Pasta is simply flour
mixed together into a dough
. No additional ingredients
are necessary to call it pasta, but some types of pasta do use more than flour and water. The dough is then cut/formed into the desired shape
See Cookery : Recipes, categorised : Main Dishes : Pasta for pasta recipes here on E2.
Common Pasta Types:
Dried Semolina Pasta: Made simply of Durum Wheat Flour and water. Ground Durum Wheat flour is also known as semolina. It is best known for being very convienent as it can be stored for very long periods of time, yet can be cooked rather quickly. It is also considered the best choice for heavy sauces such as tomato sauces, and works very well with oil sauces also.
Examples include penne, macaroni, and spaghetti.
The semolina flour makes for an elastic dough, which makes commercial production of this pasta easier, but makes it difficult to prepare at home. This pasta also has a higher protein content, which makes the pasta firmer.
Fresh Egg Pasta: Eggs are added to the mix of flour and water. This makes the pasta softer and gives it a strong egg flavor. It does not store well, and should be used within hours of being made. It fits best with butter or cream based sauces, as it absorbs the sauce, unlike semolina pasta. Fettuccine and ravioli are examples of this kind of pasta.
Fresh egg pasta can be difficult to work with - the moisture content is of extreme importance. Even if it slightly too dry, it may not roll well. Slightly too wet, and it is sticky, making it difficult to cut into pasta.
Fress Non-Egg Pasta: A few types of pasta are made using more of a regular flour and water, and usually made and eaten fresh. There is usually some semolina in the flour to add more flavor and texture, otherwise the pasta can be gummy. The semolina can be replaced by whole wheat flour also. The pasta is heavier than egg pasta, and also suited to heavier sauces. Orecchiette and cavatelli are examples.
Couscous: Yes, couscous is a pasta. It is made from semolina and water, just like other better-known pastas, and just shaped into pellets. It is precooked before being dried, so it is very simple to prepare - add into boiling water, cover, and wait until the water is absorbed and the pasta is fluffy. It may also be prepared by being steamed, which results in it being even lighter and fluffier.
Gnocchi: Pasta made from flour, water, and usually potato, though sometimes other ingredients are used, such as ricotta, or no additional ingredients at all. The potato is cooked, with baking being the preferred method, then mashed, and mixed with the flour and water. They are shaped into small cylinders and flattened, then scored on the sides to give them ridges. The ridges help to catch the sauce used - they aren't just decorative.
Spatzle: A german dumpling that can also be considered a pasta. It's made from flour, egg, and milk. It is usually poured through a "spatzle machine", a traditional device similar to a grater, that breakes it into small bits. They are usually eaten with a butter sauce.
Chinese Wheat Noodles: Made with wheat flour or durum wheat flour, with or without eggs, and used either fresh or dried. They also have a variety of thicknesses, and are either flat or round. They are often used in stir fry or used to make noodle cakes. Dried wheat noodles can often be used in place of regular Italian spaghetti.
Udon: A Japanese noodle that usually includes a large amount of salt in the dough. They are thick and somewhat flat, and most often served in a bowl of broth, often with egg, tempura, or vegetables.
Ramen: Familiar to all college students, these dried wheat noodles are similar to chinese wheat noodles. They are most often found packaged along with soup mixes, and used in soups. They also may be used fresh or dried, and may include eggs.
Somen: A thinner wheat noodle, perhaps about the same size as spaghetti. They are also used mainly in soups, but can also be served in ice water, with a dipping sauce. They can also take the place of Ramen.
Rice Noodles: Pasta using rice flour instead of wheat flour. Also sometimes called rice vermicelli or ricestick noodles. They tend to be thinner and wiry, and more chewy than wheat noodles. They are very versatile, used in soups, stir-fries, and salads. They also may be formed into thin sheets, known as rice paper wrappers.
Cellophane Noodles: These noodles are made from mung bean starch - the same bean you see in supermarkets as bean sprouts. The noodles become transparent when cooked, and are nearly flavorless. They are chewy and starchy. They cook extremely fast - so fast, that soaking them in simple hot tap water for twenty to thirty minutes will usually do the best job. In boiling water, a minute may be too long.
Soba Noodles: These are made with buckwheat flour and water. They are often a dark brown, and usually used hot or cold in soups, served to be dipped into sauce, and in salads. They are often cooked with a process known as sashimizu, or "add water". This is a process of adding cold water to the pot to slow down the cooking. Since they are thicker noodles, it is possible to overcook the outside before the inside is properly cooked - this helps reduce or eliminate that problem.
Cooking Pasta: Most pastas should be timed to be ready when they are needed, and not left around after cooking, as they tend to cool rapidly. If being mixed with a sauce, the pasta should be drained briefly (don't try and get all the water off), and returned to the pot it was cooked in, and immediately have the sauce mixed in. Making sure not to shake too much water off the pasta will help to eliminate a need to add oil to the cooking water. Pasta should only be rinsed with cold water if it is intended to be used cold - if it should be ready a little early, reserve some of the cooking water to pour back over the pasta to prevent it from sticking. Never, ever, EVER rinse the pasta with cold water if not being used cold. Just don't.
Much info taken from "The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles". More to come.