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Faster Pasta - Faster Pasta

[Do Not Use]DK Publishing logo[Do Not Use]DK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Faster Pasta

If there is pasta in your store cupboard, a quick and easy meal is just minutes away. Pasta can taste delicious on its own, simply seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, or it can be the vehicle for a variety of sauces. Convenient and versatile, there are dozens of shapes to choose from, and each has sauces it works best with.

Dried versus fresh

This is one occasion when fresh is not always best. If making your own pasta or buying it fresh from the deli then fresh is superior. However, if buying pasta from the supermarket, dried pasta is usually the best option, because the fresh pasta is often too wet. Choose a good brand, preferably one made in Italy, where it is made with durum wheat.

Types of pasta

Here are the most widely available shapes, and how to use them.


Spaghetti (“strings”)

Long, thin, round, and rigid. Probably the most common of all shapes, and extremely versatile.

Linguine (“small tongues”)

Similar to spaghetti in appearance, but flat rather than round. Can be used whenever a recipe calls for spaghetti.

Capelli d’Angelo (“angel hair”)

Very fine strands. Not sturdy enough for sauce, so best added to soups and broths.

Bucatini (buco = “hole”)

A fat, long, and hollow spaghetti.

Other types

Fusilli lunghi (long fusilli), spaghettini (thin spaghetti)


Tagliatelle (to “cut”)

This wide, flat pasta is the most well-known of the ribbon pastas. It is often flavored with spinach to produce a green pasta, or tomato to produce a red one.

Pappardelle (pappare = “to stuff oneself”)

The widest of the ribbon pastas. As a rule of thumb, big pasta needs a big sauce.

Fettuccini (“little ribbons”)

Long and flat, similar to tagliatelle, but a little wider.

Other types



Farfalle (“butterflies”)

Look like little butterflies, or bows, and have a ridged edge. They are quite delicate, and go well with light sauces.

Fusilli (“little spindles”)

Look like short springs. A good choice to serve in a salad, as they holds their shape well. They often come in a variety of colors.

Conchiglie (“shells”)

These are available in a variety of sizes, either very small (which are added to soups), or really large ones that look like sea shells.

Other types

Orecchiette, trofie, strozzapreti, radiatore


Penne (“quills”)

The most well-known tubular pasta. They have pointed ends, and are either smooth or ridged. A versatile pasta shape, it can be combined with numerous sauces.

Rigatoni (“ridged”)

Very similar to penne, but ridged, and without the pointed “pen” ends.

Macaroni (“dumpling”)

Hollow, curved pasta tubes that can be small or large. Very sturdy, they go well with a cheese sauce.

Other types

Ziti, cavatappi, gigantoni


Ravioli (to “wrap”)

Widely known, and usually bought fresh. Delicious flat parcels of egg pasta, they can be filled with meat, cheese, vegetables, or seafood, depending on the region in which they’re made.

Tortellini (torta = “cake”)

Ring-shaped pasta, filled and pinched in the middle. They can be bought dried or fresh, and are often filled with classic combinations, such as spinach and ricotta cheese.

Other types

Cannelloni, tortelloni

How to cook pasta

Use lots of water. Pasta needs room to move around while it is cooking, otherwise it will stick together. Use a very large pan with plenty of water. As a rule, 2oz of pasta needs about 2 cups of water. Don’t try to cook too much at one time.

Don’t add oil to the water while it cooks. If anything, this prevents the sauce from clinging to it.

Bring the water to a rolling boil, and add a pinch of salt just before adding the pasta. Keep at a rolling boil while cooking.

Watch the clock. Fresh pasta will cook much quicker than dried. Some will cook in a couple of minutes, so always have your sauce prepared.

Cook until “al dente”, meaning it still has a bit of bite to it. You can remove a piece while it’s cooking to test it.

Drain and return to the pan with a little of its cooking water, which will prevent it from sticking.

Go easy on the sauce. The sauce is supposed to coat the pasta, not drench it. Remember the pasta is the main ingredient, and the correct way is to add the sauce to the pasta, not the pasta to the sauce.

Serve instantly, as pasta doesn’t take kindly to being reheated.

Make your own pasta

It’s far easier than you think, satisfying, and tastes wonderful. This method makes enough pasta for 4 people.

Make the dough Tip 1lb (450g) of “00” flour, or strong flour, onto a large clean surface, and make a well in the center. Add a pinch of salt, then 3 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, to the well. Using a fork, gradually stir the egg, and bring the flour in from the sides so it begins to turns into a paste. Keep adding the flour, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated.

Knead Using your hands, bring the mixture together, then begin kneading the dough using the heel of your hand. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is still springy, but has a smooth texture. Wrap in plastic wrap, and rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Roll On a floured (or semolina-sprinkled) surface, roll the pasta out to an oval shape about 1in (2.5cm) thick. Set the machine to its widest setting, and feed through the dough a couple of times, turning the wheel as you go. Continue, changing the roller settings as you go so the pasta becomes thinner. As it gets longer, use your hands to guide it through. Now it is ready to cut to your preferred shape. Leave to dry in bundles for 10 minutes before cooking.

How to store

Dried A cool dark pantry, for up to 1 year. If opened, keep in a sealed jar, or in its packaging, well-wrapped with plastic wrap.

Fresh In the refrigerator for 2–3 days. Can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Cooked In the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for 2–3 days. Not suitable for freezing.

Good for you

Pasta is high in complex carbohydrates, which means it gives you a slow release of energy, which is far more beneficial than a quick-hit boost from sugar. It is a high-fibre food, low in protein and fat. When combined with a vegetable, meat, or fish sauce it offers a highly nutritious meal, particularly if you use wholegrain pasta. An ideal portion size is around 2 1/2–4 1/2oz (75g– 125g) per serving, which provides around 350 calories.

3 easy lunchbox recipes

To try some of the pasta shapes, refer to Types of pasta. Or, you can use cold leftover pasta instead.

Pasta with vegetables

Cook 8oz (225g) of pasta shells until “al dente”. Drain, and return to the pan with a little of the pasta water. Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, and season. Leave to cool, then add 2 chopped tomatoes, a handful of basil leaves, torn, 3 finely chopped spring onions, 1 deseeded and finely sliced yellow pepper, and 1/4 cucumber, cut into chunks. Toss together.

Pasta with beans

Cook 8oz (225g) of pasta bows until “al dente”. Drain, and return to the pan with a little of the pasta water. Toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil, and 1/2 a drained and rinsed can of flageolet beans. Leave to cool, then add a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, and season.

Pasta with tuna

Cook 8oz (225g) of pasta twists until “al dente”. Drain and return to the pan with a little of the pasta water. Toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 deseeded and finely chopped red chile, and a 6oz can of drained tuna steaks. Season, and leave to cool.

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