In Italy I learned a few interesting things about pasta dishes that go against common thinking in New Zealand. In Italy, the pasta is considered as important as the sauce you put over it. Different sauces are considered suitable for only certain types of pasta.
The pasta is added to the sauce and tossed around to coat it well, as opposed to topping the pasta with a sauce. A small amount of the pasta cooking water will be added to the sauce to thin it back a little before the pasta is mixed through it.
There is no big deal about using dried pasta as opposed to fresh.
Pasta will be served as a small course as part of a multi-course lunch or dinner, rarely as a main.
In Italy, it would be laughable to try and find ways to speed things up in the kitchen. Making food is a serious business and will not be rushed. Eating food is equally honoured, a respectable two hours will be required for lunch.
But New Zealand schedules don't always allow such a luxury of time, so I've devised a few pasta recipes that can be whipped up quickly.
Some of these ideas would make an Italian momma shudder, but I guarantee they'll still be delicious.
Tips for cooking perfect pasta
1. Fill your biggest pot with water.
2. Add salt. Salt makes pasta taste better.
3. Get the water to a rolling boil. This means a boil that doesn't stop when you stir the pot.
4. Pasta usually doubles in size, so measure your pasta.
5. Add to the water. Keep stirring - pasta will only stick if it isn't stirred during the beginning of the cook.
6. Don't add oil. Sauces will not stick to slippery pasta.
7. Most pastas cook in 8-10 minutes.
8. Cook only one type of pasta at a time.
9. Pasta should be "al dente", a little firm to the bite.