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Pasta is a kind of food made up of wheat, flour or buckwheat. Dough is shaped as pasta. Egg and vegetable extracts are also sometimes used to make different varieties of pasta. Under Italian law, pasta can only be made with durum wheat or durum semolina. It is now readily available and used in making many side dishes as well as main dishes. Pasta dishes are often served with different types of accompaniments or sauces. Pasta carbonara, spaghetti with tomato sauce and lasagna are some of the popular pasta dishes served in international cuisine.

History of Pasta

The origin and the history of pasta are still speculative. In many countries, pasta like food has been eaten for centuries. Chinese are eating noodles since 2000 BC. In North Africa, ‘couscous’, pasta like food, has been popular since ages, though the actual pasta made up of durum wheat or semolina was introduced in Italy. The durum wheat pasta has high gluten content.

Culinary Use of Pasta

In general, pasta is a generic term for the foods made from unleavened dough. The dishes made using pasta as an ingredient are also known as pasta. Pasta salad, lasagna, noodles, spaghetti and macaroni soup are some of the popular pasta dishes that are well-liked in global cuisine. Cream and cheese are the two main ingredients that are added to almost all pasta dishes to make a delectable side dish or main dish. Pesto, tomato sauce, garlic sauce and carbonara are some of the accompaniments that are served with pasta dishes.

Cuisines Commonly Cooking Pasta Dishes

Pasta is largely eaten in Italian cuisine. American cuisine is also famous for some Italian-style pasta dishes such as Fettuccine Alfredo with cream and cheese, and spaghetti with tomato sauce. Though pasta is considered as an Italian food, in many cuisines it has been prepared in different ways. In Hong Kong style western cuisine, spaghetti and macaroni are the most popular pastas. Noodles and macaroni are also very popular in Indian cuisine. Japanese, Greek, Swedish and Filipino cuisines also include various kinds of pasta dishes with distinct flavors.

Preferable Cooking Methods for Pasta

• Boiling – It is the first stage of cooking pasta. ‘Al Dente’ is an Italian expression that is used for pasta and noodles to cook them until firm but not hard.

• Stir frying – Boiled pasta is mixed with sauces and other ingredients like sea food and meats. This mixing is done with stir-frying method.

• Mixing – Boiled pasta is also mixed with boiled vegetables and meats to make cold and warm salads. In soup dishes also, pasta is added and mixed.

• Baking – Lasagna is the best example for baked pasta dishes. Spaghetti is baked with cheese and other ingredients to make a nice baked pasta dish.

Nutritive Value of Pasta

The most popular durum wheat pasta is full of gluten and earlier all pastas were considered fattening and not suitable for everyday eating. But now the importance of pasta has increased due to its light and nutritional contents. Pasta made up of grains and semolina is considered healthy and full of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are responsible for providing nutritional minerals and energy to our body. Pasta dishes are also helpful in providing dietary fibers. Wheat pasta and egg pasta are good source of proteins. The calorie content of pasta dishes depends upon the sauces and ingredients added to it. It is advisable to use light and nutritional ingredients in order to achieve the goodness of pasta in pasta dishes.

Buying and Storing of Pasta

Pasta is categorized into 2 styles: dried pasta and fresh pasta. Dried pasta can be refrigerated for infinite time whereas fresh pasta can be kept in refrigerator for 2-3 days only. It is recommended to store dried pasta in a closed packet or air-tight container in order to protect from insects and moisture. Leftover pasta can also be refrigerated in a sealed container for 2-3 days. Pasta is available in various forms and shapes and while buying any kind of pasta the following points should be kept in mind:

• Pasta should be tightly sealed and free from moisture.

• Noodles and pastas should not be broken.

• Always check the manufacturing date on the packet of pasta.

Types of Pasta

Almost all pastas are made up of same dough but they are classified on the basis of the shape of the pieces. The shape only affects the time of cooking the pasta and the ability of pasta to hold the sauces. Shorter pastas are easy to eat as compared to long and broad pastas. Here is the list of different types of popular pastas:

• Spaghetti – It is thick and long pasta. Spaghetti is used to make main pasta dishes.

• Macaroni – It is small and hollow pasta. Usually, it is used to make salads and soup pasta dishes.

• Vermicelli- A very thin type of pasta. Used to add in soups.

• Fusili- It is three-edged spiral pasta. Usually available in different colors.

• Manicotti- A kind of large stuffable pasta. Best for making stuffed pasta dishes.

• Penne- Medium tube pasta, cut diagonally from both the ends. Various other shapes are also available for making pasta dishes such as farfalle, cappellini, ravioli and tortellini.

Pasta Trivia

• An average American eats 20 pounds of pasta in a year. But an Average Italian eats 65 pounds of pasta in a year.

• Pasta is considered to be fattening but a cup of plain cooked pasta has only 1 gram of fat.