Delving into: pasta dough
Pasta is immensely popular worldwide and used at different levels in every kitchen. This beloved flour dish is available in all shapes and sizes, and is very satisfying to make from scratch. Have you ever made it yourself? In this blog, you can read everything you’ve always wanted to know about pasta!
Pasta is Italian for dough, so loosely translated, the title of this blog would be "Delve into dough dough". But anyway, you know what we mean. Pasta dough is, essentially, nothing more than a clay-like mixture of water and flour that is formed and cooked until tender. The fact that it is cooked is the big difference between most other types of dough, which are usually baked. This makes it the only type of dough that really belongs to the kitchen and the chef's arsenal. But where does it actually come from, Italy right?
History of pasta
The history of pasta goes way back and quite a lot is known about it. Pasta originated in China. And no, it was not brought by Marco Polo, which is the most well-known story. In fact, pasta had been in Italy for several centuries, long before the explorer visited Asia. Via the Middle East, it ended up in the countries around the Mediterranean.
The evolution of pasta then mainly took place in Italy and innumerable varieties were developed over time. However, in many countries specific variants emerged. The Greeks have Orzo, the North African cuisine has couscous, in Germany they have knödel, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary have Spätzle, and Spain, Fideos.
The right shape
For now, we’re focusing on Italian pasta, which is a whole world in itself. For example, which variant do you choose for which application? And, should the sauce cling to it or not? Different shapes of pasta were created for different reasons. The shape and texture affect how the sauce is absorbed. Long thin pasta, such as spaghetti, combines best with oil-based sauces such as agio olio e peperoncino. Tagliatelle is wider and can therefore handle firmer sauces, such as ragù bolognese, which is traditionally served with it. Penne and rigatoni have ridges on the outside, so they hold thick sauces such as Arrabbiata well.
To make or to buy?
Well, that is exactly the question! Do you buy pasta or make it yourself? Just to be clear, you can get high quality, dried pasta from your wholesaler or supermarket, and most Italians just buy it too. But it is certainly worthwhile for filled pasta shapes, and these can easily be made using a regular pasta machine. If you want to make your own spaghetti, penne or fusilli, you can purchase an extrusion machine (prices rangefrom about € 750). There are several recipes for making pasta dough. Most homemade pasta is made with eggs and flour, sometimes with olive oil and water. The dried pasta you buy, most of the time, consists of durum wheat and water.
To cook pasta, use 10 times the pasta weight of water and 1% salt. So: boil 500 grams of pasta in at least 5 liters of water with 50 grams of salt. The ample amount of water is enough to make the paste absorb 1.5 times its weight, without sticking together. The salt gives flavor and slows down the gelling of the starch, which prevents the pasta from sticking. You don’t need to add any oil to the cooking water. Fresh pasta is ready within minutes, dried pasta sometimes takes up to 12 minutes. Al dente is the norm for cooking. Especially if the pasta is heated in a sauce.
With filled pasta, you always score points
Filled pastas are the most interesting type for most chefs because they are almost dishes in themselves. We have collected a few that you should definitely try to make, at least once.
- Spinach tortellini filled with spinach, allspice, and ricotta: Tortellini is an Italian pasta, made in the form of rings. Here, spinach is used in the dough and in the filling.
- Roasted butternut squash pansotti: The pasta dough is from a Ligurian recipe and contains some white wine. The filling is made using roasted pumpkin, ricotta and Parmesan cheese.
Are you curious about all components with pasta dough?