Pasta is a type of noodle and is a staple food of traditional Italian cuisine. It is also commonly used to refer to the variety of pasta dishes. Typically pasta is made from an unleavened dough of a durum wheat flour mixed with water and formed into sheets or various shapes, then cooked and served in any number of dishes. It can be made with flour from other cereals or grains, and eggs may be used instead of water. Pastas may be divided into two broad categories, dried (pasta secca) and fresh (pasta fresca). Chicken eggs frequently dominate as the source of the liquid component in fresh pasta.
Most dried pasta is commercially produced via an extrusion process. Fresh pasta was traditionally produced by hand, sometimes with the aid of simple machines, but today many varieties of fresh pasta are also commercially produced by large scale machines, and the products are broadly available in supermarkets.
Both dried and fresh pasta come in a number of shapes and varieties, with 310 specific forms known variably by over 1300 names having been recently documented. In Italy the names of specific pasta shapes or types often vary with locale. For example the form cavatelli is known by 28 different names depending on region and town. Common forms of pasta include long shapes, short shapes, tubes, flat shapes and sheets, miniature soup shapes, filled or stuffed, and specialty or decorative shapes.
As a category in Italian cuisine, both dried and fresh pastas are classically used in one of three kinds of prepared dishes. As pasta asciutta (or pastasciutta) cooked pasta is plated and served with a complementary sauce or condiment. A second classification of pasta dishes is pasta in brodo in which the pasta is part of a soup-type dish. A third category is pasta al forno in which the pasta incorporated into a dish that is subsequently baked.
Pasta is generally a simple dish, but comes in large varieties because it is a versatile food item. Some pasta dishes are served as a first course in Italy because the portion sizes are small and simple. The servings are usually accompanied by a side of meat. Pasta is also prepared in light lunches, such as salads or large portion sizes for dinner. It can be prepared by hand or food processor and served hot or cold. Pasta sauces vary in taste, colour and texture. When choosing which type of pasta and sauce to serve together, there is a general rule that must be observed. Simple sauces like pesto are ideal for long and thin strands of pasta while tomato sauce combines well with thicker pastas. Thicker and chunkier sauces have the better ability to cling onto the holes and cuts of short, tubular, twisted pastas. Sauce should be served equally with its pasta. It is important that the sauce does not overflow the pasta. The extra sauce is left on the plate after all of the pasta is eaten.
Some pasta varieties are uniquely regional and not widely known; some types may have different names in different languages, or sometimes in the same language. For example, the cut rotelle is also called ruote in Italy and “wagon wheels” in the United States. Manufacturers and cooks often invent new shapes of pasta; or may invent new names for old shapes for marketing reasons.
Italian pasta names often end with the masculine plural suffixes -ini, -elli, -illi, -etti or the feminine plurals -ine, -elle etc., all conveying the sense of “little”; or with -oni, -one, meaning “large”. Many other suffixes like -otti (“largish”) and -acci (“rough”, “badly made”) may occur, too. In Italian, all pasta type names are plural.
East Asian noodles originated in China and spread into neighbouring countries such as Korea and Japan (dangmyeon and ramen, for example, are both of Chinese origin), as well as Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia.
The dough for East Asian noodles can be made from wheat, rice, buckwheat, or mung bean starch. Egg, lye, and cereal may also be added to noodles made from wheat flour in order to give the noodles a different colour or flavour. Arrowroot or tapioca starch are sometimes added to the flour mixture in low quantities to change the texture and tenderness of the noodles’ strands.
The ingredients to make dried pasta usually include water, semolina flour, egg for colour and richness, vegetable juice (such as spinach, beet, tomato, carrot) for colour and taste, and herbs or spices for flavour; however, ingredients may vary. Semolina flour is piled in silos that will transfer the semolina through a pipe and into a mixing machine. Warm water is poured into the machine to mix with the semolina flour. The machine kneads it until the mixture becomes firm and dry. If pasta is to be flavoured, eggs, vegetable juices, and herbs are added to the mixture. The dough is then passed into the laminator to be flattened into sheets. It is then further compressed by the vacuum mixer-machine to clear out air bubbles and excess water from the dough until the moisture content is reduced to 12%. Next, the dough is processed in the steamer to kill any existing bacteria it may contain.
After steaming, the dough is ready to be cut. Depending on the type of pasta to be made, the dough can either be cut or extruded through dies. Then the pasta is set in a drying tank so that it can be dried under specific conditions of heat, moisture, and time depending on the type of pasta that is being dried. The final step is to package the pasta properly. Fresh pasta is sealed in a clear, airtight plastic container. During the sealing process air is sucked out of the container and replaced with carbon dioxide and nitrogen mixture. This slows microbial growth and prolongs its shelf life. Dried pastas are packaged differently than fresh pasta. It is placed in stainless steel buckets that are transferred to appropriate packaging stations to be portioned and sealed in plastic or cardboard packages.
Shipment / Storage / Risk factors
Usually shipped in cartons.
Salt is frequently used in the preparation of these commodities, and therefore, in the case of damage by wetting care should be exercised in attributing the cause. Subject to loss by breakage and infestation.