Perfect Pasta Pairings
Pasta is a staple food of traditional Italian cuisine and now found on most UK menus because of its versatility and nutritional value. Pasta is made from durum wheat flour mixed with water and, in some recipes, egg, to form a dough. Rolled into sheets the dough is cut into a dazzling variety of shapes – and that’s when the magic begins because for every sauce there’s a perfect pasta shape to make it shine.
Choosing a pasta shape to suit the nature of your sauce makes a big difference to the finished dish. Nic Till, head chef at Jamie’s Italian in London says, “We do several varieties including whole wheat and gluten free, so there is something for everyone, and we make it as authentic as possible by using a mixture of fresh and packet pasta.”
As a general rule, Italian cooks match thick robust sauces – like bolognese or ragu – with larger shapes and heavier pasta such as large shells and thick tubes, while lighter vegetable or creamy sauces suit delicate shapes such as farfalle or thin strands of angel-hair pasta or spaghetti. For an authentic presentation, combine the pasta and the sauce in the pan to make sure the pasta is evenly coated just like they do in Italy. Buon appetito!
Spaghetti Bolognese – who doesn’t love a spag bol? Made with KNORR Concentrated Sauces it is quick and simple to prepare, and portion control is made easy.
Beef Lasagne – perfect for adults and kids, adapt the sides accordingly by offering garlic bread or a salad and cut it into smaller portions too.
Pasta with Pomodoro Sauce – perfect for the young palate. Simple to prepare it doesn’t contain too many strong flavours; just pasta and sauce that most children prefer to eat. Go easy on the portion size too.
When serving children pasta, make it plain and simple – with a smaller portion size. Jamie Oliver restaurant group have won an award for a number of years running for the best children’s menu. “We serve penne tomato pasta bake, a pasta dish with a seven-vegetable sauce, alongside a children’s size spaghetti bolognese and meatballs,” says Nic. “What makes the children’s menu so successful is that it’s tasty, varied, colourful, good for them while looking fun and appealing – and it looks like a mini adult meal too so they don’t feel like it is a children’s meal.”
• An excellent source of complex carbohydrates, pasta provides a slow release of energy
• Low in sodium and cholesterol-free it provides a good source of essential nutrients
• Contains a low GI and is perfect for weight control
How to cook pasta
Pasta should be cooked al dente – firm to the tooth. The outside should be tender and the centre slightly firm. Here Andy Lagor business development chef for Unilever shares his tips…
• Use 4 litres of water for every 500g of pasta
• Cook in a large saucepan to allow the shapes to move around and expand
• Add the pasta gradually to boiling water, scatter small shapes, and gently push in long types – don’t break in half
• Rub vegetable oil around the inside top of the pot, to help prevent the water from boiling over
• Use a wooden spoon or fork to stir the pasta
• Save some pasta cooking water before draining to add to the mixed pasta and sauce if it looks dry – it will also help the sauce stick to the pasta
Here’s our guide: Types of Pasta
Filled pasta – Ravioli, tortellini, capelletti. Serve with a light butter or oil sauce to complement fillings.
Tubes – Penne, rigatoni, macaroni, paccheri. Hearty vegetable and meat sauces – bolognese/ragu – and baked cheese.
Mini shapes – Orzo, fregola, canestrini, stelline. For soups, stews and pasta salads.
Twisty shapes – Fusilli, trofie, strozzapreti, casarecce, gemelli, farfalle. Light smooth sauces that stick such as pesto.
Baked pasta – Cannelloni, lasagne. A variety of meat or vegetable stuffings or layers and a final sauce to add richness and keep it moist.
Long skinny – Spaghetti, linguine, vermicelli, lunghi. Light seafood or vegetable sauces, cream and oil based sauces.
Long flat ribbons – Tagliatelle, fettuccine, pappardelle, mafaldine. Rich meaty sauces.
Shells – Conchiglie, lumache. Heavy cream or meat sauces – stuff the larger shell.