Picking the Perfect Pasta for Dinner

Cooking How-To, How-To
on June 25, 2011
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

Whenever you want a cheap, fast and fantastic meal, cooking up a pasta dish is a no-brainer. But with so many varieties to choose from, it’s not always easy to make a selection. Fettuccine or penne? Farfalle or macaroni? Or should you scrap the box versions altogether and make your pasta from scratch? Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of fresh versus dried to help you pair the perfect pasta with the right dish and occasion every time.

If you want to go fresh, making homemade pasta is surprisingly easy; it only takes eggs, all-purpose flour (or semolina flour) and a pair of steady hands to run it through a pasta press. Once the dough is made, just cut or press into your desired style. Next, throw it in salted boiling water for two to three minutes and voila! Homemade pasta.  Fresh pastas are best paired with delicate sauces so as not to over shadow the noodles’ toothsome texture, such as ravioli.

But “fresh” isn’t necessarily always best, dried pastas have their strengths too. Made from ground semolina flour and water, dried pastas can withstand a rich and hearty sauces such as a meaty ragu. Also know that cooking your pasta al dente (tender but firm) is suggested because overcooking will make it mushy.

Here are a few pasta recipes to get you started.

—By Emily Arno