When cooking our own pasta dish, we often prepare the sauce and boil the only pasta we have in the larder, or viceversa, however, each pasta shape suits a particular sauce. Generally speaking, a good quality pasta, any, will work with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a basil leaf, but if we want to eat something more than just pasta with oil and basil, then we should think more carefully when preparing the sauce.
There are recipes where pasta and sauce have already been matched and should not be changed, there is a reason behind the match, and changing them is a sacrilege, at least for Italians, examples are penne all’arrabbiata or tagliatelle al ragu, but what about the other Italian pasta dishes?
The general rule is that the bigger and thicker the pasta is, the richer and full of flavour sauces it can handle. It is also worth pointing out that the pasta should be cooked al dente and drained a minute before ready and finished in the pan with the sauce to mix all ingredients.
Smooth pasta, such as mezze penne, penne or spaghetti, is the perfect pasta for tick sauces, sauces not too liquid, sauces that don’t slip away, made of cream, cheeses or eggs, like Carbonara. Furrowed pasta on the other side, such as rigatoni and tortiglioni, can hold even the smallest ingredients and most liquid sauces.
Long pasta, such as spaghetti, bucatini, linguine, are suited for tomato based sauces, fish sauces such as mussels and clams that can be wrapped in the pasta, and creams such as pesto. Rich sauces suit perfectly pasta with egg, such as tagliolini and tagliatelle, from meat to mushrooms, with or without cream.
Twisted pasta, like fusilli and elbows, seems to be made for tomato based sauces that contains small pieces of ingredients, from meat to vegetables to fish. Short, flat pasta, like lasagne, suits well creamy sauces, made with cheese or vegetable creams enriched with parmesan cheese and spices.
Pasta is a staple of Italian cuisine and there is a huge variety of pasta shapes and sauces, with plenty of very little known local dishes, however, with the rules above, anyone will be able to cook a tasty pasta dish.
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