Pasta is one of the most satisfying dishes to whip up. Of course they can be as elaborate as you want them to be, but very often, with a few simple ingredients and a quick toss in the pan, a lip-smackingly wholesome meal is created.
While they are very versatile, purists on the other hand will insist on certain sauces going with certain pasta shapes. There are however, something like 350 types of dried pasta in Italy, so it can feel like marching straight into a labyrinth.
The general rule of the thumb is that delicate and lightly accented sauces are best with thin pasta, as sauces slide easily over smooth pasta surfaces. Whereas rich, buttery and cheese based sauces, go particularly well with pastas with flat and thick surfaces. Pasta with many folds and ridges serve to capture chunky and meaty bits in the sauce.
Here we have roughly grouped five categories with their relevant sauce pairings.
Short-cut noodles -
Go well in salads, served in pesto, chunky vegetable or tomato-based sauces
Small and rounded - Perfect for thinner sauces such as a lighter sugo or grilled vegetables and fish; used for casseroles as well.
Thin, long-rolled noodles - Wonderful with seafood sauce and meaty, stewy ragus.
Flat noodles - Supports heavier olive oil based sauces or creamy, cheese-based sauces.
Stuffed ones - Served with a broth or light creamed sauce so that the fillings can stand out.
Some Regional Classics
The thing I adore most about travelling through Italy is that the pasta dishes are never the same from city to city, each region has its own specialities to tease my curious taste buds.
The bigoli buckwheat pasta is like a thicker version of spaghetti found in the Veneto region is paired wonderfully with seafood sauces such as creamed anchovies, Bigoli in Salsa. I must say, the version with squid ink accompanied with strips of grilled seppia cuttlefish was one of my favourite dishes in Venice.
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| |Emilia Romana
Sinking your teeth into the signature lasagne Bolognesi
is a must in its home town of Bologna. It’s through the wonderful balance of béchamel
and expertly made ragu, would you truly understand why it’s such a favourite the world over.
A short, wavy pasta called trofie is typical of this region; relishing a plate of Trofie al Pesto Genovese against its delicious sea breeze, which is said to give the basil in Liguria its exceptional flavour, is a real treat indeed.
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Tuscan handrolled pasta called pici is like irregularly shaped spaghetti and I never tire of having pici with ragu of Cinta Senese (wild boar) after a full day roaming between renaissance masterpieces and medieval towns.
Having Bucatini alla Carbonara in Rome is so refreshing - locals love reminding you that carbonara made by adding cream is pure sin. I personality prefer the lightness and simplicity of just beaten eggs and cheese, studded with pancetta.
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Capellini, better known as angel hair pasta, is frequently used for baked pasta in this region or with the classic puttanesca “whore style” sauce - hearty chunks of tomato spiked with chilli flakes, anchovies, capers and black olives. Yum, whores can really cook over there.
Fregula Sarda is a Sardinian pasta that looks like a bigger brother of couscous; a great match with the island’s breath of seafood cooked in sauces with a more soupy consistency, try Fregula Sarda con vongole.
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Pasta con le Sarde is a delectably beautiful homage to the Arabic influences in its cuisine; sauce is made with fennel-fragranced sardines, anchovies, pine nuts and sultanas. Linguini or bucatini are most commonly used.