Cooking School

All about pasta: How to cook, serve and store different pastas

By: The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

All about pasta: How to cook, serve and store different pastas

By: The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

Pasta basics
Making fresh pasta
Nothing beats the taste of fresh, homemade pasta. Now you can learn to make your own.

Pasta, please: 100+ pasta recipes
Enjoy rich aromas and robust flavours with our large selection of pasta recipes.

How much pasta to serve?
For main course servings, count on 12 oz to 1 lb (375 to 500 g) for 4 servings. In all our recipes, long pasta is measured by weight and short pasta by cups (mL) wherever possible.

Long pasta
Pasta such as spaghetti is impossible to measure by the cup. If you don't have a kitchen scale, here's a way to measure. Wrap a tape measure around a bundle of pasta or use a round cookie cutter to measure the circumference.
• About 2-1/2 inches (6 cm) is 3 oz (90 g), 1 serving.
• About 4-1/2 inches (11 cm) is 8 oz (250 g), 2 to 3 servings.
• About 5-1/4 inches (12.5 cm) is 12 oz (375 g), 4 servings.

Short pasta
For popular shapes such as penne, fusilli, rotini and radiatore, 12 oz (375 g) equals about 4 cups (1 L). The same weight of smaller pasta such as macaroni or tubetti equals 2-3/4 cups (675 mL). For larger and bulkier shapes such as farfalle, you'll need about 6 cups (1.5 L).

Large pasta
12 to 15 lasagna noodles weigh about 12 oz (375 g).

Pasta storage
Dried pasta should be stored in an airtight container or package at dry room temperature for up to one year.

• Commercial fresh pasta should be stored in refrigerator and used by "best-before" date on package.

• Homemade fresh pasta is best cooked as soon as made; otherwise store in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Or dry at room temperature and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Matching pasta types to recipes
Different pasta shapes match some sauces better than others. As a rule of thumb, you can interchange each of these pasta types within each group.

Spaghetti, vermicelli, spaghettini, linguine or fettuccine: serve these long strand pastas with smooth sauces that will cling to them.

Fusilli, rotini, radiatori, orecchiette, conchiglie, farfalle or rigatone: serve these short shaped pastas with chunky sauces that will nestle in the grooves of the pasta; they are also great baked.

Penne, ziti or macaroni: these tubular pastas are suitable for most sauces.

Stellini, alphabet, orzo or tubetti: these tiny shapes are perfect for soups and stews.

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how to cook perfect pasta on page 2

How to cook pasta
You need only two things -- a big pot (24 cups/6 L is ideal) and lots of boiling water. A small pot, or too little water in a big pot, crowds the pasta, cooks it unevenly and makes it gluey. Here's a rule of thumb:

Dry pasta
For each pound (500 g) dry pasta, use 20 cups (5 L) water and 2 tbsp (25 mL) salt. For 12 oz (375 g), reduce the water to 16 cups (4 L) and the salt to 4 tsp (20 mL).

• Bring water, covered, to full rolling boil. Add salt, then pasta, stirring to separate strands or pieces; boil, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes for most popular shapes. Fine strands cook in as little as 3 minutes, while jumbo pasta shells will need about 12 minutes.

• Start timing the cooking from the moment the pasta and water return to boil. Remember to stir pasta occasionally to prevent sticking to bottom of pot.

Fresh Pasta
Since fresh pasta doesn't expand as much, it requires less water (16 cups/4 L for each pound/500 g). Fresh pasta cooks quickly, usually in 1 to 3 minutes, so watch it carefully. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking to bottom of pot.

To check if pasta is cooked properly, remove a piece from the pot and let it cool slightly before tasting. It is ready if it is tender but still holds its shape and is al dente, or slightly firm, to the bite.

• Reserving up to 1 cup (250 mL) of the cooking water in case you need to moisten the dish before serving, pour cooked pasta into colander to drain, shaking colander slightly.

• Do not rinse under cold water unless you are using the pasta in a salad or in baked pasta dishes such as lasagna.

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Cooking School

All about pasta: How to cook, serve and store different pastas