How perfect is a plate of steaming hot pasta mixed with a delicious sauce on a cold and windy evening? The most basic pasta of flour, mixed with eggs and water, can be as simple or extravagant as you desire.
The brilliant thing about pasta is that you can use countless different ingredients depending on what is in season or what catches your eye in the store, and it is so quick to throw together.
Today I am using three different types of pasta - all dried but of excellent quality. Some swear by using only fresh, though while fresh does cook more quickly, Italian artisan dried pasta can often be better. The key really is the quality of the flour. Of course, making it by hand is ideal but use what you prefer.
Some of you may not have heard of cappellacci, but have a look around: Farro and Sabato in Auckland will have it, as should good delis. The pasta is a pouch shaped like an ear, so is an ideal size to fill and is fantastic cooked until just al dente then stuffed, with sauce poured around, divinely creamy fontina cheese added and finished in the oven. A triumph!
Pappardelle - the name comes from the verb pappare, meaning to gobble up - are long ribbons measuring about an inch wide. In this recipe the pasta is entangled with a rich sauce of braised and shredded duck flavoured with red wine, garlic and orange. Thirdly, spaghetti: use angel hair pasta, or cappelli d'angeli, if you can find it. This is very fine and delicate and makes for an elegant dish. Here it is served with a very simple sauce using lots of lemon, cream and parsley - perfect comfort food.
Use plenty of water and plenty of salt when cooking pasta. Also never rinse it; you need the starch to help the sauce cling, so just tip it into a colander sitting in the sink then straight into the sauce.