If coronavirus has taught us anything about our food habits, it’s that Australians turn to pasta in times of need.
Pasta was one of the first items to recently disappear from supermarkets as shoppers prepared for the prospect of isolation by panic buying pantry staples.
The choice makes sense to Melbourne cook, author and pasta-making teacher Julia Busuttil Nishimura.
“It lasts a long time, you can use a lot of different ingredients with it, it’s cheap, it’s fast and it’s a universal comfort food,” she says.
Dried pasta also comes in a wide range of shapes, and you may have found yourself buying an unfamiliar variety if your go-to (hello, spaghetti) was stripped from shelves.
“The premise is that the holes and indentations in particular pasta shapes catch the sauce,” Julia says.
“It’s also helpful to think of pasta in size categories — small shapes are good for soups, medium shapes like penne and fusilli are fairly universal but also good for using in baked dishes, and longer shapes like tagliatelle are traditionally paired with rich sauces like ragu.”
We asked the ABC Life recipe columnist to share her perfect sauce pairings for the pasta in your pantry. We’ve included some recipes to try, too.
Shapes and sauces
Shape: Spring-like corkscrews
Serve with: Zucchini sauce. Use olive oil, chopped shallots, and diced zucchini gently fried off. Add the fusilli and some ricotta or cream.
Shape: Hollow cylinders with diagonally sliced ends
Serve with: Simple tomato sauce. Olive oil, garlic, canned tomatoes and basil. Or try it in a pasta bake with tomato, ricotta and spinach.
Shape: Long, thin, solid strings
Serve with: Clams or pippis, garlic, olive oil, parsley and wine. If you’re working with pantry staples like tinned tuna and frozen peas, make this simple one-pot pasta.
Shape: Bowties or butterflies
Serve with: Pesto sauce with basil, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic. Or, try a creamy sauce with peas, cream and pancetta.
Shape: Flat, thick and long ribbons
Serve with: Creamy sauce — use warm cream in a pan with nutmeg, add frozen peas and lots of parmesan at the end.
Shape: Some say it’s slightly thicker than fettucine, others say it’s the same thing called a different name depending on which region of Italy you’re in.
Serve with: Traditionally served with a Bolognese or meat ragu, but Julia also suggests a lemon and butter sauce. Use lemon zest, butter, parmesan — melt and mix together.
Shape: Short, narrow tubes, commonly curved like elbows
Serve with: Tomato sauce with sausages. Take the sausages out of their casing, fry off into meatballs, stir in mozzarella and parmesan and bake in the oven. Or make this quick and easy mac and cheese.
Shape: Tubes, larger than penne and with square-cut ends
Serve with: Rigatoni is Julia’s favourite, so she’s suggested three sauces that are iterations of each other:
Cacio e pepe: Grated pecorino Romano (Italian hard sheep cheese), plenty of freshly cracked black pepper emulsified with pasta water, and mixed with the cooked pasta.
Alla gricia: Guanciale (Italian cured pork) slowly fried, then joined by the pecorino, pepper and pasta water again.
All’amatriciana: Start with guanciale, add a tin of whole tomatoes, dried chilli and pecorino.
It also features in her recipe for Pasta e fagioli, a pasta and bean soup.
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General pasta cooking tips
Julia says when you’re cooking packet pasta, make sure you have plenty of water so that the shapes are able to move around in the pot.
“Have the water rapidly boiling and just before you cook the pasta you want to salt the water,” she says.
“If you don’t salt the water no matter how much salt you put in the sauce it’s not going to taste nice.”
Julia also recommends cooking the pasta for one minute less than the packet instructions suggest. This gives the pasta a chance to finish cooking in its sauce.
And, her most important tip of all, is to save at least a cup of pasta water for the sauce.
“If you’re cooking a tomato sauce and you add the pasta and keep cooking it for a minute it’s going to dry out quickly and it’ll start absorbing the sauce — even when you turn off the heat it keeps soaking it up,” she says.
“So that’s why you need the water.”
Finally, Julia says there are no hard-and-fast rules.
“Cook what you love,” she says.
“And don’t feel bad about eating packet pasta — everyone in Italy eats packet pasta.”
Source: Thanks https://www.abc.net.au/life/what-to-do-with-that-pasta-youre-hoarding/12116568