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It is the most widely known and can be found all over the world. But it is easy to go wrong with it and to end up with a soggy uninspiring mess. As with all the most basic foods the key to cooking good pasta is to choose good quality ingredients. The simpler the food the more important quality becomes. Poor quality can be less easily disguised in a simple pasta dish than in something more elaborate. Good quality pasta is made from durum wheat. Many people swear by fresh pasta rather than dried. They feel that fresh pasta must be more authentic than dried. But in Italy cooks will often choose dried pasta for preference. A good quality dried pasta made from durum what is always preferable to a poor quality fresh pasta. What you are looking for is a dried pasta made with 100 per cent durum wheat and preferably made by an Italian company according to traditional methods.
Some of the hollow or tubular pastas are elbow macaroni (most often used for macaroni and cheese or macaroni salad. Elbow macaroni usually comes in two sizes. The large size is great for casseroles and the smaller sizes are good used in soup such as minestrone or vegetable. Large width tubular pastas are ziti which again comes in several sizes penne rigatoni and cannelloni. Cannelloni are usually about 3 inches long and are served stuffed with a cheese or meat filling and topped with a marinara or meat sauce. The twisted pastas include Fusilli Bucati Gemeli Rotelli (Wagon Wheels). The twisted pastas are good for heavy sauces. Their shape will help to retain the sauce whereas with the smooth thin pastas the heavy sauces will just run off back into the plate. Fusilli are also nice for seafood pasta salads.
Stir pasta as soon as it is dropped into the boiling water and keep stirring every minute or so. Never add oil which will coat the pasta and cause it to repel instead of absorb the sauce. Oil would be needed if you are using a low quality pasta since the cheaper wheat would make it much easier for the strands to get glued together. Let the pasta cook on a lively fire stirring it every now and then. Be careful of the cooking time: on italian packages it is usually correct. Better to stop cooking a few seconds sooner than later since the paste will in any case continue cooking for a little while after you drain it. How do you know the pasta is cooked? Well if you do not have a cooking time on the pasta package just sample a strand of the pasta. Break it and see if the inside is still whitish.