Italian Night Done Right: Perfect Homemade Pasta

Pasta Pairing Tips and Tricks

We mentioned that some pasta noodle recipes use egg as an ingredient. This practice is more common in northern Italian style cooking (pasta all'uovo). Rich, eggy noodles are typically paired with the wonderfully creamy sauces of northern Italian cuisine, while simple durum wheat and water noodles work well with the tomato- or olive oil-based sauces popular in southern Italy. Sure, you can mix and match, but before you do, try making fettuccine Alfredo with a traditional quarter-inch-wide ribbon noodle made with egg. You'll see how well the shape and richness of the noodle complements the creamy Parmesan based sauce.

The flour you use is important in pasta prep, too. Soft wheat flour, like the all-purpose flour sold across the U.S., can result in gloppy, water logged pasta, while high-gluten flour is more likely to produce pasta with a satisfying al dente bite. Look for semolina flour (sometimes referred to as semola flour). It's the Italian standard for dry pasta. Don't use it exclusively in your recipes, though, especially if you're making pasta you don't plan on drying for future use. Blending unbleached white flour with semolina flour creates dough that's easy to work with, has good texture and holds its shape. (A good ratio is four parts white, unbleached flour to one part semolina flour.) Another option is to use flour designed for bread making. It has higher gluten content than all-purpose flour.

In the last decade or two, pasta purists have been inundated with new pasta recipes that call for adding everything from beet juice to squid ink to change pasta's color or texture and add a little flavor. Here are a few ingredient examples:

  • basil
  • beet juice (magenta pasta)
  • carrots (orange pasta)
  • chili powder
  • chopped spinach (green pasta)
  • cracked black pepper
  • garlic
  • parsley
  • porcini mushrooms
  • saffron
  • sage
  • squid ink (black pasta)
  • thyme
  • tomato puree