Q1. This is probably the most popular type of pasta. Sophia Loren has said that she owes everything she has to it. Rossini used a large plate of it to resolve the plot of his opera "L'Italiana in Algeri" (pasta ex machina?). People often struggle to eat it gracefully; the trick is to twirl it around your fork. What am I talking about?
"Everything I have, I owe to spaghetti," said the magnificent Loren who will, unbelievably, turn 85 years on 20 September 2019. Rossini, no stranger to the glories of the table himself, featured spaghetti in "L'Italiana in Algeri".
Q2. This cut of pasta resembles the writing end of an old fashioned quill pen, hence its name. It is tubular and cut on the diagonal.
Penne come in a number of sizes and sometimes have ridges.
Q3. Another tubular pasta is named for the grooves, or ridges along its sides which help it hold onto the sauce.
Rigatoni also come in different sizes. They are an ideal choice for thick, chunky sauces, since their wide openings trap chunks of meat or vegetables.
Q4. This type of spaghetti is handmade on an implement resembling a zither or a box-shaped harp. It has many wires running across. The pasta dough is rolled across and falls through cut into thin strands. What is the name for this type of pasta?
"Chitarra" means "guitar". It is the implement on which spaghetti was probably first made. It produces somewhat square-shaped spaghetti. Ready-made "pasta alla chitarra" in dry form is now available at many groceries (however its much more fun to make it "a mano").
Q5. "Little worms" and "little tongues" are the rather unappetizing translations of the names of these two pastas.
Vermicelli is a very thin spaghetti which is sometimes broken up and added to soups. Linguine is somewhat thicker and flatter and is the ideal choice to be served "alla vongole"- with clams, olive oil, and garlic.
Q6. Of the following, three are types of pasta, the fourth is a name for almond paste. Which one is the odd man out?
Pasta reale (reale means "regal" or "royal") is made from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites. Pasta Casalinga means "Home-style pasta", pasta grattata is a type of pasta dough that is grated into hot broth to make soup. Pasta alla chitarra has been discussed in question 7.
Q7. Gnocchi is a type of dumpling which is usually made from potatoes and flour, but can also be made from rice, ricotta cheese, pumpkin, or even bread crumbs. Or they may be flat discs made from a semolino mixture, layered in a pan, and baked with either a sauce or butter and cheese on top. Which is the name for the traditional potato gnocchi?
Gnocchi di patate are made from a lighter dough than the usual pasta dough. They are usually formed by being rolled off the thumb against the tines of a fork to form indentations to hold the sauce. Gnocchi di zucca are made with pumpkin or winter squash (such as Butternut squash). Gnocchi verdi ("green" gnocchi) are made with spinach. Gnocchi di riso is made with rice.
Q8. In what way are tortelloni different from tortellini?
Large stuffed pasta circles are "Tortelloni"of the same shape as "tortellini" which are smaller in comparisson; they are served much like ravioli.
Q9. Bow-tie pasta is known by this name in Italian, which means "butterflies".
Farfalle are made with squares of dough cut with a ravioli-cutter and then pinched in the center to form the "bow" (or "butterfly"). Alternately, they can be made with circles of dough cut with a small, fluted biscuit cutter and pinched the same way.
Q10. Spaghetti and meatballs is the most common pasta dish served in America. If you wanted to order this in Italian, what would you ask for?
Italian "polpette" are much smaller than those served in America; about the size of marbles. (Salsicce is sausage, vongole are clams, and melanzane is eggplant.)
Q11. Pesto, a green herb sauce from Genoa, has become a "trendy" dressing for pasta in America in the past two decades. What are its traditional ingredients?
In Genoa, the ingredients are ground in a mortar and extremely good care is taken to use the smaller and soft leaves of the basil. The sauce is then tossed with the cooked pasta and cheese (it is not cooked). It can alternatively be made, more easily without problems, in the blender.
Q12. Pasta served "all' Arrabbiata" is made with a tomato sauce containing this key ingredient.
"All' Arrabiata" means "in a rage" and derives from the fiery flavor given to the sauce by the peperoncini. (Lobster, in Italian is "aragosta", anchovies are "acciughe", vodka is the same in both languages).
Q13. Pasta "Aglio e olio" traditionally uses these two ingredients.
Aglio means "garlic", olio means "oil"- no real Italian cook would attempt to make this dish with anything but olive oil. Other possible ingredients are peperoncini (hot peppers) and chopped fresh Italian parsley. Traditionally, this dish is never served with grated cheese.
Q14. Cannelloni is a stuffed, tubular pasta; what stuffing and topping is most typically used in Italy?
While any of these are possible, the dish is traditionally made with a pork or veal filling and baked with a topping of Bechamel sauce and, possibly, cheese.
Q15. Pasta is made from what type of wheat?
Pasta is a type of food prepared from unleavened dough of durum wheat flour (semolina) which is mixed with water or eggs and formed into sheets or various shapes, then cooked by boiling or baking.
Q16. Why are there are so many pasta shapes?
Chefs use various shapes and sizes of pasta for various purposes because specific shapes hold different sauces better than others. Thinner pasta, such as angel hair works better with light oil-based sauce, while thicker sauces work better with thicker, heavier portions of pasta. Flat portions of pasta pair well with cream sauces, while tomato-based sauces seem to cling better to round kinds of pasta. What's your favourite shape of pasta?
Q18. Where was the first American pasta factory opened?
The Brooklyn, N. Y. Waterfront boasts about the claim to fame for the primary pasta factory positioned inside America, opened in 1848 through French immigrant Antoine Zerega. He controlled the operation with simply one horse to power the machinery, and he dried strands of pasta in the sun.
Q19. Pasta should be cooked "al dente." What does that mean?
If you cook pasta or a vegetable until it is al dente, you cook it just long enough so that it is neither hard nor soft but is firm and slightly chewy.
Q20. Who is credited with bringing macaroni to America?
Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing dried pasta without egg to America, but, like the Marco Polo legend, this is romantic fiction.
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