I think pasta has a bad reputation in the UK and it breaks my heart.
We’ve all eaten those sad Tuna Pasta Bakes with far too little sauce and far too much rubbery cheddar on the top, or that mass produced Mac’n’Cheese which tastes only of flour.
My love affair with pasta began early. Apparently it was one of the only things I would eat as a toddler – pasta shapes with broccoli, yum – but for some reason we’ve become far too reliant on mass produced, bad quality spaghetti in the UK and we think it’s time to put an end to that. Consider this my rallying cry for a pasta revolution!
If you can’t eat pasta on it’s own tossed in olive oil and simply seasoned with salt & pepper then, in my humble opinion, it’s not a good quality pasta. So here’s a little guide to my favourite types of the good stuff – the start of a revolution and hopefully the end of starchy overcooked mush…
There’s a reason spaghetti is so well loved – the bliss of chewing on a those slender noodles, twirled carefully around your fork is exquisite. Spaghetti is usually served with a loose, rich tomato sauce or no sauce at all. Try the famous Roman dish Cacio e Pepe, literally spaghetti with cheese and pepper – there’s nothing better.
Imagine a bigger, fatter spaghetti that’s hollow right through the centre, and you’ve got bucatini – a traditional favourite for thick, ragu-style sauces. The hole means the meaty sauce will make its way into the noodles for the perfect sauce/pasta ratio – absolutely genius!
These little guys are shaped like ears and their cup-like forms help to hold heavier veggie-based sauces. The sauce sits it the cups nicely, which means they’re perfect for a pasta bake too.
A bit like penne but a bit bigger, rigatoni are tubes with ridges on the outside. They’re great with chunky Sicilian style veg sauces and are often used for baking in gratins in the South of Italy – blissful on a cold winter’s evening.
These wide ribbons of egg pasta are normally reserved for heavy, gamey ragus made with wild mushrooms, rabbit or boar. Chunky bits of the sauce gets trapped between the flat noodles so each mouthful is a flavourful bite. I like mine Southern style, with sausage meat, herbs and a whole heap of Parmigiano Reggiano for a rich dish.