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The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Hasta la pasta, baby!

By Giorgia Cattaneo
Truck Editor

Oh the joys of Italian cooking! It is a staple in all Italian kitchens and an essential food in the diet of any Italian, even Americans and those around the world have an obsession for it… you guessed it: pasta! (or you guessed pizza, which also would be correct but this article is about pasta if you could not tell by the pun) 

Growing up with two immigrant, full-blooded Italian parents and an even bigger family from the boot shaped country, I was very quickly familiarized with the beauty that is pasta. 

Pasta is a classic Italian dish, whose roots find themselves in Italy since the 4th century B.C., where a painting in a Etruscan tomb showed a group of natives making—what appears to be—pasta. It has since been adapted into many different shapes, mixtures, sizes and variations. While typically made from the union of 00 flour and water, egg or potato can be added to the mixture to create a specific type of pasta. 

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There are many amazing pasta shapes that everyone should give a try (except for angel hair, never angel hair). Now I am not going to get in every pasta, as there is not enough time or space to fit it in, but I will go over my top picks of usually accessible dry pasta. This means gnocchi, ravioli, tortellini and freshly made pasta will not be included. 

The many different types of pasta shapes. (Graphic by Krysthel Cisneros).

5. Farfalle 

One of my all time favorites as a kid was farfalle, also known as bow-tie pasta. The word farfalle means butterfly in Italian and it originates in Lombardy (a region in Northern Italy). The pasta comes in different sizes and textures: small ones (farfalline), larger ones (farfallone) and a ridged version (farfalle rigate). Its shape is familiar to that of a butterfly or a bow-tie—hence its nickname—and is typically served with smooth, light, and creamy sauces. It is also used in pasta salads. A versatile noodle, some regions pair the pasta with seafood and others lean meats (but not usually with heavy meat sauces as it is not great at retaining it with its lack of crevices). Though I have fond memories of the shape, it is typically difficult to cook evenly, with its center often being more al dente than the rest. 

4. Fusilli and Rotini

Two other southern originating pastas are Fusilli and Rotini. The two shapes are quite similar to each other in shape and often confused with one other. Although They are being grouped together, it should be noted that Fusilli is made of strands of pasta twisted into little spring-like shapes, while rotini is extruded into a tighter, twisted screw shape. The word “fusilli” likely comes from the word “fuso,” meaning spindle (derived from its spun shape). Rotini, on the other hand, translates to “small wheels,” presumably stemming from the word “ruota,” meaning wheel. These two pasta’s twisted shape make it perfect to trap a variety of sauces in their helical spirals. The pastas are typically paired with oil, tomato, meat based sauces, or a thin lemon sauce. They are even more famously used in pasta salads (pasta salad is typically served chilled). These two pastas are great for their wide range of uses and fun shapes. 

3. Penne  

For an entire year I refused to eat anything but penne pasta for breakfast. That was, until my mother put her foot down. The name originates from a region in southwestern Italy, Campania. The name is derived from the Italian word for “quill,” seeing as the shape is like a quill pen with its ends up at an angle. This cut grants it a large surface area for a sauce to find its way into the tube. Out of the two versions penne has (smooth or ridged) the ridged is truly the better. It is not only sturdier, but also has more space for little lines of sauce to hide in. Penne pairs with almost any sauce, but most incredibly works with a textured sauce, like one with meat/diced tomatoes or a creamy oil based sauce. Penne is a great pasta but it is nothing really special.

2. Paccheri/ Rigatoni 

Another two tubular pasta shapes, some that are very near and dear to my heart. Paccheri originates from the southern Campania region of Italy, while Rigatoni originates from Rome.. The name “paccheri” comes from the Neapolitan “una pacca”  meaning “slap.” The name is attributed to the slapping noise it makes when sauce is poured on it. This pasta used to be considered a ‘poor pasta,’ originally made to hide and smuggle Italian garlic cloves. The pasta is short but due to its large tubular shape it is typically paired with rich, heavier meat-based sauces such as ragu. Seafood is often used too, or the pasta will be stuffed with burrata and ricotta. 

Rigatoni, though similar to the paccheri shape, are slightly curved, tubed-shaped pasta varying in lengths and diameters. Though it is not as wide as the paccheri, rigatoni are ideal for big, heavier sauces, like ragu or a diced tomato sauce, as their center helps capture the sauce. It is most notably used, however, in baked pasta dishes as the ridges in the pasta capture cheese perfectly. Rigatoni comes from the word “rigato,” meaning ridged, as the pasta has a ridged exterior (this means it has more crevices to sneak sauce into). 

I like the rigatoni as when you add the sauce to the pasta, it contains the sauce very well. It is a pasta that holds the sauce you add very well, you can use sauce, you can use rags, or butter and parmesan. It’s truly perfect for especially for that, even great when for pasta al forno (oven baked pasta),” my 72 Scilian grandmother said about the pasta.

1. Spaghetti 

Spaghetti is the superior pasta. The pasta is from Italy, and even though there is no exact region where the dish originates from, the pasta finds itself a staple in all Italian cooking. The long, thin piece of pasta comes from the word “spago” meaning “string” or “twine.” Spaghetti works spectacularly with a variety of sauces, best known to be paired with smooth sauces like tomato sauce. It also works just as heavenly with heavier meaty sauces, lighter creamier sauces, or herb based sauces. Pairing spaghetti with seafood is a typical dish in most Southern and Northern regions of Italy, considered to be a classic dish (just never top it with any cheese). 

I am not the only one who agrees with this placement. My Milanese (someone from Milan) father said, “To me  it’s a historical pasta[spaghetti], it’s the original pasta. Secondly, there is so much variation with spaghetti: small, medium, large, flat, square. It mixes very well with sauce, as some of the other flat pastas do not mix well with the sauces. It’s not that I don’t like penne or any other pasta, but if I have to make pasta with a certain sauce, I think that the spaghetti is the best to really get the sauce combined with the pasta. Sometimes with smaller sized pastas, the flavor of the sauce is there, but it’s not very captured in the pasta, so you miss out on the sauce and it separates from the pasta,” my father, Eros Cattaneo, a Milanese (someone from Milan) said.

Though there are so many pastas and each bring their own unique twist to each dish, I stand by my placement of spaghetti. Spaghetti is a classic dish and always holds on perfectly to the sauce best. It’s styled in little nests of goodness and most of the notable sauces such as carbonara, amatriciana, alfredo, pesto, ragu, and marinara all work perfectly with it. Simply knowing how to properly wrap the pasta around your fork without a spoon is an art form in and of itself. One takes their time eating it, and that changes the perception of its taste and impact. One could even possibly pull a Lady and the Tramp moment for those special nights, or eat it alone while watching TV all night long. Spaghetti is truly the superior go-to pasta, no matter what the mood calls for.

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Hasta la pasta, baby!