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Monday, March 5, 2012

Mangiare Monday

When it is time for pasta or Italian food, the first thing that pops into our head is spaghetti. Did you know there are more than 600 types of past in Italy alone and regional variations of each?
Pasta is a fast way to heartily feed people, bur we can expand our pasta horizons past spaghetti and marinara.
Most Italian pastas contain the same ingredients and are more than a pretty way to prepare the same thing. The varieties in the shape and size of Italian pasta have much function in their form. The form of the pasta serves as a base, a way to deliver the sauce they are served with. Ask any pasta connoisseur, they will adamantly disagree with you and tell you it is the pasta that is the star of the dish. I say consider both to create a beautiful marriage of the two.
Here are the things we should consider when making an incredible dish of pasta.
Start with your liquid/sauce element. There are many types of sauce elements from the standard marinara to pestos (yes there are more than one kind) and creams sauces or a mixture of two. There are pan sauces flavored with wines or broths. the possibilities are endless. Also many protein selections (meat), and veggies top top your mountain of deliciousness. Don't forget the cheese!
Next, ask yourself, what the best pasta could be used to highlight the flavor, texture and palatability of your ingredients.  Think of the pasta as a tool to maximize the conveyance of these factors in the same way you wouldn't use a fork to try and eat tomato soup.
The last and to me the most important aspect of the whole dish is the quality of the ingredients and pasta.
Both sides of the pasta/sauce argument would agree whole hearted with me when I say the better quality of the ingredients, the better the dish.
Pastas that are large shell type or tube like are great for stuffing with cheeses and charcuterie. (i.e; Manicotti, Conchiglioni, Cannelloni, and Fagottini.)
Pastas that have many ridges and swirls hold onto thinner or cream sauces better. (i.e; Fusilli, Cavatappi, Gemelli, Radiatori, and Rotini)
Pastas can even replace rice or placed in soups (i.e; Orzo, Acini, Fregula, Stelle, and Grattini)
Wider ribboned pasta, thickens sauce, and stands well to heaver bold flavors.
Try and find fresh pasta or make your own, you may never want dry past again, although some pasta designs are better suited dry, like radiatore.
Fresh homemade sauces made from fresh tomatoes is something that can take awhile to master but is definitely attainable, you can cheat a bit by buying whole can tomatoes. They come in many varieties like organic and fire roasted. If you ever encounter cans of whole tomatoes from Italian region of San Marzano, they are the absolute best caned tomatoes for Marinara in the world! Blend in your food processor, and simmer with olive oil and finely diced garlic and dried oregano, and fresh basil leaves salt and pepper to make a simple marinara. Add some red pepper flakes to add some kick. Simmer until all flavors have melded, and toss with your favorite cooked pasta.  
So try a new pasta, a new sauce, think about how to pair the two well and how it will be served. Remember it would be foolish to try and build a house without plans, why would you do the same for your meal. A well thought out meal will be rewarded in your mouth.
Adventure awaits you in your home or at your locally privately owned Italian restaurant if only you take a chance to break out of your norm.

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