7 Italian Secrets for Making Pasta that Tastes Better
Italian cuisine – a confluence of culture, heritage, and love, culminating in a delicious bowl of pasta. Ever wondered about the Italian secrets for making pasta that’s on par with Nonna’s? Grab a glass of vino, kick back and let’s unravel the mysteries together.
1. The Dough Equation: Balance between Durum Wheat Flour and Soft Wheat Flour
The first secret? Fresh pasta dough! No packets of dry pasta can match the texture and taste of homemade pasta. Blend equal parts of durum wheat flour and soft wheat flour. Measure out roughly 100 grams of pasta per person, toss in a pinch of salt, and you’re on your way to pasta heaven.
2. Kneading and Resting: A Gentle Affair
Once your dough comes together, give it a bit of a workout. Aim to mould it into a compact dough ball, almost the size of a tennis ball. Is it a bit dry? Add a sprinkle of warm water. After kneading, let it nap under an upturned bowl for a couple of hours. This will help develop the gluten and enhance the texture.
3. Enter the Pasta Machine: The Art of Rolling and Cutting
Attach that pasta roller to your machine. Start rolling your lump of pasta dough into thin pasta sheets, gradually reducing the thickness with each pass. Feeling creative? Unleash the pasta cutters and have fun with different pasta shapes!
4. Cooking Time and Pasta Water: Al Dente and Starchy
Now, here’s an important tip. Avoid overcooked pasta at all costs! The pasta cooking time usually lies between 1-2 minutes for fresh pasta and 5-6 minutes for dry pasta. And that pasta water? It’s liquid gold. Save a cup of it before you drain your pasta.
5. Sauce and Toppings: The Perfect Pairing
Pasta sauce can make or break your dish. From a simmering Bolognese sauce to a fresh basil pesto or a simple tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of virgin olive oil – the options are as diverse as Italian cuisine itself.
And on the topic of sauces, it’s crucial that we acknowledge the role of consistency in the pasta-sauce relationship. For instance, thin, delicate sauces complement long, thin pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine. Meanwhile, thicker, chunkier sauces are great buddies with pasta shapes that have ridges or holes, like rigatoni or fusilli, effectively holding onto the sauce.
Don’t forget to season your sauce well. It needs to have enough flavour to coat each pasta piece adequately. Under-seasoned sauce can leave your pasta lacking in flavour, while over-seasoning can turn it into a salt lick. Practice makes perfect, so keep tasting and adjusting!
6. Mastering the Art of Dressing: Olive Oil, Herbs, and a Symphony of Flavours
While the choice of pasta and sauce are undeniably significant, the unsung hero of Italian pasta dishes often lies in the dressings and garnishes. Let’s explore a few game-changing additions that can elevate your bowl of pasta to stratospheric heights of flavour.
A drizzle of olive oil, particularly virgin olive oil, can add a silky smooth finish to your pasta. It’s like the final stroke of an artist’s brush, tying all the individual elements together in a beautiful harmony of flavours. The oil’s rich, fruity notes complement the earthiness of the pasta and the robustness of the sauce, creating a well-balanced dish. It’s not just about taste, though. Olive oil also adds a beautiful sheen to your pasta, making it look as good as it tastes.
Next up, we have the subtle yet powerful role of herbs. Fresh basil leaves can infuse a fragrant, peppery sweetness into your pasta. Parsley, with its bright and slightly bitter profile, provides a refreshing counterpoint to rich, creamy sauces. And let’s not forget about rosemary, with its piney aroma and slightly lemony-mint flavour that pairs well with tomato-based sauces.
Black pepper, the humble kitchen staple, also plays a crucial role. It adds a bit of heat and a hint of piney sharpness that can heighten other flavours in the dish. A sprinkle of black pepper, freshly cracked over your pasta, can indeed make a world of difference.
For those who love a bit of heat, chilli pepper is your friend. It’s like the firecracker of the culinary world, adding a spark of spice that can bring your pasta to life. Whether you opt for crushed red pepper flakes or fresh chillies, the heat can make your tastebuds sing.
Finally, consider adding a touch of citrus. A squeeze of lemon juice or a bit of zest can brighten up the flavours, adding a light, zesty finish that cuts through the richness of the pasta and sauce.
Remember, the perfect pasta dressing doesn’t overshadow but rather, elevates and enhances the existing flavours. So go ahead, experiment with these additions and see your pasta dishes transform from good to phenomenal.
7. The Finishing Touch: Parmesan Cheese
When you think your pasta is ready to serve, take a moment. Add a generous grating of Parmesan cheese. It’s the Italian secret that brings all the flavours together.
For the cheese enthusiasts out there (we see you), Parmesan cheese isn’t the only game in town. Ricotta brings a creamy texture, pecorino romano adds a salty punch, and gorgonzola can give your pasta a rich, tangy twist. Keep in mind, though, the golden rule of pasta – balance. Ensure your chosen cheese complements your sauce rather than overpowering it.
Bonus Tip: Get Some Hands-On Pasta Making Insights
So, fellow pasta lover, there you have it – 7 secrets to perfect pasta, directly from the heart of Italian cuisine. But let’s be honest, the journey of learning is as fulfilling as devouring a bowl of pasta, right? If you’re hungry for more knowledge (and pasta), why not consider booking a pasta making class?
Bruna’s Italian in Pretoria, South Africa, offers pasta making classes that can take you deeper into the Italian secrets of pasta making. Not only will you learn more about fresh pasta, pasta shapes and the perfect pasta sauce, but you’ll also get to taste your creations – now, that’s the pasta dream!