For Special Occasions
Gourmet pasta is made from the finest wheat. Gourmet chefs prefer fresh pasta made with a kind of wheat called Durum semolina. The mass-produced commercial variety of pasta is sometimes called 'asciutta' (meaning "dry").
Whole wheat pasta is slightly heavier than other pastas but more flavorful, according to some connoisseurs. Egg pasta is common, but light pasta is produced when ingredients are restricted to flour and water.
Fresh pasta is flexible in more ways than one. It can come in a variety of shapes, flavors and colors.
Pasta kinds are usually based on shapes, of which there are over a hundred. These are divided into four basic kinds:
- ribbon pasta (for example, linguine or fettuccine)
- tubes (examples: cannelloni, macaroni)
- shapes (such as shells)
Two pastas are popular stuffed:
Ravioli is flat, then stuffed and cut to size.
Tortellini is a larger shell which home gourmets can stuff with meat, sauce and/or cheese.
Colored pasta is also increasingly popular. Green pasta is usually tinged by pureed spinach. Pink pasta is made by adding a tomato puree into the dough.
If you are up for an interesting challenge, you can make your own pasta. Pasta machines are a consumer item growing in popularity, but beware of poor design. Not only can pasta machines be hard to work with, they can also be awkward to clean and take care of.
Most of the names for pastas have significant meanings:
Spaghetti is Italian for "little strings."
Vermicelli means "little worms."
Orrecchiette, "little ears," are small bowl-shaped pasta with thick outer edges.
Interesting note: The words pasta, pastry and paste are all closely related. All are made by combining water and flour.
Gourmet pasta is an excellent mail order gift or gift basket item. Click on the shopping links above to see the incredible variety available online!