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Pasta History, Cooking Ideas, Cooking Tips and Techiques

PASTA HISTORY

There is some controversy about the origins of pasta. Many claim that it was brought to Italy by Marco Polo in the 13th century from China, where it was first developed. Some link it to the ancient Greeks, and others to the Etruscans but, in any event, it ended up in Rome. Still other food historians say that it was invented in the Near East and arrived in Italy during the time of the Arab conquests, somewhere between the 7th and 13th centuries. The first recorded evidence of pasta in Italy comes from a Genoese merchant who, in an inventory, lists "macharonis" of probable Sicilian origin. It is undoubtedly the Genoese who spread the art of pasta-making throughout Italy, although the Sicilians were the ones to first master the craft of making dried pastas.

PASTA COOKING TIPS

  • The ideal way to cook pasta is "al dente" which means "to the tooth" - pasta that is still a bit firm when tasted.
  • Do not add the pasta until the water is at a full boil. The water should be lightly salted.
  • Adding a bit of oil will help keep the pasta strands separated and prevent the cooking liquid from foaming.
  • Most dried pasta takes 12-15 minutes to cook. The short-cut pasta takes about 7 minutes.
  • Fresh pasta needs less cooking time, 3-5 minutes.
  • For stuffed pasta, which takes approximately 8-12 minutes to cook depending on the dough and kind of stuffing, biting the edge and not the stuffed area is the best way to ensure that it is cooked "al dente." Gnocchi, on the other hand, is ready to eat when it rises to the surface. If cooked longer it becomes mushy.
  • When cooking a pasta with a seafood sauce make sure that the pasta is cooked less than "al dente," left hard to the touch. This allows the partly-cooked pasta to cook longer with the seafood, and to soak in its flavors.
  • There is a legend among Italian chefs which states that pasta is ready when it is thrown against a ceramic tiled wall and sticks there! Tasting pasta to test its readiness is the most reliable method and a lot less messy.

STORING PASTA

  • Store dried pasta at room temperature in an airtight container. Check the package for the "use by" date.
  • Store fresh pasta in the refrigerator and use it within a few days of making. If purchasing fresh pasta, check the "use by" date for freshness. You can freeze fresh pasta and it can be cooked without defrosting. It will keep for quite a long time. Do not freeze cooked pasta - it will not hold its flavor or texture.

For More Cooking Tips and Pasta Ideas visit learn to prepare pasta