This recipe doesn’t necessarily have to be prepared with rigatoni, you could also use paccheri, penne, manicotti, mostaccioli…
Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about? Because I don’t. There are so many names and types of pasta. Do even Italians know the difference? I asked the most foodie Italian I know and well… he seemed to pass the “test” and even give me some sound advice based on the Pasta-Sauce Pairing Law Code. Nah, there’s no such thing as that – or is there?
According to my Italiano friend, not every sauce has one sole pasta type, some sauces can connect with more than one pasta types (like souls!) e.g. Carbonara could be prepared both with rigatoni and spaghetti, but never with farfalle. Seafood pasta with tagliorini, bavette or spaguetti. Amatriciana usually with spaguetti. Pappardelle is perfect for Ragù di Cinghiale. I’m starting to realise that to have criteria one probably has to live and breathe Italy.
In any case, I did quite a bit of research and several sources later I identified common patterns and few contradictions. There seems to be a consensus about the following:
|Pasta shape||Such as…||Serve with…|
|Long and skinny||Spaghetti, linguine, fusilli lunghi, vermicelli||Light seafood sauces, cream-, tomatoe- or oil-based sauces.
|Long ribbons||Tagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine, mafaldine||Rich, meaty sauces and creamy ones too.|
|Shells||Conchiglie, lumache||Heavy cream or meat sauces; large ones can be stuffed.|
|Twists||Fusilli, trofie, strozzapreti, caserecce, gemelli||Lighter, smoother sauces which will cling to the twists, such as pesto.|
|Tubes||Penne, rigatoni, macaroni, paccheri||Hearty vegetable sauces, or baked cheese dishes. Also good with Bolognese or ragu.|
|Mini shapes||Orzo, fregola, canestrini, stelline||In soups and stews or as pasta salads.|
|Filled pasta||Ravioli, tortellini, cappelletti||As the filling contains lots of flavour, these are traditionally served with a light butter or oil sauce.|
Some useful rules of thumb when it comes to pasta:
- Generally, the wider the noodle, the heavier the sauce. Go thinner for delicate preparations.
- Cook the pasta in enough boiling water to allow it to dance freely, it shouldn’t be like an Irish pub on a Friday evening, but more like on a Tuesday.
- Italians say the water should be as salty as the sea (3.5%) but SeriousEats recommends anywhere from 0.5% – 2% will work. In all honesty, I would probably not notice and nor would you, but hey I’m only the messenger.
- No need to add olive oil when cooking, add it later one once you strain the pasta.
- Make sure to save a glass of the pasta water, the starch in the water will help the sauce and pasta bind and connect (who knew pasta vocabulary was so spiritual?).
- In Italy, pasta and sauce are combined in the pan.
- SeriousEats has a great compilation of pasta tips.
This recipe is what comes to mind when I think of comfort food. Good for any lunch with friends or when we are feeling down… or hangover – plus leftoevers are amazing!
- 2 tsbp. olive oil
- 1 white onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar (optional)
- 400g tomato passata or basic sauce
- 400g pork minced meat
- Dried basil
- 500g rigatoni or preferred pasta + water to boil
- Grated mozarella & Grated parmesan
- Salt & White pepper
- Preheat oven to 180º.
- Set a sauté pan to medium heat, pour olive oil and wait until it slides (it’s hot).
- Add finely chopped onions, cook for 4mins then add chopped garlic, cook until golden. You can add brown sugar here and let the onions soak it and brown.
- Add tomato passata, reduce to low heat and cover, cook for 10-15 mins.
- Add salt and pepper to minced meat, mix and add to now uncovered pan, cook until meat is browner (but not dry).
- In the meantime, bring water to boil in a large sauce pan. In volume, there should be 2:1 of water; add salt then cook pasta until al dente.
- Add basil and stir, let it sit at very low heat until sauce is reduced.
- Mix pasta and sauce in the large sauce pan, then pour into a glass/ceramics tray. Add mozarella and parmesan, mix. Add a top layer of combined cheeses then cook in oven until cheese starts to brown.