In 2011 a global survey by the charity Oxfam discovered pasta to be the world’s most popular dish. Universally appealing, pasta is inexpensive, versatile, convenient and deliciously satisfying.
Though we often see it drowning in sauce, experts agree that pasta should be just coated. Put a bowl of sauce on the table so that those who like more sauce can ladle it on to their liking.
Pasta comes in hundreds of different types and shapes. Here is a just a sample:
- Long strands: Capellini, spaghetti, bucatini
- Long flat: Fettuccine, linguini, tagliatelle, pappardelle
- Sheet: Lasagne
- Tubes: Penne, ziti, rigatoni, elbow macaroni, mostaccioli
- Specialty shapes: Farfalle, fusilli, shells, rotelle, gemelli, campanelle
- Stuffed: Ravioli, mezzelune, tortellini
Different shapes traditionally call for different sauces. Pairing pastas and sauces is something of an art. The possible combinations are limitless. There are no hard and fast rules, just a few general guidelines to which there are plenty of exceptions. Do lots of delicious experimenting to discover what you like best.
While the long strands take a very smooth sauce, the long flat shapes take creamy or slightly chunky sauces. The tubes and specialty shapes can take thick and/or chunky sauces—the larger the pasta, the thicker or chunkier the sauce.
My one unbendable rule: Hot pasta on hot dishes. When you drain the pasta, set your serving platter or bowl in the sink and drain the pasta over it. Heat dinner plates or individual pasta bowls in the oven (about 200 degrees) or warming drawer. If you haven’t done it before, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in the quality of your meal.