Pasta and Different Shapes


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Old 03-22-21, 01:01 AM
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Pasta and Different Shapes

I have never cooked spaghetti before and I am learning today. I was wondering can I make spaghetti and meatballs with a different pasta shape, such as fettuccine? There are lots of pasta brands out there. If it is the same brand, does the shape tastes different with different texture and ingredients? I have been watching on youtube trying to get his answer?

There was this one pasta chain 20 years ago. I can't remember the name right now. They make fantastic Italian sausages pasta. I forgot what shape of pasta they used. For some reason, I crave that taste today.
 

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03-22-21, 10:52 AM
Fred_C_Dobbs
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The Italians didn't create different shapes of pasta just for sake of appearance, they learned over centuries of trial and error that certain sauces stick better to certain shapes. They have particular pairings of which shape goes best with which sauce but you don't find many Americans paying much attention to those rules. We (Americans) have our own take on Italian cooking, in no small part because the Italian immigrants to America in the 1800s and early 1900s (who mostly came from the historically poorest region of Italy, the south) cooked differently from the way they did back home because they made more money in America and could afford more expensive ingredients (especially meat).

The different shapes of pasta themselves might taste a tiny bit different because the noodles with complex shapes -- like macaroni or rotini -- would lose their shape when boiled and fall flat if they were made from the same flour as spaghetti or linguini. But that taste difference -- if any -- is so slight that it will be covered up by the taste of the sauce.

Like Pilot Dane said, cook it however pleases you. That's what the first Italian-Americans did, and that's why Italian food here is distinct from "authentic" Italian food.

If you're really getting into this, you should try making homemade noodles. It's really pretty easy. The recipe is simple, 100 grams of all-purpose flour and one whole egg. Lots of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to shape the flour into a "well," then crack the egg into the well and blend it with the flour gradually.

That gets you the pasta dough but then you need a little mechanical help to convert it into noodles.



This is a pasta machine. Turning the dough into spaghetti or fettuccini is a two-step process. First you run it between two rollers that mash the wad of dough into a sheet. The dial on the left side of the machine is the thickness selector, so you gradually squeeze the dough thinner and thinner until it suits you. Then you use the cutter attachment. The one I have can make either spaghetti or fettuccini noodles but there are other attachments so I could also make angel hair or linguini or any other 'flat' pasta. Shapes like macaroni or rotini are made by extrusion, which can't be done with a machine like this but they make attachments for KitchenAid and other stand mixers that can.

A machine like this is less than $100, and I probably never would have spent that much just to be able to make my own pasta, but I found one for sale dirt cheap that was used and missing the clamps that are needed to hold it to the counter while you're turning the crank. I already had a tool box full of clamps that would do the trick, so I bought it on the cheap. And I discovered I like fresh pasta so much that I regret not having paid full price for one years ago. They don't look impressive but they are pretty well made and your grandchildren probably will still be using the same machine.
 
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Old 03-22-21, 06:10 AM
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You can cook whatever you want. But technically spaghetti uses spaghetti noodles. If you use a different noodle then you'd call it something else. If you use fettuccine noodles then you've made a type of fettuccine. Me, I'm a fan of angel hair.

Just like anything some people have their favorite brands. Then there is dried, refrigerated or fresh made. Noodles can be made with different types of flour or different grains altogether. So, lots of choices. Then from the same manufacturer using the same ingredients can end up having a different flavor and texture based on shape. Angel hair has a lot of sauce contact with the noodles so the sauce is more the focus. Larger or thicker noodles have less surface area in relation to the noodle volume so you get more of the noodle flavor coming through in the end.
 
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Old 03-22-21, 06:22 AM
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Well you can, but to me it won't be quite right. I like Fettuccine with cheese sauces, but if that's all you have, it'll work.
No, none of them taste different, just the texture of it feels different.
 
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Old 03-22-21, 10:52 AM
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The Italians didn't create different shapes of pasta just for sake of appearance, they learned over centuries of trial and error that certain sauces stick better to certain shapes. They have particular pairings of which shape goes best with which sauce but you don't find many Americans paying much attention to those rules. We (Americans) have our own take on Italian cooking, in no small part because the Italian immigrants to America in the 1800s and early 1900s (who mostly came from the historically poorest region of Italy, the south) cooked differently from the way they did back home because they made more money in America and could afford more expensive ingredients (especially meat).

The different shapes of pasta themselves might taste a tiny bit different because the noodles with complex shapes -- like macaroni or rotini -- would lose their shape when boiled and fall flat if they were made from the same flour as spaghetti or linguini. But that taste difference -- if any -- is so slight that it will be covered up by the taste of the sauce.

Like Pilot Dane said, cook it however pleases you. That's what the first Italian-Americans did, and that's why Italian food here is distinct from "authentic" Italian food.

If you're really getting into this, you should try making homemade noodles. It's really pretty easy. The recipe is simple, 100 grams of all-purpose flour and one whole egg. Lots of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to shape the flour into a "well," then crack the egg into the well and blend it with the flour gradually.

That gets you the pasta dough but then you need a little mechanical help to convert it into noodles.



This is a pasta machine. Turning the dough into spaghetti or fettuccini is a two-step process. First you run it between two rollers that mash the wad of dough into a sheet. The dial on the left side of the machine is the thickness selector, so you gradually squeeze the dough thinner and thinner until it suits you. Then you use the cutter attachment. The one I have can make either spaghetti or fettuccini noodles but there are other attachments so I could also make angel hair or linguini or any other 'flat' pasta. Shapes like macaroni or rotini are made by extrusion, which can't be done with a machine like this but they make attachments for KitchenAid and other stand mixers that can.

A machine like this is less than $100, and I probably never would have spent that much just to be able to make my own pasta, but I found one for sale dirt cheap that was used and missing the clamps that are needed to hold it to the counter while you're turning the crank. I already had a tool box full of clamps that would do the trick, so I bought it on the cheap. And I discovered I like fresh pasta so much that I regret not having paid full price for one years ago. They don't look impressive but they are pretty well made and your grandchildren probably will still be using the same machine.
 
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Old 03-22-21, 10:58 AM
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Wow! I think I know what Fred's hobbies are - cooking? You should write a book Fred. That is awesome, thank you for all of that information.

Pilot Dane, thank you for your take as well. Enjoyed reading most of your replies for these past few days.

Shadeladie thank you for the confirmation of the tastes.

 
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Old 03-22-21, 12:17 PM
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Just to add to the sum total, some people like it cooked el dente. At least I do.

And PD...I big NO on the angle hair!

And why can't they make a utensil that can easily scope up shells and rotini?
 
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Old 03-22-21, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Fred_C_Dobbs.
This is a pasta machine. Turning the dough into spaghetti or fettuccini is a two-step process. First you run it between two rollers that mash the wad of dough into a sheet. The dial on the left side of the machine is the thickness selector, so you gradually squeeze the dough thinner and thinner until it suits you. Then you use the cutter attachment. The one I have can make either spaghetti or fettuccini noodles but there are other attachments so I could also make angel hair or linguini or any other 'flat' pasta. Shapes like macaroni or rotini are made by extrusion, which can't be done with a machine like this
An additional note on the pasta machine (got one as a wedding present, use is a fair amount)
Once you begin to get the "feel" of making the dough, (how to roll it initially with a rolling pin, how long you can keep it moist (put the rolled dough sheets in on wax paper in a sheet pan, cover with a drying/draining rack covered with a damp towel)
Two hacks I found that made spaghetti making much easier -
First, when you clamp a pasta machine to the countertop to make slabs, pull a roll of wax paper between the legs to keep the fresh pasta from sticking to the counter, and to reduce breakage.
Second, you can clamp the pasta machine to an upper kitchen cabinet instead (about 5 feet up makes it easy to work with) put a pasta pot with some flower beneath to catch any broken pieces, THEN roll out the past and let it hang vertically. Trick is, when you're ALMOST done cutting through, stop and leave about 1/4t inch of the spaghetti / fettucine sheet uncut, and let it hang for about 2 minutes to dry. Keeps the fresh pasta from sticking together.

ENGLAND - 1957 a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the spaghetti tree, broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK
https://youtu.be/tVo_wkxH9dU
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 03-22-21 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 03-22-21, 02:14 PM
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We have pasta once or twice a week. Different pastas match up with different foods. Fred C is right on the money regarding pasta shapes and their ability to complement whatever sauce is used.

I have lived in southern Italy and before I retired we were working with an Italian company in Bologna. I typically spent a couple of months a year in Bologna. Bologna is in the heart of Emilio Romagna region famous for Parma ham, Parmesan cheese and the best balsamic vinegar in the world.

Some of my favorites - All of these have different sauces
Tagliatelle ala Bolognese
Penne arrabiata
Spaghetti carbonera
Linguine with mussels
Papardelle with braised short ribs
Rotini with sausage and artichokes

 
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Old 03-23-21, 10:14 AM
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Something I forgot to mention about the pasta machine.

Once you've squeezed the dough into sheets, you've got the key structural component for lasagne and ravioli. Lasagne you can make from dried pasta sheets and the taste doesn't suffer (because other ingredients influence the taste more than the noodles) but it's easier to "build" from fresh. And because fresh is more pliable than even fully-cooked dried lasagne noodles, it's a snap to use many more layers of noodle than you could with dried. Which doesn't much improve the flavor but it does make the finished dish look more "fussed over."

But for ravioli there is no substitute for fresh. And you can make stuffing for ravioli out of anything that's edible that can be cut into a small enough portions and that won't dissolve in boiling water.
 
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Old 04-01-21, 06:51 AM
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I love pasta because you can be creative always. You can mix any kind of pasta with any kind of meat or vegetables or sauces. When I used to study and live in property in Sicily *** I was learning how to cook in local restaurants and mothers of my friends were teaching me too. Pasta is really universal. I like any kind with meat or with vegetables. Not a big fan of sea food but it's good with pasta too

This is one of my favorite combination prosciutto and cheese

 

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Old 04-01-21, 08:44 AM
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...This is one of my favorite combination prosciutto and cheese.
In my book, prosciutto and <insert non-toxic substance here> is a great combination.

When we in the colonies speak of prosciutto, most of us are thinking of prosciutto di Parma. The 'Parma' it refers to is a region of Italy (a bit north of Rome) where that style of ham originated. It's also where Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano) originated, and it's no coincidence that they come from the same place.

Remember the nursery rhyme, Little Miss Muffet, ... eating her curds and whey? Curd is the curdled solid that forms when processing milk into cheese (which is skimmed off and further processed into the cheese itself). The whey is the liquid that's left over, which still has considerable nutrition in it. The traditional method for feeding the hogs destined to become prosciutto is to raise them on the whey discarded from making Parmesan cheese, and as harvest time nears they're turned out into the forest to browse for roots and nuts (mostly acorns and chestnuts). So what probably originated as austerity measures -- 'recycling' the whey and allowing the hogs a 'free range' feeding before harvesting -- has produced two of the world's most cherished delicacies.


Back to the OP's topic, this was published a couple of days ago and I thought it relevant to this thread. When I wrote that you need a pasta machine in order to make noodles, I'm assuming that you aren't an Italian grandmother:

Meet the Italian Grandmothers Making the World’s Rarest Pasta

This truly is food as art.
 
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Old 04-01-21, 10:33 AM
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I finally learned how to cook spaghetti meat sauce (kroger tomato with basil) with ground beef, Italian sausage, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, sauteed onions and mushroom, Bell peppers, etc....

It turned out so so so good 👍! I am trying again tomorrow with a different sauce brand. What sauce do you like? Prego, Ragu, Classico, etc...?

I also tried Alfredo sauce which I did not like as much as Mariana sauce.

Thanks
 
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Old 04-01-21, 10:38 AM
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I like homemade. If you're adding all that, you don't need a readymade sauce. Just buy canned whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes but add dried basil instead of the can that adds it. Actually, using canned tomatoes and adding your own herbs and nothing else, tastes good too. Just let it simmer a while.
 
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Old 04-01-21, 10:40 AM
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Got it! I will do that. Thank you! 🙏
 
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Old 04-01-21, 11:29 AM
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Store bought jarred sauces are typically so over seasoned that they are awful when compared to home made. Making a red sauce at home is so simple and way less expensive than ready made. Start with whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes and go from there. I typically add sauted onions, garlic (lots) a good olive oil, red wine, but drink a test glass first to make sure it's OK , and fresh basil. I will sometimes add oregano and crushed red peppers.
 
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Old 04-01-21, 09:40 PM
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Can you share some of the spice/herbs that you use in your pasta and in measurements like tablespoons?
 
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Old 04-02-21, 11:38 AM
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I don't use a lot, if any, but depends on what I'm making. For the most part, I just use salt and basil (fresh if I have it and dried if not). I don't measure, I just start with probably about one teaspoon each (dried basil) by just putting it in my hand. It's easy to judge and doesn't need to be exact. Stir it in and taste. Add more if you want. This is in a 28 ounce can of tomatoes. On a rare occasion I might add a few dashes of Italian seasoning. I also always add a few tablespoons of butter. Makes it taste better, but that's up to you.
I'm one that believes less is more. You really don't need to measure, just start with less. You can always add more.
Then let is simmer for 30 to 45 minutes if you're using whole tomatoes. Just around 10 minutes if crushed or pureed. If you're cooking meat in it, of course you'll need to cook it until the meat is done.
 
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Old 04-02-21, 01:19 PM
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Check around for local stores that have a "bulk food" aisle- Our local family owned chain of ~5 supermarkets has a "bulk food" section where we get paint-can sized cans of tomato paste for a few dollars, same for tomato sauce, whole cooked tomatoes, and bulk garlic. Add some olive oil, and some discount rack meat/mushrooms, and you've got a great sauce.
Also check for local restaurant supplies- some will sell dented, discontinued, or just-expired food at cost just to clear space- (i.e. 1 lbs of DiBruno Brothers grated parmesan was $6 total instead of the usual $14.)
Once you find a good source of bulk food, just experiment, it will cost less than store bought, and 9 times out of 10 it will still taste better...


 
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Old 04-02-21, 02:49 PM
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Thank you ShadeLadie and Hal!
 
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Old 04-02-21, 06:40 PM
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One follow up-
For making spaghetti sauce (yes, it's different from tomato sauce) one good suggestion is to do a "checkerboard tray" where you take a teaspoon of sauce in the middle, then the rows above and below go from 1/2 the recipe to 2x the recipe for onions, garlic, oregano, and cheese.
This gives you a quick matrix to dial in the seasonings you like e.g. heavy on onions, light on garlic, heavy on oregano, light on cheese...
 
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Old 04-02-21, 07:15 PM
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Never light on garlic and never complicated for me. I make several different red sauces (Sunday gravy, arrabiata, fra diavolo and amatriciana and bolognese and never measure anything. I've been making them for so many years I no longer have to measure ingredients. Once you get the basics down, just taste and adjust during cooking.

 
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Old 04-18-21, 09:28 AM
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I forgot to mention what is probably my favorite pasta, and which is almost always made without the use of a machine.

Last night I noticed that some foolish member of my clan had left a half-eaten bowl of mashed potatoes in the 'fridge with no mark of ownership (which makes them community property), so I made gnocchi from them.

Gnocchi (NYO-key) is sort of a cross between pasta and an Italian dumpling, usually made with flour, potato and a binder. You can substitute ricotta for potatoes, check the videos on YouTube for complete details. Basically you adjust ingredients and knead until it's a smooth consistency and doesn't break up when you pinch it. You want it to be pliable because the next step is to roll the dough into a rope. Then cut the rope into (somewhat) uniform disks.

In keeping with the "pasta shapes" theme of this thread, next you do something to each individual disk to give it irregularities for your sauce to cling to. Many an Italian grandmother's kitchen has a small wooden block with grooves cut into it that they roll the gnocchi across to press ridges into them. Roll the gnocchi across the board with just the right pressure from your thumb and you put ridges on the one side and your thumb leaves a dimple on the other. I substitute the back of a fork for the gnocchi board.

Boil them 2-3 minutes in salted water. When they float to the top, they're done.

I prefer mine roasted to boiled. Toss them dimple-side down in a skillet with a bit of butter over medium heat for a couple of minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Then they're crispy on one side and fluffy on the other.

Top however you like, tomato sauce, cream sauce, ... whatever. Last night it was pecorino Romano, black pepper, pesto and a healthy drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

They freeze very well so if you're going to the trouble to home-make gnocchi, might as well make enough for more than one meal. Freezing before clumping them all together keeps them from sticking to each other so I like to spread them out on a large cookie sheet covered with freezer or parchment paper, give them a light dusting of flour and put them in the freezer for at least half an hour (might take longer if you started with hot potatoes). Then separate them into the portion size you see fit and package them in saran wrap or tupperware, then back into the freezer.

Left-overs don't get much better.
 
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Old 04-18-21, 10:31 AM
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Gnocchi (NYO-key) is sort of a cross between pasta and an Italian dumpling, usually made with flour, potato and a binder. You can substitute ricotta for potatoes, check the videos on YouTube for complete details. Basically you adjust ingredients and knead until it's a smooth consistency and doesn't break up when you pinch it.
And microbrewers & craft restaurants are still serving appetizers named "I did it for the Gnocchi"

 
 

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