.
When the pasta is made in the factory, it is passed through big dough sheeters that roll the dough into desired thickness. It is then passed through different moulds to get the desired shapes. The pasta is then dried in an electric dryer. The temperature of the dryer is maintained at 65°C.
Nowadays, pastas are made with different natural colours. The green pastas are normally made with spinach chlorophyll. The red ones are made from tomato paste or puree. The black pasta is made from squid ink. Today, the whole wheat pastas are also available in the market.
Some of the classical sauces that go very well with pastas are-
1. Pesto sauce: the sauce is made from fresh basil leaves,
Parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil.
2. Bolognaise sauce: minced meat and tomato based sauce.
3. Carbonara sauce: the main ingredients are eggs and bacon.
4. Napolitana sauce: tomato and basil based chunky sauce.
5. Aglio olio: garlic and olive oil based sauce.
While cooking pasta, make sure that you have a deep pan of boiling water. Add salt and oil to the water. Salt is added initially so as to season the pasta before it is being cooked along with the sauce. If you do not add salt to the pasta water, it will be very difficult for you to adjust the salt level later in the sauce. The oil is added so as to avoid pasta sticking to each other. The pasta is put into the boiling water and is boiled for ten to twelve minutes depending on the time mentioned on the packet of the pasta. The pasta should always be cooked al dente or to the bite as the Italians say. It is always advisable to cook the pasta a minute or two less than the time mentioned on the packet. It can be cooked further along with the sauce. However, the Indians prefer their pastas a little bit more cooked than al dente. Once you boil the pasta, drain the water. Spread the pasta on a tray if you are not going to use it immediately. Sprinkle some olive oil and keep the pasta aside till further use. Fresh pasta takes much less time to cook as compared to the packet pasta. Fresh pasta is generally made and frozen in batches. Plunge the frozen pasta in a pan of boiling salt water and it will get cooked within two to three minutes.
We Indians prefer our pastas with much more sauce than is normally served in Italian restaurants. Chilli flakes is a very common ingredient used in Indian versions of pastas.
If we look at Indian food, dal dhokli which is a Gujarati delicacy can be considered as a type of pasta. Dough is made from whole wheat flour and gram flour (besan). It is then rolled out, cut into stripes and cooked along with dal.
One of the unique pasta dishes that I had made happens to be of the ‘Pasta Cake’ which I did while doing a cookery show. I tossed the pasta with some tomato sauce, added some white sauce and baked in a cake tin. Pasta is not only limited to authentic Italian food, but it can also be used in different stews, soups and salads.